It’s getting to be that time of the year again, the season to gather the family and head over to grandma’s house for a holiday dinner or to spend some time with relatives or friends on a winter vacation.

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But if you are planning any kind of extended road trip, it’s wise to prepare the family vehicle ahead of time. Being ahead of the game is a whole lot better than getting stranded because you didn’t take some precautions.

Here are a few tips to help ensure your family road trips come off safely this holiday season.

Your car needs help for the cold weather.  While not everyone lives in or will travel in areas with extreme winter temperatures or locales where the nighttime temps dip precipitously low, it’s always better to do a little prep ahead of time to make doubly sure your family car will be able to withstand the cold. That means check the antifreeze, battery, brakes, exhaust, heaters and oil several days before you plan to head out on the holiday road trip. And be sure to allow extra time for any required repairs to your vehicle.

Some items may need replacing.  It may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it really isn’t when you consider the safety and well-being of your family may be at stake. Are the tires worn? Maybe it’s time to replace them. At the very least, check the air pressure to make sure all tires are properly inflated according to the manufacturer’s recommendations (see the tire pressure inflation sticker on the driver’s door or check the vehicle owner’s manual). That windshield wiper fluid may have served its purpose during the summer and early fall, but wintertime requires cold-weather fluid. Replace the windshield wiper fluid now.

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Always travel with a full tank (or charge).  Obviously, before you head out on the highways and byways you’ll fill the car’s tank with gas, or recharge the battery if you’re driving an electric or a plug-in vehicle. Depending on the length of your trip, you may need to fill up a couple of times or plan to spend some time at a charging station. But once you arrive at your destination – and before you haul in the luggage and plop down to rest, be sure to fill up the tank again or plug in to recharge the battery. This is necessary to avoid and to make sure you have enough gas or battery power in your car for the next time you venture out. Don’t think that all the gas stations will be open when you need them or that recharging outlets will be available. In remote areas, especially during the holidays, the pickings may be thin.

Carry these necessities. Be sure you have legible road maps (or use your car’s navigation system, plugging in your destination). Carry a tool kit, shovel and flashlight at all times. It’s also a good idea to bring some warm blankets, water and non-perishable snacks, just in case you become stranded during an ice storm or blizzard.

Keep an eye on the weather.  While everyone wants to get to their holiday destination as quickly as possible, drivers often put in too many hours behind the wheel in order to maximize time at the other end. Watch your speed and keep extra distances between you and vehicles ahead. Always keep a close watch on the weather, listen to weather conditions and alter your route if there’s a storm expected. It may take a little longer to get there, but your family’s safety should always be your first priority.


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This article originally appeared on Family Car Guide.