Holiday travel: keep the memories happy

  • Published
  • By Maj. Robert Noonan
  • 49th Fighter Wing, chief of Safety
Happy Thanksgiving Team Holloman! The holiday season this year seems to be particularly welcome, given all the big events in the 49th Fighter Wing this year. 

So we made it right? This is the time to relax isn't it? Holidays are to enjoy aren't they? 

Unfortunately, the holiday season presents many temptations that are not normally present during the year, the temptation to drive too long to make that special family event or the temptation to drink too much at a special get-together and then drive home are just some examples. 

The holiday season seems so overwhelming when you think about it; time just seems to accelerate after Thanksgiving. We are all rushing around making thousands of decisions everyday on what gifts to buy, where to hang lights, where the best deals are, etc. But all it takes is one bad decision, made under rushed conditions, to turn the happiest time of year into the saddest time of a lifetime. 

There is a wealth of information concerning holiday safety on the Internet but one subject that affects most is traveling, so the following are some "points to ponder" when it comes to being prepared for that long road trip this holiday season: 

Thoroughly plan your trip. In the flying business, we plan for all aspects of the mission that can affect the flight before we step to fly: status of the aircraft ad pilot, weather, fuel planning, conditions of the airfield etc. Treat your long road trip the same way. What is the condition of your vehicle? How are the tires? If the tread is thin, is it smart to drive as fast in wet conditions as in dry conditions? Look at your route of travel; will you be driving through some area where cell phone coverage is sketchy? What if you break down, do you have survival items? How far are the gas stations spread apart? What is the weather going to be when you travel? 

Here in sunny New Mexico there is not a lot of inclement weather to drive through, but think about if your driving east or north, when is the last time you drove in snowy conditions? How long is the drive? Are you traveling with kids? How long are you going to drive with the kids in the car? 

Over the years, I've seen and tried just about all the possible "car trip with kids" options: the "drive all night while the kids are sleeping" option and the "push hard all day and drive into the night" options are just two examples. After years of these challenging experiences, my wife and I have come up with one formula that seems to work best when traveling with kids: we drive six hours a day, during daylight hours ... period. Two three hour driving periods separated by a healthy 1.5 hour break in between. Think about it, by the time you get on the road, stop a couple times to eat and use the restroom, take a lunch break, then stop for the evening, you are looking at about a 10-11 hour day. 

After a good rest at a hotel, we get up the next morning and hit the road again and safely arrive at our destination rested and ready to visit instead of rushed and exhausted. 

What if you don't have kids? Does it make sense to drive 12 hours and into the night? Sure you are going to make better time, but is it worth it? You will be just as exhausted when you arrive if you push yourself too hard, is that the way you want to arrive? Wanting to hit the sack to sleep instead of ready to visit with the people you have driven so long to see? What is your schedule before you make this long trip? Will you be rested? If you have been working hard all week, does it make sense to leave Friday night? Why not take a rest Friday night and leave Saturday morning? What is the rush? If you really need to leave early, ask your supervisor for another day of leave to accommodate an earlier departure so you can travel safely. Think about your return leg as well, the same rules that helped you arrive safely will help you return safely and well rested. 

Holidays, despite the stress, are a time meant to be treasured. Even if you're not making the big family road trip this season and just driving around the local area, take some time to plan properly so you remember the 2007 holiday season as nothing less than another happy memory. From the 49 FW Safety office, we wish you and yours very happy holidays.