Plan ahead for your successful Lake Tahoe holiday trip

Whether you’re traveling to Lake Tahoe by way of car or by air, getting here safely is priority one. Plan ahead and give yourself extra traveling time to avoid last-minute problems that may come up.

You'll want to take extra caution when driving to Lake Tahoe for the holidays.

As you prepare, try to avoid peak travel days. If you’re flying, the busiest days are those immediately before and after the actual holidays. Travelsense.org advises holiday goers book flights two days before or after Christmas and New Year’s.

As flights are sometimes overbooked during the holidays, checking in early has a new level of importance. Domestic travelers should arrive at the airport two hours prior to departure, while international travelers should arrive three hours in advance. Spending an idle hour in the gift shop or reading your book while drinking your holiday coffee at your gate is much more fun than missing your flight by 10 minutes. The Transportation Security Administration offers some helpful hints for traveling by air, including what security measures to expect at airports across the country.

Before leaving, be sure to secure your house. Lock all doors and windows, and don’t forget to set the alarm. Also, give your home that lived-in look to repel potential burglars by having a friend collect your mail, setting lights on timers and not leaving details of your trip on the answering machine. No one wants a real life Home Alone episode.

Mountain driving is relatively easy when the roads are clear, but can be a challenge in winter conditions. Prepare for the drive ahead by making sure your brakes, windshield wipers, defroster, heater and exhaust system are working. Check your tires to make sure they’re properly inflated, carry a flashlight, ice scraper, gloves, warm clothes, food, bottled water, a blanket and tire chains in case of any emergency.

Caltrans suggests motorists get an early start and prepare for unexpected changes in the weather and road conditions.  Drivers should keep their gas tank full, windshield and windows clear and slow down, especially when with weather challenges with rain, wind, fog or snow.

When it comes to your destination, let your friends and family know when you’re leaving and when you expect to arrive. It never hurts to call in the middle of the road trip to update loved ones on where you’re at and the road conditions you’ve experience, especially if they’re following later.

Fleets of county, city and state snow removal vehicles around the Lake Tahoe Basin will be keeping the roads clear and safe for travel. Caltrans has current California road conditions at www.dot.ca.gov, 1-800-427-ROAD (7623) or 916-445-7623. For road conditions in Nevada, contact the Nevada Department of Transportation at www.nevadadot.com or 877-687-6237. Travelers can also get up-to-the-minute online road information and more on their smart phones at NV.mobi.

Once you’ve arrived at the lake, you can let others do the driving for you. Visitors can climb aboard any number of public buses that run around the Lake Tahoe Basin. Public transportation around the North and West shores of Lake Tahoe can be done aboard Tahoe Area Regional Transit buses while South Shore visitors can get around on BlueGo.

If you’re arriving to the area by air, shuttles can carry you and your luggage (and skis too) to both the north and south ends of the lake. The South Tahoe Express and the North Lake Tahoe Express offer shuttles that leaves several times a day from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport.

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