Safety Tips When Traveling For the HolidaysThe Definitive Guide
It is almost universally accepted that certain things should be done before taking that annual road trip to granny’s house for the holidays. In the nursery rhyme and in real life, these safety tips should be followed— so long before we go over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house, we need to lock up and make sure the house is safe. This is to make sure your house is secure and your belongings in tact when you return. We need to make sure the car is road worthy so as you go through the woods, a tire does not blow and the family car ends up in a snow bank. And if it does blow, we have safety flares, spare tire, tools and flashlights. We need a charged cell phone and AAA on speed dial to get the car out of the snowbank and back on the road. In short, we need to be prepared for the unexpected.
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This list is pretty comprehensive, but not exhausting so please take and add to it. Use this as your base and personalize it for you and your family’s needs as you embark on the family holiday road trip with holly jolly cheer.
- Prepare your home for optimum safety while you are away
- Have your vehicle inspected and/or serviced before leaving
- Keep an emergency kit in it
- Stop the mail
- Make sure you have a cell phone charger and a backup portable battery charger
- Give a trusted friend or relative your trip itinerary and photocopies of important documents
- Make sure all holiday lights are turned off
- Make sure to water live Christmas trees
- Be careful of leftovers—refrigerate food within two hours, even the leftovers for the road
- Pack extra water for the car
Preparing Your Home For Optimum Safety
The article 9 Holiday Travel Safety Tips for Your Next Getaway says if you have a home security alarm, make sure it is working properly and that you arm it. Seems simplistic, but you would be surprised to know how many homes with alarms are burglarized each year because they were not armed. The Report on Burglars profiled some 20 burglars and they spoke candidly about how they selected homes and why they committed the crime they did. Many of them said an alarm alone was not a deterrent, they would probe to see if the alarm was armed and in a great many cases, they were not. So please arm your systems.
If you do not have an alarm, they highly recommend getting one . Homes without alarms are 300% more likely to be burglarized according to the National Council for Home Safety and Security. The folks at Safewise state a good alarm should include motion detectors, cameras, as well as door and window sensors. It should also be monitored to insure proper police responses in a timely manner, even if your system is a DIY. They also insist you have someone periodically check in on your home.
I personally recommend the Ring Alarm system with monitoring. It is an affordable, easy to install system and monitoring is inexpensive at $10 a month—and the best part, there is no multi-year contract or commitment. The reviewers at Verge, say it’s every bit as good as the big alarm companies’ products. They actually boast that, “it is one of the least expensive home security system you can purchase!” I would go a step further and say it is better. I cancelled my service that I had for years to switch to the Ring Alarm. I did so because working the app remotely was inconsistent at best, and that adds up when we were paying $50 plus dollars a month. The tipping point for me was calling to report that the stay feature was not working properly, and being told that there would be a $39.99 fee to have a technician come out to look at it. I just said, there has got to be a better way. But in an attempt to be neutral, and give my readers choices, I am including the reviews of the best home security systems and that brand (that shall remain nameless) is actually ranked pretty high among security systems.
The Best Home Security Systems according to A Secure Life for 2018 are:
- Frontpoint—1st—Best Home Security System
- Vivint—2nd—Best for Home Automation
- Link Interactive—3rd—Best for Transparency
- SimpliSafe—4th—Best System Without A Contract
- ADT—5th—Best Reputation
- Protect America—6th—Best for Landline Options
- Nest Secure—7th—Best for Inter-connectivity
- LiveWatch—8th—Best for Money-Back Guarantee
- Scout—9th—Best for Aesthetics
- Abode—10th—Best Self-Monitored Option
It is a good idea while you are away to have someone remove accumulated handbills, circulars and the litany of stuff people leave on your front door, under mats, or thrown into the driveway. If your neighborhood is anything like mine, I have to walk the front of the house daily when I come in from work to collect that stuff—starting from the driveway, working my way through the front lawn, and then the porch, where there is always a mother-load of circulars advertising everything from roof repairs, to lawn services or coupons for the new cleaners or religious handouts.
Getting The Vehicle Ready
AAA suggests that you make sure your vehicle is properly maintained. They recommend having tires inspected before you take a long drive, as well as mapping your drive, and urge you to maybe leave a day earlier or later to avoid traffic congestion on the main travel day. They advocate for leaving valuables in the trunk or covered storage areas. They also think it is a great idea to accompany children to the bathroom on breaks and to give them whistles to be used if they get separated from the family. A really good idea they offer up is to have roadside assistance contact info on hand and easily accessible.
