Do you need some travel tips to help you save some time, money, and more importantly your sanity? How can we travel during this holiday and visiting season quickly, safely, inexpensively, and with as few incidents as possible? Let me try to help.
With some college students away at school, as well as holidays just around the corner; it’s a good time to start considering the ways and times to travel to connect with our special loved ones.
Travel is nothing new to me. My husband and I are both military veterans, so picking up and moving has just been a part of our lives.
We currently reside in Georgia, but Louisiana is home to both of us; so as most can imagine, traveling back home for the great food and festivities is something we look forward to. But that ride ain’t no joke. It takes us about 8 hours to get to New Orleans, and 12 hours to get to Mansfield. But…we can do it with our eyes closed; especially the ride to Mansfield. It’s literally straight I-20 West to Shreveport, and then I-49 South to Mansfield. Boom! You’re there. I’ve been making that trip since 1997.
In fact, I just drove there recently. Well, not Mansfield, but to Grambling. My son completed his bachelor’s degree at Grambling State University this past May, but due to the pandemic there was no graduation ceremony. Graciously, the university offered the Spring Graduates a ceremony. This truly made my son’s accomplishment feel more official. I was grateful we could go back to participate.
However, I’m not 23 years old anymore. I’m 46. And the body doesn’t travel the same that’s for sure. Gone are the days of getting off duty on a Thursday and driving all night long to get home, stay for 4 days, drive back all day Monday, and get up to make PT formation at zero-dark-30 on Tuesday morning. Nah…the body just ain’t set up like that no more. 😒
Now, I have to definitely have a plan of action. A time to leave, a projection of the time and activities that will take place while I’m there, and when I’ll be leaving to head back. I also have to let SOME know I’ll be visiting, or choose to let others NOT KNOW. Regardless of how far I’m traveling, there are some that will have an expectation that I should visit when I’m home, and sometimes time and circumstances will just not permit. Nothing personal.
When I was younger and it was just my son and I, it seemed so simple. Let’s admit it, boys have a convenience that girls just don’t have in terms of making pitstops.
So again, how can we travel during this holiday and visiting season quickly, safely, inexpensively, and with as few incidents incidents as possible?
1. PLAN AHEAD
First travel tip to help save you time and money, PLAN PLAN PLAN. The better prepared we are to travel, the better we are to have a seamless trip. What does that mean? Everyone has to know their role and expectation. From the adults, to the kids, to the drivers, and to those you’ll be visiting. The more engaged everyone is to the process…the more they can enjoy themselves and not have any unrealistic expectation. Can the unexpected happen? Absolutely…and often will. But when you plan the process…the more prepared and confident you feel to begin your journey.
2. PUT OUT THE GUIDANCE AND EXPECTATIONS AHEAD OF TIME
Traveling with children and young people, I always want to make sure that guidance is put out in advance. I go over things such as:
- How to behave
- How to share
- What topics or conversations are/are not appropriate
- Remember, there is no judgement if people do things differently from us.
- How much time can be spent on devices
- What places are we expected to go or what people will we see
- How long will it take to get there
- Please don’t forget to pick up behind yourself
- When we expect to return home
As trivial as it may sound, having those conversations helps to avoid parent/child frustration in front of others. It helps to keep attitudes in check…including adults. This is a travel tip that I have learned over time, but could have had some much more pleasant trips if I had been intentional about this sooner. Trust me. It saves time and money…and definitely sanity.
3. PACK SNACKS AND A COOLER
I have found that when we pack a snack and a cooler we spend less money and we are able to make fewer stops. So I start with healthy snacks -fruit, granola bars, and water. I also boil a few eggs because eggs fill you up and curve your appetite. Yes eggs also cause gas, but let it all out on the walk from the car to the restroom.
I also prepare sandwiches (usually turkey and cheese) and have a variety-pack of chips and some grapes. These are healthy alternatives. We have to prevent ourselves from traveling and letting our eating habits go out of the window; or eating so bad and unclean while we’re traveling that we put on unwanted pounds. We don’t want to return from what should be an enjoyable trip depressed because we have overeaten and gained weight. Packing our own road snacks has proven to be one of my favorite travel tips for me and my family. It definitely saves time and money.
4. STOP AT TRAVEL CENTERS VERSUS REST AREAS
Traveling that road back and forth to Louisiana for so many years, I pretty much can remember the stops and exits in between like the back of my hand. However, what I have noticed in recent years is that the truck stops (or travel centers as they are now called) like TRAVELCENTERS OF AMERICA, FLYING J, PILOT and LOVE’s offer a convenience that allows one stop to take the place of three. The travel centers offer food (to include healthy choices), a fast food and/or a sit down restaurant, very clean restrooms, and gas. This also allows everyone to stretch their legs and offer some time to occupy their own space versus the shared spaced of the vehicle.
Of my travel tips, this is one that I most recently added; but one I believe is very valuable, especially when traveling with young children. You may notice, however, that some of the prices for certain items are a bit above the normal price you would pay. Nevertheless, while traveling, I would choose stopping at a travel center over a regular gas station.
5. TRAVEL WITH PREFERRED GROCERY
I have found that now since my parents are empty nesters and my dad is completely retired, my parents don’t eat or cook the same anymore. With this in mind, when I visit, I try to be as little of a burden on them physically and financially as possible. Are they still going to try to make accommodations for our family? Absolutely. But if I can avoid putting additional stress on them, I try my best not to.
So, I typically either pack my own or immediately stop to buy the snacks and meals I know my family prefers. It’s cheaper than eating out everyday and again it’s healthier. My mom AND aunt will both typically cook a special meal of our favorites while we’re home, but I try to ensure that everyone is able to just enjoy our time together versus anxiously awaiting the departure.
