It's hard to imagine traffic on Florida roads getting any worse, but it's coming. The American Automobile Association (AAA) predicts more than 102 million Americans will be hitting the road to make their Christmas journey between December 19th to January 1st.
If you're wondering when the worst travel day will be, a global mobility analytics company called INRIX says it's Thursday, December 20th. And depending on what city you're traveling in, added holiday congestion could add to your trip by as much as four times.
Strong economic conditions, an uptick in consumer spending and low gas prices all are contributing to the record number of people traveling for Christmas, both on the road and via airline and bus travel. The 102 million Americans packing their cars and hitting the road is the highest number projected since 2001, says AAA, the year they began tracking travel stats.
The majority of Christmas and New Year's travelers seem to want to spend their time in warm weather locations, with Orlando being the number 1 year-end destination. Coming in at number 9 is Fort Lauderdale, and Miami is number 10. Orlando's theme parks, the cruise ship ports on the southeast coast and the sun and sand ambience of the Sunshine State are big draws for travelers from up north and within Florida.
Plan on Extra Time to Get Where You're Going
“Traffic congestion is definitely a factor during the Christmas break,” says Fort Myers personal injury lawyer Mike Noone. “The key to getting where you're going safely is to allow yourself extra time.” If it normally takes you 3 hours to get from Fort Myers to Orlando, plan on 4 hours. If you can be flexible with your arrival time, you'll feel less stress trying to rush to get where you're headed. It's also not recommended to plan your travel during peak morning or afternoon rush hours, especially in and around big cities.
“A lot of people heading to Orlando or Miami, as examples, may have never driven there before, and wont's have a good idea on the best routes to use,” Noone points out. “This can lead to bad driving decisions like sudden lane changes, abrupt braking or just slowing down to an unsafe speed on the Interstate, which can cause a traffic crash.”
If you can adopt the state of mind that ‘you'll get there when you get there', you'll likely enjoy a much more relaxing, stress-free Christmas getaway.
Plan for Safety
There are a few things you can do to help reduce your risk of having an accident or some other trip-ruining episode:
Have your car serviced – Make sure your car is in proper operating conditions, you have good tread on your tires, new windshield wipers and all your fluids are properly filled.
Cell phone – always carry a cell phone and a car charger for it.
Carry a basic emergency kit – Take along a set of basic hand tools, jumper cables, the correct tire wrench and a properly-working jack. You also should take basic emergency supplies, like bandaids, ace bandage, gauze, antibacterial spray and other essentials.
Plan your route – Today's technology allows you to map out your entire route and see if there are any road closures on your way. You should also consider alternate routes in case the primary route shows some road blockage or accidents up ahead.
Make frequent rest stops – Always travel when you are most alert and well-rested. Stop frequently to get out of your car and stretch for a bit, and drink water to keep hydrated and coffee if you are feeling a little drowsy.
Let someone else know your plan – Let a relative or close friend know where you're going, and your general time of arrival. It's always good to keep someone informed as to your whereabouts in case something happens to you along the way.
Nothing can take the celebration out of your holidays like a serious car accident, and it's even worse if you're far from home. Finding adequate medical attention for any crash injuries, arranging where your car will be towed if it is unable to be driven, dealing with law enforcement and emergency medical responders from a strange city – all of these factors can add up to a miserable yuletide season.
Again, your most important ally is time. When you have time on your side, as in allowing added time to reach your destination and not really caring exactly when you arrive will go a long way towards keeping your sanity and ensuring a Merry Christmas for all, and for all a safe night.