Vehicle Emergency Kit
The folks at Edmunds suggest you have the following for a Basic Roadside Emergency Kit
- Jumper Cables
- A quart of motor oil
- A gallon of coolant
- First-Aid Kit
Stop The US Mail
Contact the US Post Office to stop your mail. Criminals watch for mail build up to burglarize your home… it is a sure fire way to tell if the residents are away for an extended time. They also use accumulated mail to steal your identity. If you suspect you have been a victim of stolen mail, get LifeLock. They are the leader in identity protection and safety and can immediately put a freeze on your credit. Having gained your social security number, from stolen mail or pieced together from bits and pieces of personal information like a jigsaw puzzle thieves can get duplicate social security cards, and file fraudulent tax returns in your name, steal from investment accounts, or rack up medical bills. With only a few pieces of information, such as date of birth, SSN, and address your whole world could be turned upside down for years just from taking an innocent trip to visit granny for the holidays. LifeLock also reimburses losses from identity theft.
Invest In A Good Cell Phone Charger
I am not a fan of the drive isle special cell phone chargers you find near the registers in discounters. I would not want to trust my life to those $6.99 models that work for two weeks and then mysteriously die. I highly recommend buying the manufacturers brand and getting an emergency cell phone battery charger.
Give Your Itinerary To A Trusted Friend
Make sure you give your trip itinerary to a trusted friend, neighbor or family member. There have been many incidences of crashes, where cars were swept away by flash floods, and vehicles driving off of bridges and drivers being stranded for days. Having someone know your scheduled arrival and being able to alert authorities if you do not show in a reasonable time can be lifesaving.
Turn Off Those Christmas Lights
Turning Christmas lights off is super important. First and foremost it can prevent fires. Secondly, thieves will notice that lights are on and a red flag will go off for them that the house is vacant making it an easy target. Even lights on timers will be something that raises the suspicions of burglars. I prefer smart home devices like Alexa, which allow you to manually operate the lights, televisions, music, even smart vacuums remotely. The Flooring Girl gives an in depth review of all of the robotic vacuums, that are just as good as the Roomba (my personal favorite), but are half the price. Even a highly skilled would-be crook would not be able to tell if a house was empty or if a family was home if you staggered these activities.
Water That Tree
You must, I repeat, you Must water your Christmas tree if it is a live tree. The article How to keep your Christmas tree alive through the holiday season, states that a tree needs to be watered with a gallon of water daily. They also suggest low heat lights. Let’s face it, hot lights, a dry tree, and being left alone are the trifecta for really bad things to happen.
Refrigerate, Refrigerate, Refrigerate
Speaking of bad things, food poisoning from poor food handling and unsafe storage during a road trip are a really bad combo. Throw in disgusting gas station bathrooms and you have the makings for the next sequel to the Griswold’s Family Christmas movie franchise. The article 4 Tips for Storing and Heating Holiday Leftovers, gives the following guidelines, and it is really clear—any food left out for 2 hours can start to grow bacteria on it. Leftovers need to be refrigerated promptly, especially perishables like meats, poultry, eggs and casseroles. This next list provides time guidelines that food is safe to go back and eat. Although there is some debate around time parameters, I am at least glad there are some parameters. Without calling names, I have seen people still eating on Thanksgiving leftovers the week before Christmas. My rule of thumb is that by that week’s end, I am done! I do not want to see turkey, ham, or any of the fixin’s. So without further ado, here is that leftover guideline:
- Fully cooked poultry or ham slices: 3 to 4 days in fridge/1 to 2 months in freezer
- Gravy: 1 to 2 days in fridge/2 to 3 months in freezer
- Stuffing: 3 to 4 days in fridge/1 month in freezer
- Cooked meat-and-cheese casserole (such as lasagna): 3 to 4 days in fridge/2 to 3 months in freezer
I posted their freezer guidelines, but see my comments above. When the refrigerator guidelines expire, I am done! But hey, that is just me; at that point, that holiday meal is dead to me. My final comment on this subject, is to say an ice chest for the car is your friend.The Cadillac of all ice chest is the Yeti Hopper Flip Portable Cooler. Yes it is a little pricey, but its resume, is super impressive. It is 100% leak-proof, it is tough as nails, and it will keep ice frozen for days so your food will not perish and you will not have to repeatedly stop at gas stations to dump more ice in the cooler.
The body can go 3 weeks without food—not by choice, but in a pinch water is a different story. The article in Business Insider, How Many Days Can You Survive Without Water, states that without water for three or four days we would die. So now that I have your attention (through scare tactics) please pack extra water for the car. In the event you are trapped in a zombie apocalypse, or find yourself in a snow embankment, or at the bottom of a ravine to and fro from grandmother’s house- it could save your life.
These 10 tips can save your life and protect your home.
Enjoy your family, celebrate the Christmas holidays, but prepare and be safe. Hopefully you found these tips useful. Merry Christmas and have an extra slice of Grandma’s pie for me.