Sometimes, if we have enough room in the cooler, I’ll pack frozen items from our family freezer. This doubly assures that less money is spent on the trip. I think anyone could agree that saving money is probably the best of all travel tips. Trips are so much more relaxing without the headache of thinking how much you overspent or what you’re going to have to cut back on when you return. Smart planning and a commitment to the process can save that pressure for another time.
6. RESERVE TRAVEL STAYS
For those who plan to travel, but staying with relatives is not an option, don’t forget to reserve your travel stay. If you have hotel perks that’s always a plus and makes it pretty easy. If not, consider one of the popular travel sites like Travelocity or Trivago to book your reservations. Professional travel agents are always willing to help too. But don’t assume that because we’re in a pandemic there will be hotel vacancies. Always book ahead.
For stays longer than overnight, and especially those with the larger family, consider also the option of an Air BNB (especially because we’re in a pandemic). Air BNBs minimize the amount of interaction with other people, and usually give you access to your own kitchen. This goes back to saving money on grocery and eating out. If you’re staying in an Air BNB, you can plan ahead for groceries and cook your own food with the pots and utensils provided.
Even if you plan on staying with family or friends, make sure they know you’re coming. Because we are in a pandemic, everyone needs to understand what precautions have been taken or will be taken while visiting. Will you need to bring your own towels, sheets and pillows? We each have a responsibility to ourselves and each other to stay safe.
7. PMCS – Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services
Even after you’ve considered all the previous tips I’ve mentioned about travel, DO NOT LEAVE HOME if you have not done or had someone else to do proper PMCS on your vehicle. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT OF THE TRAVEL TIPS.
PMCS stand for Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services. When I was actively serving in the military, anytime Soldiers operated a military vehicle, and/or when we were taking leave or a pass on a trip 250 miles or more, a proper PMCS was expected to be conducted to help with all precautions of safe travel.
What does a PMCS consist of? You should check for the following:
- Properly inflated tires and tread
- Proper fluid levels (water, oil, gas, etc.)
- Effective and functional windshield wiper blades
- Functioning signal and break lights
- Current driver’s license, insurance and registration
Though at times this seemed like such a waste of time to me when I was younger, this habit is one that I can’t seem to break; nor, do I want to.
I have a heightened sense of awareness concerning my vehicle and the vehicle of those I care about. I can easily spot tires low on tread, and recommend that either they be rotated or replaced.
Once you’ve hydroplaned, you understand the importance of tire tread and don’t take it lightly. Additionally, once you have neglected maintenance on a car and are faced with astronomical repair bills, you work to keep up versus catch up with your next vehicle.
Maintenance expenses are the last thing you want to have to be concerned about on a long trip. That will definitely put a damper on everything; but even worse is the thought of having an accident along way. Accidents are just that…accidents. But if we know that there are measures that we can take care of to assist with being safe, I say we do it. And please don’t ever get on the road without proper documentation (license, registration, proof of insurance). That’s taking a big risk.
8. PROCEED WITH CAUTION
Ok, since we’ve gone over important precautionary measures to ensure the vehicle is prepared for travel; now, let’s delve a little deeper into personal safety. Let’s not forget that we are still in a PANDEMIC. Always keeping this in mind, we need to be sensible. Take into consideration where you’ll be traveling geographically. How much interaction or exposure are the people having whom you’ll be visiting? Still practice safe hygiene and safe distancing practices (i.e. washing your hands, wearing masks and physically distancing yourself). Consider gathering sizes. If you or someone else is feeling sick, don’t chance it. Stay away from crowds and follow-up with a doctor as soon as possible.
Expect the Unexpected
Traditional gatherings and ceremonies won’t seem as traditional as they once did. For example, with my son’s graduation…Grambling did a very good job taking precautions for the faculty, graduates, and families. The faculty on stage was spaced 6-feet apart, with masks. Podiums and microphones were sanitized between speakers. There was no band or choir. Pre-recordings were provided instead.
Graduates were spaced two-seats apart, with masks. They were handed diploma covers as they approached the stage. When names were called, their pictures were taken near the President, but there was no direct contact. Even doctoral students had to perform their own hooding. The donning of the hood for doctoral students and the commissioning of officers is always very memorable for those participants; so not having those gave a very sterile or impersonal feel to the ceremony. Unfortunate. But understood.
Social Distancing practices in effect.
Each graduate was only allotted six passes. As families were seated, rows were skipped and families were staggered (right, left, right, left). Ushers insured this practice was followed. However, because not every graduate had six attendees, the usual fanfare and celebration seemed much more quiet in the large arena.
Better Safe Than Sorry
I get it. Life, situations, circumstances, and celebrations aren’t stopping. It’s all still happening even in a pandemic; but how we approach them for the time-being has to be different. So, without stifling yourself completely, please proceed with caution.
For unique ways to consider still participating in life-events, check out my blog on 10 Best Engagement and Event Considerations for 2020: How Can We Still Connect and Celebrate in a Pandemic?
9. ENJOY THE MOMENT
After it’s all said and done…one of the best travel tips I could give anyone is to always do your best to enjoy and/or make the best of the moment.
Depending on the reason for the visit, not all trips are pleasant trips, but hopefully it will be a productive trip, where you can fulfill the purpose that was intended. At the end of the day, you have a home to go back to that’s your own, and that you are familiar with. Leave all complaints in your bags. Dump them with your dirty laundry (that by the way you should wash before you leave). Don’t bring stress and issues back home with you. Return to your home with only the people you left with and a refreshing of time well spent with others who are important to you. That time with them should have offered the extra you need to continue to press forward being your best self.
And hey…if it made you realize you have some things that you can work on…get to it. Hopefully you’ll have fixed it by the next trip.
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