Georgia residents are in luck this holiday season, as gas prices hang well below $3 just in time for family travels.
Thanksgiving travels are expected to be the highest since 2007, according to AAA. More than 46 million Americans will visit family for the holiday, and about 90 percent are expected to travel on the road.
Traveling with kids can be challenging for the whole family, especially over a lengthy trip. Area child care experts offer advice for families with small children.
“No. 1, snacks, snacks and more snacks,” said Brandee Thomas, managing director at My Sister’s Place. “But easy on the drinks.”
Sheila Missler with Joyland Child Development Center agreed, saying frequent bathroom breaks and limiting drink intake can prevent accidents on the road.
Taking rest breaks periodically is important for children and adults, Thomas said. She usually stops every two hours, but she chooses exits that have both gas and food options to minimize the stops she has to make.
Kathy Simmons, assistant director from TLC Childcare Inc. in Gainesville, said having something to do can help a child pass the time in the car.
“If they have a child between 1 and say, 2«, pack a bag full of activities,” Simmons said. “Toys, coloring books — that kind of thing works great for us.”
Missler said games are a great way to keep children busy, even if there’s a television in the car.
“When they stop to use the bathroom, let the kids have just a little time to run around a bit and get some energy out,” Missler said.
According to Missler, depending on a child’s age, most require no more than a minute per year of age in a seat. So a 3-year-old will comfortably sit for about three minutes.
“Riding is a little bit different of course,” she said. “... So you’ve got to have something to keep them entertained and to let them get their energy out when you can.”
Simmons said with her 3-year-old son William, having a parent in the back seat with the child can help keep him calm if he gets nervous or restless.
“When he was really young, we would take turns driving, and one of us would sit back there with him and keep him company so he wouldn’t cry so much or get so fussy.”
Thomas said, when possible, planning a trip around a child’s usual nap time can make for a more pleasant experience all around.
“This could mean traveling at ‘off’ times, but it’s definitely worth it,” she said.
Giving extra time in case of unexpected stops, delays or traffic is important, too, especially if traveling on a timeline.
The record-low gas prices this year are likely to affect traffic on the holiday itself. According to AAA, Georgia is expected to have 1.3 million travelers on Thanksgiving Day, and 1.2 million will travel in their cars.
Missler said safety, especially on a busy holiday, is the most important thing for a parent to remember with children in the car.
Cpl. Kevin Holbrook with the Gainesville Police Department agreed, and sent out a reminder for holiday travelers to be cautious on the road.
“The Thanksgiving holiday is one of the busiest travel times of the year,” Holbrook said. “It is important to remember that many people will be traveling closer to home and by way of vehicle due to the economy. The roadways will be busier than normal. With the added holiday stress and roadway distractions, it’s easy to forget about safety.
“Please remember to wear your safety belts, watch your speed, and use a designated driver.”