Plan ahead for road trips

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, the next big holiday is right around the corner. Visits to family or friends in about a month may mean a possible road trip, and if that’s the case then planning ahead should be on the priority list.

USF student Shannon Peltier said that she always tries her hardest to be prepared for long journeys, but she said that there is always something else she can do to be safer.

“Road trips can be dangerous, so I make sure my car is up to date and I make a checklist of things I need to get done before the trip, including my first aid box and my CDs.”

A Web site devoted to helping travelers,, suggests doing the following to prepare for a road trip:

– Students should get a map of roads on their route. Map out a route and stick to it.
– Research the roads and states one will be traveling through. Pay attention to construction and other roadblocks.
– Make an estimate of travel times on the road to help with bathroom breaks and food stops.
– Try to avoid large cities during rush hours since this could lead to frustration and lost time.
– Get the car checked. This includes filters, belts, fluid levels and oil. Try to do this about a week prior to leaving because if there is a part that needs to be ordered, students won’t have to delay their trips.
– Check the wiper blades.
– Check the lights on the car and make sure they are all operable.
– Check the tires, especially the treads and air pressure.
– Be prepared for weather changes.
– Pack the car inside the garage, if available, so the whole neighborhood won’t know that one’s home will be deserted during the holidays.
– Check the other drivers in the party to make sure their drivers’ licenses have not expired.
– Check car insurance for expiration dates.
– Pack an emergency kit.

Peltier said she never forgets her emergency kit when she travels.

“I always add in extra dog food if we get caught somewhere because we always bring our dog,” Peltier said. “I also pack in some travel games and plenty of chocolate and a coke for caffeine.

“I also remember to bring motion sickness medicine for my passengers, of course, not the driver because it causes drowsiness,” Peltier said.

Greg Laskoski, managing director of AAA, offered advice for traveling students.

“If students are going to travel great distances, (they should) make sure their vehicle is in good, running condition, their battery does not need to be replaced, (they have the) right tire pressure. Make sure you have a clean air filter and oil filter, they will then maximize their fuel economy. If it is not clean then they may have bad mileage,” Laskoski said.

“My friend and I were going to North Carolina and my car battery died recently,” Peltier said. “Luckily, I had my little kit with me that had battery cables in it and the tools to remove the battery. I had another motorist jump my car so I could take it to get another battery. I went to Advanced Auto Parts, and I bought a new battery and they installed it for free.”

She said she learned an important lesson: A car battery needs to be changed every two years.

Laskoski said that a Trip Tik from AAA is a highly used item on the roads.

“The Trip Tik gives you a customized map from point A to point B. The value of that is that we will tell you where there is construction and speed traps … in North Florida, Waldo and Ludy counties are notorious for speed traps on U.S. (Highway) 301. We will make sure the drivers know of that,” Laskoski said.

It also helps with mileage and informs drivers when they are able to stop to use the restroom.

“With kids, it helps with all of the exits. We will tell you a list of hotels and restaurants and theme parks in the area. It’s very customized,” Laskoski said.

Overall, when I go on road trips I make sure I am safe, not only for my sake but also for my family’s sake.

Accidents, breakdowns, and speeding tickets are not welcomed in my family during this holiday season. Leave prepared so that automotive problems aren’t part of the holiday stress.

Christyna Prehn is a senior majoring in communication.