03 holiday driving
CNN  — 

When it comes to winter holiday travel, airports and flying get a lot of the attention. But the majority of people who travel during the winter holidays pack up the car and drive to their destinations.

Before starting the journey, drivers should do some car maintenance and check on state laws that might change the way they drive, AAA says.

Here are some tips to help you hit the road:

Get all your basic maintenance done

Make sure your engine is ready for your winter holiday drive before you hit the road.

AAA suggests giving yourself a week to:

– Check tire pressure and tread depth
– Replace wiper blades
– Fill the windshield washer reservoir
– Test the battery

Even if you’re already behind on your to-do list, now is the time to take care of it. Don’t leave home without an oil change or brake check, too, if you’ve been putting those off.

Make an emergency road kit

According to AAA, a winter emergency kit should include a first aid kit, jumper cables, an ice scraper and snow brush. You should also carry:

– Sand, cat litter or traction mats
– Small shovel
– Gloves, hats and blankets
– Flashlights with fresh batteries and warning flares or triangles
– Shop rags or paper towels
– Drinking water and nonperishable snack bars
– Warm clothes
– Basic hand tools
– Chargers for your phone

Map your route

Out on the highway is not a good time to start figuring out directions. Map your trip before you head out.

Know how you’re going to get to your destination and have an alternative route in mind, AAA advises. Be prepared for busy roads. Check your smartphone app for heavy traffic ahead. If possible, leave really early in the morning or really late in the evening when traffic is generally lighter.

Check on the weather

Know what kind of conditions you might be driving through, not just the weather at your home and your destination. You may be going through mountain passes between your starting and stopping points.

Take a few minutes to check current weather conditions and forecasts with CNN Weather or your favorite weather site or app.

Brush up on your winter driving techniques

Increase your regular following distance. Rather than three to four seconds, make it eight to 10. Avoid skids by applying the gas slowly to accelerate. Above all, be patient and don’t let yourself get distracted, AAA advises.

Secure your valuables

The holidays are prime time for thieves, and a vehicle full of items in plain view will attract them. Don’t make yourself a tempting target; keep your valuables and wrapped Christmas presents in the trunk or a covered storage area.

Keep the kids busy and safe

Strap your children safely in the vehicle.

Use books, games, DVDs – whatever will keep the kids comfortable and stop them from distracting the driver. Remember, they will need snacks and will need to make stops, so be prepared to spend more time on the road if you’re traveling with children.

And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds guardians to buckle children in the vehicle using safety seats, booster seats or seat belts depending on their height, weight and age.

Take a break every two hours or 100 miles

Adults need to stop, too. Breaking up the drive periodically will keep you more alert while you’re on the road, Green said, which will help you arrive for Thanksgiving dinner in one piece.

CNN’s Forrest Brown contributed to this report.