Photo: Flickr / muslim page
I am going to be fighting some of the worst summer traffic in the country as my family and I slog home from Maine on labour Day — also known as the weekend when Vacationland morphs into Trafficland. My survival secret? Very, very low expectations. We are breaking up the roughly six-hour drive into two days, partly to accommodate our 6-month-old daughter Lucy, who is STILL unable to regulate her bodily functions. Our plan is to let her bowels guide our trip: “Oh! You pooped?! Let’s pull over, change a diaper and get some ice cream.”
I’ve already started preparing to fight, er, acquiesce to the traffic. Using my Groupon credits (earn $10 for every friend you refer) I bought a 303-piece first aid kit, which is an essential part of my emergency kit. You’re most likely to get stuck on the side of the road during long trips, statistically speaking. If you don’t have one, spend 30 minutes packing an emergency kit — or turn it into a scavenger hunt to motivate your kids to help. Emergency kits do not have to be expensive. I made my emergency kit for $22.
I’m considering updating my GPS, which is nearly ancient. Several times it’s given me the wrong directions because it is relying on old maps. Updating is an extremely good idea if you are driving to a totally new or unpopulated area. Moose don’t give directions.
To update your GPS, Google “how to update a garmin gps” or whatever brand of GPS you own. You may have to buy a disk or pay for an upload, so if your device is less than a year old, don’t bother.
If you cannot afford to dally, here are 11 more tips to keep tempers and costs down on your labour Day drive.
- Scout out deals. If you are still planning your trip, check out these eight labour Day travel deals from Market Watch. If you can wait, prices drop a huge amount after the kiddos start school. Supply… demand… you know the deal.
- Compare routes. Google Maps often offers two or three routes. The shortest route may not be the quickest or have the best view. If you must gas up or take an ice cream break, be sure to pass through a small town. Bottom line, is your goal to arrive or to arrive happy?
- Streamline bargain hunting. Bloggers at Yipit, my favourite daily deal aggregator (why fuss with Groupon, LivingSocial, etc. when you can get it all emailed to you once a day?), compiled a massive list of daily deals for labour Day weekend in 50 cities across the United States and Canada. Wow!
- Calculate driving cost. Use this free trip cost calculator from AAA, which takes into account the make and model of your car, to add up gas costs. But remember, AAA estimates the true cost of your driving vacation, including insurance, maintenance and, of course, gas, to be a whopping 50 cents per mile. Staycationing looks a lot more appealing, huh?
- Gas up for cheap. I like GasBuddy to search for the lowest price at nearby stations.
- Is your budget $0? Budgets are Sexy went to New Orleans for zip, zero, nada. True story! I envy his passion for and dedication to saving money.
- Pack meals. Tasty snacks will save you money on fast food, which is not actually cheaper! Most food travels very well, and a small cooler will take care of perishables. Instead of waiting in line at rest stops, you can eat immediately, then get a spot of exercise.
- Move it. At rest stops, break out a lively match of my new favourite game, called Spikeball. It’s like volleyball, but you hit a small, soft yellow ball against a net on the ground. No one will want to quit playing, but when you herd everyone back into the car, happy and tired, you will be able drive for much longer.
- Free traffic reports. A day before you shove off, start a free two-week trial membership toSigalert, the website that makes living in Los Angeles tolerable. You’ll find colour-coded traffic maps of the roads in metro areas across 48 states, plus data on what exactly is causing a backup. Live cams show roadways in select cities. Remember, knowing is half the battle.
- Car games. Technology entertains for only so long before you’ll need to interact with your kids. So plan some games. Disney Family has dozens of games to play in the car listed here.
- Be responsible. Make an appointment to get an oil change, top off fluids and properly inflate tires. Pick up a new pair of windshield wipers, too. They are so simple to replace even I can do it myself.