Tips for taking winter road trips

December 31, 2012 12:00 AM

Road trips encompass much more than just time spent driving down the highway. Travelers may take to the roads to escape cold weather or spend the holidays with loved ones, but no matter what they have to get to their destination before they can start relaxing and enjoying the season.

To make your travel experience easier, follow these few simple tips for winter road trips:

Get a tune up
Having vehicle maintenance done before setting out on a trip can save drivers from potentially dangerous situations, as well as headaches along the way. All drivers should have their automobiles checked before winter weather strikes in full force, but the need for scheduled maintenance rises if you have a long trip on the horizon. Brakes, tires, the heating system and fluid levels should all definitely be checked by a professional, as should other important aspects of a car that can help out passengers in a pinch, such as cell phone chargers and adaptors.

Shop around beforehand
Certain rewards cards, credit cards or rebate programs can help drivers save money on gas and other services needed during a road trip. For example, BP offers a Pump Rewards program that gives cardholders double rebates for driving home during the holidays at certain gas stations, according to Fodor's. Those drivers trying to get home for Christmas can take advantage of these deals, happening between December 23 and 28.

Similarly, Discover has a special Open Road card that can be used for gas and restaurant stops along a route, with users getting a gas reward on the first $250 spent on these road trip items during each billing period.

Focus on safety
You never know what the weather is going to be like in your destination, so be prepared for any type of driving conditions. Packing an emergency kit, complete with flashlight, spare tire, road salt and other maintenance tools can help out in case something happens to the car during the trip, while keeping a stash of snack foods and water can keep drivers sustained throughout their long journeys.

Another way to stay safe on the roads is to have an alternate route planned in case an accident or detour throws off your plans. Keep maps of the destination area to supplement GPS directions, and do some research beforehand to see if anywhere along the route is undergoing construction or is more likely to have icy roads or accidents. 

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