It’s the holiday season, and you all know what that means. No, I don’t mean the decorations and shopping and crowds and music. This time I’m not even talking about the family and so forth. I’m talking about the tons of people who will be flooding the roads between now and the first week or so of January.
With so many cars on the road, the chances of something going wrong are greatly increased. Here’s a list of a few things you should keep in your car – not just now, but always. They’ll make the unexpected just a little easier.
Take It With You
First, ten essentials:
1. First Aid Kit
This will be your best friend. If you can’t do anything else, keep it stocked with band-aids, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, gauze, and some gloves. Throw in some medicine, too, and if you have any prescription medications, keep them in an easy-to-access spot. It might also be a good idea to include a space blanket and a few bags in case of carsickness.
For a full kit, you may want to take the advice of the Red Cross.
2. Jumper Cables
Keep a set in your trunk. If your battery goes dead, you’re dead in the water without these. Flag down a passing kindly person to help you get your car going again.
3. Cell Phone
Yes, yes, you always have it with you because Siri is your best friend and the only one who understands you. If this is true…you might need to get out more often. Regardless, don’t forget it. In fact, take a charger so it doesn’t die on you. I’m not saying you should talk on your phone while driving, but if something happens, it’s exceptionally useful. In accidents, call for help. Or there’s the ever useful “Hey, some semi truck dumped a load of egg nog and there’s a yellow lake making a traffic jam, so we’ll be late. Don’t let Uncle Joe eat all the Christmas ham before we get there,” or the also helpful “Hi, Grandma, I know I don’t visit as often as I should…do you still live in Kentucky? I think I’m lost.”
If you’re traveling at night and you hit something or your engine clanks and stops or, really, anything else happens, you’ll be glad you’ve got a light. Trust me, your phone screen just won’t cut it. Just make sure you leave the batteries out or take extras, so your flashlight doesn’t die on you, too. You could also get one of the flashlights that uses manual power – shaking or twisting – to work.
5. Spare Tire & Jack
There’s nothing more deadly to Christmas travels than a popped tire, and they could come from anywhere. With a spare tire in the trunk, you’ll only have a slight delay before you’re happily on the road again. Without it, you may end up with a car full of Grinches.
Yeah, you’ll want one to record the holiday cheer, but it’s also helpful to catch the damage that car did when you braked for the reindeer crossing and the car behind you rammed your bumper. It’s great for catching their license plate, too, as they drive past you. Just don’t forget to save a few pictures so you can record your teen’s delight upon unwrapping the iPad box, and their expression when they discover that you just used the box to wrap Steinbeck’sThe Grapes of Wrath.
7. Insurance Information
Keep it on you. If something happens, you want to take care of it and get it out of the way so you can enjoy the holidays.
8. Extra oil or coolant
In case of overheating or leaks or whatever else, make sure you keep the necessary fluids with you, maybe a bottle of each in the back. They’ll keep everything running smoothly and keeping their cool. Oh, and it’ll keep your engine running well, too.
Mud, snow, ice… hey, it’s winter, this stuff is everywhere. And sitting in your car revving the engine is just going to make a slushy pile next to your tires. Get out and get them unstuck. Old squares of carpet or a bit of sand or cat litter will also help provide traction.
10. Water Bottles
First off, this will keep everyone in your family hydrated. And if you have extra breaks at rest stops, hey, at least you get to stretch your legs. These are also good to have in emergencies, and if your coolant runs out, they help in a pinch.
A few extra things that would be good to bring along:
-A blanket, for keeping warm or just to keep people cozy in the car.
-Emergency rations, either snacks or the nasty inedible stuff you’d only eat in a real emergency.
-A map. Or several.
-A few books or games. Bored people make the trip miserable – that’s when people resort to teasing or slapping or pinching.
-Flares. Just in case.
-Matches and candles. If you really are stuck, they’ll be helpful.
-Umbrellas. Always keep them.
-Tissues. Snuffly noses are miserable, and not having some relief is just horrible.
-Trash bags. Keep your car at least a bit neat.
-Your family and whoever else you were supposed to be bringing. I mean, who wants to get there and then have to go all the way back home?
Good luck, and happy travels!