Nov. 27, 2013 at 7:36 AM ET
According to the American Automobile Association, 39 million people are hitting the road for Thanksgiving, and the winter storm affecting much of the nation could make a mess of things for many of them. That three-hour car trip could turn into a six-hour drive.
Before you head out on the road, here are things experts say you can do to stay safe (and survive your family too):
De-icing spray/washer fluid: De-icing spray costs only a couple of bucks at your local hardware store; spray it onto your windows and it'll melt the ice. Better yet, fill up your car with washer fluid specially designed for "freezing temperatures" (it'll say on the label): That way you can spray it onto your windshield as you drive to melt the ice and snow. And it's always good to bring an extra bottle with you.
All-in-one car emergency kit: Instead of trying to remember all the separate items you might need in an emergency, you can go to an auto supply store and buy an all-in-one kit. They come with jumper cables, flashlight, batteries, even a rain poncho and a first aid kit.
Portable backup battery: iPads and smartphones help your passengers pass the time on the road, and there are cool gadgets to keep everything charged if you're stuck in traffic so you don't have to fight over the one cigarette charger. A portable backup battery can be plugged into the wall and charged up before you leave; it'll hold the juice and charge your device on the road without you needing to plug anything in. There's also the Joos Orange solar charger: Hold it by the window and, the company says, it'll charge as long as there's some light.
Low-salt snacks: To survive the trip with kids, experts say, don't give them salty foods like pretzels or chips. Salt makes you thirsty: You drink more water, and that means more bathroom stops — not fun in wintry weather. Good options for low-salt snacks include granola bars, fruit snacks, string cheese and fruit.
Emergency supplies: AAA says they're expecting at least 320,000 emergency calls this weekend — maybe more with the weather. In case of a real emergency where you're stuck on the side of the road, you should pack blankets and make sure you have flares. For those who want to be prepared for the most extreme situation, there's another cool gadget: a hand-cranked radio and smartphone charger. If all else fails, you can turn it with your hand and get a little juice to make an emergency call.
Kitty litter: If you get stuck in snow or ice, it's good to have a large bag of kitty litter in the trunk. Lay it down in front of the wheels if you have front-wheel drive, or behind the tires if you have rear-wheel drive; it'll give you traction so you can get out.