Safety Tips for a Winter Road Trip

From the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath to Sal and Dean in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, from Peter and Ellie in Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night” to the Delta House frat brothers in “Animal House,” Americans have always been attracted to the idea that our hopes and dreams may be waiting for us down the road, around the next corner, or over the next hill.  The lure of the open road can pop up at any time, even in winter, when Mother Nature isn’t exactly warm and welcoming to voyagers.  If your urge to travel outweighs any concerns about the weather, be sure to heed the safety tips for a winter road trip; we share a few of them below.

Check the weather forecasts, research traffic conditions and highway construction plans, and plot out a route — including reservations at overnight rest stops — that will get you where you want to go with minimal hassle and inconvenience.Plan your itinerary in advance.  The idea of just hopping into your car and going wherever the road takes you can be very appealing, but it’s a recipe for potential disaster.  You may be heading directly into a paralyzing storm or straight into a long series of traffic jams, which are less dangerous than blizzards but just as frustrating.  Check the weather forecasts, research traffic conditions and highway construction plans, and plot out a route — including reservations at overnight rest stops — that will get you where you want to go with minimal hassle and inconvenience.  Then make sure you share your plans with someone who can alert and inform the authorities if you get lost.

Prepare your vehicle for anything.  Hoping for the best isn’t an effective strategy.  Have your car tuned up before you leave home, and stock it with everything you might possibly need along the way, including (but not limited to):

  • Emergency Kit - Prepare your vehicle for anything.  Hoping for the best isn’t an effective strategy.  Have your car tuned up before you leave home, and stock it with everything you might possibly need along the wayA first-aid kit
  • A car emergency kit, complete with any potential repair needs and a fire extinguisher
  • Enough non-perishable food, drinks, water, and sanitary items to last several days (in case you’re stranded)
  • Cold-weather gear
  • Entertainment items (again, in case you’re stranded)
  • Your cellphone (preferably equipped with GPS), chargers, and up-to-date maps (cellphones don’t always work)

Once you’re packed, remember to fill the gas tank, and try to follow a route that offers access to quick, easy refills.

Get your rest.  Drowsy drivers are dangerous drivers — and not just to themselves.  Coffee may be an effective pick-me-up in the morning, but it shouldn’t be used as a remedy for driving fatigue.  If your eyelids are drooping well before your next planned stop, find a place to pull over for a nap; sleeping in your car is far preferable to (and much more affordable than) waking up in a hospital room.

Drive safely.  In inclement weather, safe driving means driving slowly, keeping your headlights on, maintaining more distance between your car and other vehicles, braking early and slowly, forgoing cruise control, and taking every precaution.

Hitting the open road can be quite rewarding — and/or just plain fun.  To enhance your enjoyment, make car and hotel reservations through Travel Plus:  You’ll earn 5% cash back on bookings and rebates on travel perks.  Happy trails!

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Tropical Winter Vacation Destinations

miami_flEvery now and then — say, when your part of the country is recovering from a polar vortex or coping with the effects of deadly avalanches — the idea of escaping winter and heading to a warm-weather paradise can be a comforting thought.  However, many of us are paying down our generosity over the holidays, which tends to put a crimp in the travel budget, so a trip to a tropical clime may be more fantasy than reality at the moment.  Still, voyages of the imagination are free, and, as Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  With that in mind, let’s ponder a few ideal (and reachable) tropical vacation destinations this winter.

Miami, Florida.  Miami is a common winter favorite for U.S. travelers — for good reason:  Average temperatures in January range from a high of 74 degrees to a low of 61 degrees.  Whether you want to relax on a beach or explore the vibrant nightlife, Miami offers a variety of events for virtually every vacationer.  Plus, if you’re up for a short road trip, Key West is a scant, scenic 161 miles away by car.

hawaii_2Hawai‘i.  There’s never a bad time to visit Hawai‘i, but it’s a particularly attractive destination in wintertime.  The higher holiday rates tend to drop in mid-January, and there’s a lot to do once you get there:  the Cherry Blossom Festival; the Maui Chinese New Year celebration; the Hawai‘i Chocolate Festival; and much more.  (Of course, you’re more likely to head to Hawai‘i for its beaches, and who could blame you?)

plamspringsPalm Springs, California.  Long known as “Hollywood’s playground,” visitors to Palm Springs can enjoy free activities ranging from the “Walk of Stars” to a wildlife sanctuary, tennis-court time, dog parks, and more.  If you’re willing to pay for your Palm Springs fun, you can test your golf game on four courses, test your luck at several casinos, or simply indulge in the nightlife.  (Unfortunately, it’s too late to catch the celebrities at the 2014 Palm Springs International Film Festival, but maybe next year ….)

