Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother's House we Go!
2020 is just around the corner and a lot of you out there have travel
plans in order to get to Grandma's, whether it may be by using
Interstate 275 with your own vehicle, flying out of Tampa International Airport on Southwest Airlines (or your favorite airline) or taking Amtrak from Tampa's Union Station. However, the recent COVID-19 crisis that has gripped our nation and our world has made life different: Social distancing, mask wearing, and taking the precautions necessary to stay safe and healthy.
Before we go further, we here at Interstate275Florida.com and the Interstate 275 Florida Blog - a part of the Edward Ringwald Websites Network
- want to wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving as well as a joyous
and happy Christmas holiday season. After all, the Christmas holiday
season beginning with the Thanksgiving holidays is my favorite time of
those of you making your plans on how to get to Grandma's for
Thanksgiving Day here are some helpful tips before you set out, whether
it may be on Interstate 275, via Southwest Airlines (or your favorite
airline) or via Amtrak:
IF YOUR THANKSGIVING TRIP INVOLVES AUTOMOBILE TRAVEL
Check to be sure that your car is in tip top shape. That means checking all
the essential fluids such as your oil level among other things. That
will save you from a mechanical breakdown, especially when you are
hundreds of miles from home. If your car is due for an oil change and a tire rotation, get these done before you set out.
check your windshield washer fluid, especially if you are headed to
areas experiencing high concentration of bugs and you have to constantly
run the windshield washer. In fact, keep a spare bottle of windshield
washer fluid in your car and replenish every time you stop for gas -
believe me, you will be glad you did!
check your turn signals and brake lights too. You want to make sure
that everything is in working order; in fact, doing so will help you
avoid being issued a defective equipment citation in the event you are
pulled over by a law enforcement officer.
Plan how you will get to Grandma's. You can use your favorite map program that you like out there on the Internet such as Google Maps.
you own any of the vehicles that has OnStar (the
best thing out there since the invention of the motor vehicle), check to
make sure that it works. Simply press the black OnStar phone button;
if you hear the phrase "OnStar ready" you're in business! If you need
to add more minutes to your OnStar hands free calling do so: While
connected to OnStar, from the main menu say "minutes" then "add". To
verify minutes on OnStar, from the main menu say "minutes" then
"verify". Or, you can log in to your OnStar account online and check
Besides, it's much
better to use your OnStar hands free calling rather than using your cell
phone while driving. In fact, in several states (including California and Florida with its no texting while driving law as well as Georgia and its no holding mobile devices while driving law)
hands free is not an option - it's the law.
Additionally, be sure that you have a good SunPass balance and replenish your SunPass account as needed. This
is very important as many toll roads in the Tampa Bay region including
the Selmon Crosstown Expressway and the Veterans Expressway/Suncoast Parkway only accept
SunPass or toll-by-plate. The same thing goes for toll roads in South
Florida including Miami.
the way, if you are headed to Georgia or North Carolina your Florida
SunPass will work in these states. Another good reason why using
SunPass is your best value when it comes to paying tolls!
a good night's rest - believe me, you will need plenty of it! When you
actually set out on the roads they will be crowded; allow plenty of
time to get to your destination safely.
you are out and about on the road, in the event of an accident give the
Florida Highway Patrol a call at *FHP (*347) on your cell phone.
However, in the event of an accident involving serious injury always
call 911! By the way, *FHP can also be used in case your car breaks
down on the highway; a Road Ranger will be dispatched to your location.
you are traveling outside Florida, most states have a number that you
can reach the highway patrol or state police which is prominently posted
as you cross over the state line into a new state. In Georgia, you can
reach the Georgia State Patrol at *GSP (*477).
If you happen to own a
car that is equipped with OnStar and you have a breakdown, simply press
the blue OnStar button and an OnStar representative will send out
assistance to where you're located. In the event of an accident, press
the red OnStar emergency button and a specially trained OnStar
representative will send emergency help to where you're located.
Moreover, while we're on the same
topic of being safe out and about on the road, if you see an impaired or
aggressive or a wrong way driver please call *FHP (if life or property is in immediate
danger, call 911). After all, the Florida Highway Patrol wants to know
and FHP will send a Trooper out to apprehend the driver, hopefully
before there is a serious accident.
Stay within the speed
limit - after all, there's nothing to be gained nor you will get to
Grandma's quicker by going faster than the flow of traffic.
Be mindful of Florida's
Move Over Law: If you see emergency vehicles on the side of the road,
move over and give these workers room.
