Winter travel by car calls for extra precautions and safety measures. With gas prices down, more families are choosing to battle the snow and sleet instead of congested airports and expensive airfare. If you plan on being on the road over the holidays, follow these fifteen simple rules to ensure that you’re safe and protected as you make your way to your destination and home.

Before you leave…

1. Charge your phone up to 100% and carry a backup battery or emergency charger. Your smartphone is perhaps your single most important safety tool: you can count on it to check weather and road conditions and contact the authorities if you’re stranded.

2. Make your own car winter emergency kit. Pack a basic first aid kit, blankets, a flashlight, extra winter wear, antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, bottled water and some emergency snacks (protein bars).

3. Check your tires before you hit the road. Uneven tire pressure can lead to roadside disaster: a blowout. Have your tires checked by a professional and rotate your tires if necessary.

4. Batteries rarely last longer than five years. Replacing one near the end of its life can save a lot of time and inconvenience at the side of the road.

5. Have your car seat installed by a professional. The majority of car seats are not properly installed. Ensure your child’s car seat is safe and secure by having it installed by a professional. Safe Kids Worldwide offers a listing of car seat clinics, or call your local non-emergency police number to inquire about certified car seat installation professionals in your area.

6. Warm up the car, and change your child into a lighter coat before hitting the road. Bulky winter coats can prevent car seats and seatbelts from doing their jobs properly. Change your child into a lighter, more comfortable jacket after warming up the car and before setting off on your trip.

7. Invest in a quality snow brush and scraper and remove all snow from your car before driving. It’s tempting to just do the front and side windows when you’re in a hurry to get on the road, but it’s safest to clear your car completely of snow and ice.

8. Map out a route along major roads/highways. Wintertime isn’t a time to use shortcuts: Major roads and highways are more likely to have been cleared and salted.

9. Give yourself plenty of extra travel time. Avoid feeling fretful and rushed and give yourself a one to two hour extra window of time to reach your destination. Leave earlier if necessary. Winter road conditions have the tendency to increase travel times.

On the road…

10. Drive at or below the speed limit. Wintertime is not the time to speed.

11. Maintain extra space between you and the car ahead. Be sure there’s plenty of extra space between you and the car ahead to better avoid collisions.

12. If you get stuck, clear the snow from the wheels and put a towel in front of the driving wheels to give your tires some grip.

13. If the weather worsens, just find a safe place to wait out the storm. Use the USA Rest Stop app to find the nearest rest stop.

14. Keep your gas tank at least halfway filled. Use the Gas Buddy app to located the nearest gas station.

15. SLOW DOWN. Maintain a slow, steady speed, put on some holiday tunes and enjoy the ride.