Turks and Caicos Islands.  Located 230 miles north of the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos Islands comprise eight inhabited islands and an additional 32 islands and cays.  U.S. visitors will be pleased to discover that the official currency is U.S. dollars (you’ll still need a passport, though).  Better yet, the average temperature in the “colder” months is 80 to 84 degrees, with a water temperature of 70 to 74 degrees.  Tourists have a wide range of pastimes to pursue, from whale and bird watching and limestone caves to golf, kayaking, beach fun, and more.

TurksandCaicos

When cold, snowy weather brings you down, a winter vacation to a tropical destination can help warm your spirits.  Travel Plus members can also warm their travel budgets with 5% cash back on flight, hotel, and rental-car reservations and rebates on all sorts of travel perks and comforts.  Let us know your ideal winter vacation destination in the Comments section.

Money-Saving Travel Tips: How to Save on Travel to Super Bowl XLVIII

superbowl_2014With the NFL regular season ending, only 12 teams will have a shot at Super Bowl XLVIII (that’s “48” to regular folks), and no one knows which one will be crowned league champion.  Nonetheless, diehard supporters of that team will want to witness the achievement in person, and it’s not too early for fans of the playoff teams to start planning to attend the game in MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014.  We can’t help you score cheap Super Bowl tickets (which are among the most expensive tickets in sports), but we can offer tips on how to save on your Super Bowl travel plans.

superbowl_hotelBook your hotel room now.  Hotel reservations are easier to cancel without penalty than flights are, and New York City hotels aren’t yet at full occupancy.  In fact, some hotels are currently offering Super Bowl discounts that probably won’t be available to last-minute planners.

Consider non-NYC destinations.  Even discounted hotel rooms in New York City can be more expensive than rooms in the greater tri-state area, so shop around.  Beware that the game is in East Rutherford, New Jersey, so rates in that area have recently increased.  Connecticut hotel rates are traditionally lower than those in New York City, although the longer MetLife commute could be more expensive.  Speaking of which ….

superbowl_bus

Plan to use public transportation.  Some people are calling this year’s game “Mass Transit Super Bowl I,” because driving to MetLife Stadium will be a challenge.  (FYI:  Even if you do drive, you can’t tailgate.)  Travel restrictions include:

  • Fewer parking spaces.  MetLife Stadium can accommodate 28,500 cars, but various Super Bowl considerations have reduced that number to fewer than 13,000 (and parking passes cost $150).
  • No foot traffic.  Instead of walking to the stadium, you’ll need to take a car, bus, train, or limousine.
  • No drop-offs.  This rules out taxis, unless you want to keep the meter running for the entire game.  To get into the parking lot, limos will need the $150 parking pass; chartered buses, a $350 parking pass.

On the plus side:

  • A “Fan Express” nonstop coach bus service will offer round-trip game-day transportation from nine New York and New Jersey locations for $51.
  • A $50 “Super Pass” will provide visitors unlimited access on all New Jersey Transit trains, buses, and light rail from January 27 through February 3.
  • Unlike area residents, Super Bowl XLVIII visitors will only face short-term traffic problems.

superbowl_coldclothesPack for blizzard conditions.  It’s impossible to predict the exact weather this far in advance, although the Farmers’ Almanac forecasts a cold, stormy Super Bowl Sunday (which could alter the game date).  Still, it’s more cost-effective to be prepared for the worst than to have to buy clothes at the last minute.

With Travel Plus, you can claim additional savings on a Super Bowl trip, including 5% cash back on flight, hotel, and rental-car reservations, plus rebates on travel perks that help make journeys more relaxing.  Wherever you watch Super Bowl XLVIII, we hope you enjoy the game!

How to Save Time in Airports

delayed-flight

“A journey is like marriage,” John Steinbeck wrote in Travels with Charley:  In Search of America.  “The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”  Steinbeck’s book focused on a road trip with his dog, but he could easily have been referring to air travel, which is packed with factors outside your control, from the weather to other travelers and more, that too often turn short jaunts into lengthy waits.  Nevertheless, there are a few tricks of the air-travel trade that can help you save time in airports: Continue reading