We’re getting excited about a big ol’ family road trip this Christmas. The Jacksons will be driving from Cincinnati to Kansas to spend the holiday with Jay’s parents, sisters, and their families. It should be epic.
In anticipation of a 630-mile drive, we’re trying to get all our ducks in a row for a safe journey. I have to give major credit to Jay, who has made it his mission to equip my “Mystery Machine” minivan for all possible emergency scenarios. He also lovingly bugged me to get the little ding in my windshield repaired, the hydroplaning tires replaced, and rear brake pads replaced before winter. (Spending money on car maintenance is less fun than buying Christmas gifts, but definitely worthwhile.)
If you’re planning a family road trip over the holidays, check out these holiday travel safety tips, courtesy of Jerry Jackson Jr.. FYI, WMAG is an Amazon affiliate, so if you end up buying any of these items through our links, you’ll be supporting Working Moms Against Guilt. So thanks in advance!
Holiday travel safety tips
Just about every parent has learned the hard way that family road trips are frequently plagued by unforeseen emergencies both big and small. If a single driver has an accident, she might be fine with a smartphone, a flashlight, and the tools needed to change a flat tire.
On the other hand, most parents end up with first-aid kits, extra clothing, cleaning supplies, and any number of random items filling the family car or van after the lessons learned from previous emergencies involving kids.
A parent’s automobile is usually better prepared for life’s little dramas … but big drama (or major accidents) require even more preparation.
Many of us will jump inside the family van or SUV with our spouses and kids and hit the road during the winter holidays, but the U.S. DOT Federal Highway Administration reports that 23 percent (more than 1.3 million) of all car accidents are cold weather-related. Heavy snow, sleet, ice, high-speed winds, winter flooding, and even plain old frigid temperatures can do more than just derail your holiday plans … the weather could leave you and your family stranded on the side of the road.
Add to this the likelihood that emergency services (police, ambulance, and fire department) might not be immediately available during a severe winter storm and the fact that most mobile phone networks have “dead zones” along America’s highways and roads between populated cities. The end result: There’s a higher-than-usual chance you could be stuck on the side of the road without hope for immediate rescue.
Most parents bring snacks and drinks on just about every road trip, and you’ll probably have luggage with extra clothing if you’re driving out of town for the holidays. However, that might not be enough to help you and your family get home safe after a winter accident leaves you stranded in the cold for 24 hours or more.
The ultimate winter emergency kit
Amazon recently had a “Lightning” deal on a nicely equipped survival kit from Yukon Outfitters that served as the starting point for our family’s emergency “get home bag.” This kit and similarly equipped kits frequently retail for between $200 and $300 online, but you can sometimes find even cheaper deals if you keep your eyes open.
The Yukon Outfitters Survival Kit we ordered included:
- One large, heavily padded backpack with multiple storage compartments
- One 3-liter hydration bladder for water
- One combination LED flashlight/lantern with emergency strobe function
- One emergency medical kit with first aid supplies and instructions
- One Mylar emergency blanket (80″ x 52″)
- One hammock with mosquito netting
- One rainfly tarp with 4 guideline tensioners and 2 metal stakes for emergency shelter
- One emergency whistle with lanyard
- One flint striker and 10 waterproof matches for fire starting
- One compass
- One emergency signal mirror
- One memo pad and pencil
- One fishing kit (15lb test mono-filament fishing line, 1 lure, 2 hooks, 3 weights)
- One sewing kit (2 buttons, 2 safety pins, 5ft of different color threads)
- One bundle (100ft) of 550lb Paracord
- One 440 stainless steel folding knife with liner lock mechanism
While some (or all) of that gear is great to have in an emergency, keep in mind it’s hardly everything an entire family needs to survive a winter storm. In fact, some of these items could be removed from this kit during the winter months. The point is that any you should customize your survival kit based on your family and where (and when) you’re traveling.
Extra items to consider adding
Here are the additional things we included in our winter emergency kit:
- Extra LED flashlights
- LED signal flares (safer than chemical flares as long as you have batteries)
- Extra batteries for all LED flashlights and flares
- Emergency battery pack for smartphone
- Additional medical supplies (prescription medication, more bandages and feminine hygiene products)
- Small tool kit
- Additional knife
- Windproof lighter
- Live Fire Emergency Fire Starter
- Additional blankets
- Duct tape
- Gloves and hand/foot warming packs
- Energy bars and drinking water
- Folding shovel for digging out tires from the snow and ice
- Window washing fluid with de-icer
- Small backpacker’s cooking kit with metal pot and cups (for melting snow and purifying water)
- Emergency water filter straw
- Water purification tablets (for purifying water if you cannot boil it first)
- Small fire extinguisher
You might have noticed that there are several items that seem like unnecessary duplicates – more than one knife, multiple blankets, several tools to start a fire, and multiple ways to purify water – but there is a method to that madness. There’s an infamous saying among “preppers” (people who try to be “prepared” for emergencies) that “Three is two. Two is one. One is none.”
In other words, things frequently go wrong during real-life emergencies and if you only have one tool to accomplish something important, then that one tool will probably break when you need it the most. You don’t need multiples of everything in your kit, but a little redundancy is a good thing during emergencies.
As you can see, we’ve packed a lot of stuff to help our family get home in the event that a winter accident leaves us stranded. Our personal choices are based on the idea that we’ll be traveling on major roads and we plan to take shelter either inside our van or nearby so emergency responders can find us after an accident. The weight of the kit isn’t a major factor since it’s staying in the family van or in an emergency shelter that my husband builds nearby. This is too much stuff for one person to carry in the event that you need to hike to find rescue.
More holiday travel safety tips
Want even more ideas for how to keep your family safe on the road this winter? Check out these resources:
- AAA Exchange: Holiday Road-Trip Travel Tips (includes a downloadable guide for what to do when your car breaks down)
- SafeWise: 9 Holiday Travel Safety Tips for Your Next Getaway
- TODAY: 6 tips for surviving your holiday road trip
This post is all about being prepared and keeping your family safe on a holiday road trip. In an upcoming post, I’ll focus on tips and tricks to make your family road trip comfortable and fun! (Because trust me when I say, if anyone is not comfortable and happy, there will be whining and I might just have to PULL THIS CAR OVER … )