Most importantly, don't drink and drive! Remember: Over the limit = under arrest!
If it's a long road trip
to Grandma's, consider taking a break for every three or four hours of
driving. Feel free to stop at a rest area, a welcome center
(particularly if you crossed into another state such as Georgia), a
service plaza (like that on the Florida Turnpike), an interstate
interchange oasis (such as what you will find on Interstate 75 at Exit
329, which is FL 44 to Wildwood) or even a small town if it's close by.
attention to the gigantic green overhead signs mounted over the
highway, especially if you are on Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay
region. Pay special attention to the word "Left" in black letters on a
yellow background: This means that the exit you are approaching is a
left exit and you must be in the left lane to exit the highway.
pay attention to the variable message signs that are posted everywhere
on Interstate 275 as well as Interstates 75 and 4 and the toll roads in
the Tampa Bay region. These variable message signs convey valuable
information such as travel times to exits ahead plus advance warning of
accidents that are blocking the highway ahead of you.
Once you exit Interstate
275 or any other limited access highway, reduce your speed for the off
ramp as well as the street you have exited onto.
IF YOUR THANKSGIVING TRIP INVOLVES AIRLINE TRAVEL
My advice to you is this: Get to Tampa International Airport early, well before your flight.
airlines including Southwest Airlines allow you to check in early for
your flight and receive your boarding pass, usually 24 hours before your
scheduled flight. If you have baggage to check getting there early
will allow you to check your bags, clear security screening and be on
your plane. If you are on an international flight, be sure to abide by
any check in deadlines that are posted by your airline.
you are flying on Southwest Airlines and you purchased the Early Bird
Check In option - well worth the extra fee in my opinion - the check in
is handled for you. All you have to do is to print your boarding pass
either at home or at the airport.
parking at Tampa International Airport will more than likely be at a
premium throughout the Thanksgiving holidays, especially the day before
Thanksgiving. That being said, consider having a family member or a
friend drive you to the airport or take a taxi cab or a ridesharing service such as Uber.
IF YOUR THANKSGIVING TRIP INVOLVES TRAIN TRAVEL
My advice to you is this: Get to Tampa Union Station early, well before train departure.
is important especially if you have baggage to check as there will more
than likely be lines in the ticket office as the station agent has to
check your baggage in. If you have an eTicket, be sure to bring it with
you or the station agent can print your eTicket for you when you get
seating on board Amtrak's Silver Star (Trains 91 and 92) in coach class
is reserved, it is important that you get there early if you want a
good seat. If you have a coach seating preference, tell the service
attendant as you board and more than likely you will get your
preference; after all, the seat you are assigned by the service
attendant will be your seat all the way to your destination. This does
not apply if you are seated in the sleeping car as your compartment is
assigned to you way in advance.
at Tampa Union Station will more than likely be at a premium especially
during peak travel season such as the Thanksgiving holidays. You might
want to consider taking a taxi, ridesharing via Uber or have a friend drive you to Tampa
MORE HELPFUL TIPS TO MAKE YOUR TRIP TO GRANDMA'S MORE SMOOTHLY
you are flying or taking Amtrak, be sure to have government issued
photo identification at all times. You may be asked for it on Amtrak,
and you will be asked for it when you check in for your flight and when
you clear airport security. A driver license is good, but you can use a
passport or passport card as ID when asked.
if you are driving, obviously you will need a driver's license as it is
the law when you are driving a motor vehicle. You will also need it if
you are renting a car at your destination as a result of flying or
taking the train.
Speaking of a Florida
driver's license, did you know that you can update your emergency
contact information? This enables law enforcement officers to notify
your loved ones in the event you are in a serious accident. What are
you waiting for? Enter your emergency contact information today!
Interstate275Florida.com: See what your exit looks like at your destination in the Tampa Bay region before you hit the road.
Tampa Bay Interstates: Information from the Florida DOT on interstate construction in the Tampa Bay region.
Information on interstate conditions not only from the Tampa Bay region
but the rest of the State of Florida as well. You can also dial 511
from your cell phone or on OnStar to receive current highway conditions
as well (just be sure to use hands free when driving).
A FINAL NOTE
As Thanksgiving is the
gateway to the Christmas holiday season, have a happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful
Christmas holiday season! Let's be careful out there on Interstate 275 and drive
safely! And stay healthy as well!
Onward with Thanksgiving and the Christmas holiday season!