Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother's House we Go!
Thanksgiving 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 year.
For 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.
Also 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!
Moreover, 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.
If 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 your minutes.
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.
By 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!
Get 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.
While 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.
If 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.
Pay 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.
Additionally, 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.
Most 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.
If 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.
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.
This 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 there.
While 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.
Parking 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 Union Station.
MORE HELPFUL TIPS TO MAKE YOUR TRIP TO GRANDMA'S MORE SMOOTHLY
If 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.
Now 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.
Florida 511: 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!