Our Top Tips for 4th of July Travel
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INSIDER SECRET: Filling up your gas tank on July 3rd is a top July 4th travel tip.
Traveling during the holidays is low on my list of favorite things to do. But I do it anyway. Every time. Traveling gets us to our friends and family and special destinations. And to a ton of food.
We’ve compiled some of our July 4th travel tips so you can enjoy your holiday and the traveling too.
July 4th Travel Tips
I’ll be traveling to my grandparents’ house for a barbecue this July 4th, as I do every year. My roots are in the Boston area and depending on where I am living, I could be traveling 10 miles or 3,000 miles. Consequently, I have a lot of July 4th travel experience.
Here are travel tips to help keep you comfortable, safe and ready for the unexpected. We’ve separated our tips by travel method but many of them apply to all types of travel.
1. Fill Your Tank Early
If you can fill your car’s gas tank the night before or even a couple of days before, you’ll be much happier. Gas stations will be busier than normal and if you’re driving a long distance, you’ll be able to get some serious miles down before filling up again.
Most of the Million Mile Secrets team use the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express for gas purchases since it gives 3% cash back at US gas stations and on transit. We’ve got a great breakdown of the best credit cards for gas purchases if you don’t have the Blue Cash Preferred. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits.
2. Get Your Electronics in Order
Most of us use some sort of mapping device on the road, whether it’s a phone or a GPS. So make sure your phone mount is set up and that you have a car charger available. If you don’t need a GPS to find your way, you can still use it to monitor traffic along the trip.
If you’re traveling with kids, set them up in the back seat with everything they need so you can devote your attention to the road.
3. Prepare Yourself for an Emergency
Everyone should know how to change a tire (if you have a spare) or who to call for roadside assistance. Most insurances and credit cards offer roadside assistance. I rely on my primary insurance if I break down.
It’s also a good idea to have an emergency kit in the back of your car with some basics like jumper cables, a flashlight and a basic first aid kit.
4. Rent a Car
Sometimes it makes sense to rent a car if your own car is unreliable or not big enough to haul your family and your stuff on vacation.
I do this often when traveling out of state and driving far. I’d rather put the miles on a rental car with unlimited mileage. Plus, I get free primary insurance when I rent a car with my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Train, Bus and Ride-Share
Whether it’s a Greyhound, Amtrak or shuttle service to the airport, these tips can help you get there in one piece.
1. Schedule Your Departure Earlier in the Day
Trains are generally fine because they have a their own tracks and are scheduled accordingly. But with buses and ride-shares, travel times and even routes ebb and flow with traffic. So if you’re planning to take a bus across the state or even farther, it may be better to book the earlier departure. You never know what traffic will look like.
A couple of years ago, I scheduled a shared shuttle service from my home in Irvine, California, to the Los Angeles airport for a Thanksgiving trip. Boy was that a ride! What is normally a one-hour drive took over 2.5 hours to get to the airport. I made my flight because I had scheduled an earlier shuttle with traffic in mind.
2. Bring Entertainment, Toiletries and a Change of Clothes
Keep yourself entertained with reading material, something to watch or good music. If you’re into it, talk to the folks around you. People are pretty awesome most of the time and a good conversation can pass the time quickly.
However, travel isn’t always puppy dogs and butterflies — there was the time my fiancée and I had to take a different Megabus home because ours never showed up for departure. We lost the rights to our reserved seats because technically, this wasn’t our bus.
We ended up sitting at one of those tables with seats on all sides. The man across the table spilled his soda all over us and we didn’t have anything to dry the spill. Lesson learned: It’s always wise to bring some tissues and a change of clothes when traveling.
3. Know Your Luggage Limits
Trains, buses and ride-shares all have different luggage limits, depending on the service and ticket you purchase. For example, if you’re using a ride-share service you may only be allowed one large piece of luggage. But a train ticket may allow for two large pieces of luggage. It’s fairly similar to flying — you have to read up on each service and ticket.
For the anxious and uncomfortable, flying can be tricky. These tips will help you stay relaxed and ready to fly.
1. Pack Your Medication in a Carry On
My fiancée and I have anxiety when it comes to flying. So much so, in fact, that we both take medication to combat it. If you regularly take any sort of prescription, make sure you have enough to last through your trip, and make sure it’s accessible in your carry-on, backpack or purse.
We also always have some pain reliever and antacids nearby. Some folks are suited for flying, others get the same aches and pains I do. It’s all about staying comfortable.
2. Get Up and Move
Do yourself a favor and move around a lot when permitted. Moving your body helps reduce the discomfort of flying. We aren’t meant to be immobile for so long.
Having an aisle seat makes it easier to get up and stretch your body. And if your window-mate keeps stepping over you to stretch and walk, you should join them.
3. Know the 3.4 Ounce Limit
No, your 6.7-ounce bottle of Drakkar Noir cologne will not pass security — I’m still grieving the loss of my bottle more than three years ago. If you have liquids and you’re bringing them on the plane, they have to be under 3.4 ounces.
If you’re going somewhere sunny and hot (it is July 4th), pack some sunscreen. I’m always amazed at how much sunscreen costs and I always forget to pack it, forcing me to buy it at my destination. Invest in some reusable bottles and pack your own sunscreen. It’s well worth it.
4. Have Alternate Identification and Cash
Bring your passport, even when flying domestic. It’s a great backup to your driver’s license.
And have cash on hand. ATMs at the airport are notorious for charging fees and your bank may not have any branches at your destination. Having small bills is also great for tipping or giving change to your buddy. You know, the one who only carries $20 bills.
5. Check in Online and Speed Through Security
If you’re checking bags, you can generally pay online before check-in. This streamlines your experience when you arrive at the airport. Some terminals even offer bag-check outside, letting you skip the long lines and head straight to security.
This is where TSA Precheck or Global Entry comes in handy. If you have either of these, you can head to the TSA PreCheck line and hopefully bypass the biggest lines. Cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve offer a credit for either TSA Precheck or Global Entry (up to $100).
Traveling for July 4th can be difficult when everyone else is doing it too. Preparing by filling your gas tank the night before, refilling necessary medication and checking in for your flight online is essential to a smooth trip.
Have any top secrets or general tips you want to share? Let us know below!
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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)