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How to Drive Through Holiday Road Trips

POR: Alex Perrone


The roads are jammed, the kids are squabbling, the weather is sleety and the pumpkin pie is going cold in the trunk. Ah, yes, it’s the annual Thanksgiving road trip. Is there anything you can do to make this pilgrimage more bearable? Yes, there is. So while television commercials do a marvelous job of portraying the ideal road trip. You’re in a fabulous car, alone on a scenic highway, headed for — who cares? You’re free and moving with the wind. Life is perfect.

In fact, in our experience, those interminable traffic stoppages occur just as your passengers start asking for restroom breaks. Worst case you end up  realizing that weather forecasters failed to mention a sudden drop in temperature that is transforming your home cooking into popsicles in the trunk. An impenetrable fog has just shrouded road in mystery, and you are beginning to doubt that you’ll find an exit in time to prevent certain tensions from releasing all over the back seat.

It can be a challenge to keep a good road trip attitude when you’ve got dinner waiting and you’re traveling with the holiday hordes, but with a little planning, it’s not impossible. These tips should help keep a smile on your face, even when you’re stuck between exits on a jammed super-slab full of other winter holiday travelers.

Don’t Follow the Crowd.


Sometimes the best time to travel is on the holiday itself. Or, if you can take the time, a couple of days before or after the holiday rush. In the case of Christmas, that means hitting the road a good 3-5 days prior for instance. Few have that much flexibility, but traveling on the actual day of is actually a decent enough. The traffic jams are pretty much gone, and even if your arrival is a little too late for the official festivities, the reward is a great selection of tasty leftovers and hosts who have had a chance to relax from their frenzied preparations for the holiday.

Get a CB Radio and Learn How to Use it.


There is a tendency these days to think CBs are outmoded, but nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, professional drivers use cell phones and satellite Internet connections, but they still rely on CBs for local information and safety advisories. For car drivers, no other device can provide such instant information on road hazards, tie-ups and alternate routes. Best of all, CBs work even with cell phones don’t.

Bring Along Audio Books, Music and Games.

Audio books are great because you can listen to them while you drive, but bring along some other amusements in case your route becomes a parking lot. A deck of cards is the easiest and most portable entertainment, but travel versions of popular board games can also be good choices.

Keep All Your Electronic Options in Play.

finger on dashboard with gps panel and tv/dvd/audio system

Satellite radio is a great option, but it you’d like to listen to local radio, you can visit sites like MyTravelTunes.com before you hit the road. Enter your route, select musical genres, and presto! You’ll get a list of radio stations for your entire trip. The site also provides real time local traffic alerts and weather advisories. If you hit one of those interminable delays, you can always turn on your laptop, DVD player, MP3 player or other entertainment device. If you happen to be in an area with good wireless service, you can even log onto the Web and get up-to-the-minute traffic information. Worried about depleting the batteries? Get a power inverter for your electronic gizmos.

Move Your Body.

If you find yourself trapped on a jammed highway with a few thousand of your closest strangers, do some road-trip calisthenics. Isometric exercises like rolling your shoulders and flexing your back and upper arms can be great stress relievers. If possible, get out of your car and perform the “Chicken Dance.” You will entertain your fellow travelers and get your own circulation moving. It may not get the traffic to move any faster, but it will put some of the festivity back into the trip.

Be Prepared for the Unexpected.


Around the holidays, you have to be prepared for just about anything, so keep a cache of emergency supplies in your vehicle. Include these items: blanket, flashlight, candle and matches, bandana or tea towel, paper towels, first aid kit, batteries, water and a good adventure novel. Carry emergency food, too. Canned items are best – some drivers carry MREs (meals, ready-to-eat) — but things like SPAM (Don’t knock it till you’ve had it!) and fruit cocktail are fine. If the cans don’t have pull tabs, bring a can opener, and don’t forget some plastic utensils. If you keep emergency provisions in your vehicle all year round, now is a good time to check that they are still functional or edible.

Please Learn How To Drive In Winter.


Snow tires or All Wheel Drive can only help you so much. Sometimes the season brings some of the worst winter driving conditions of the year. Hard rain. raging winds, snow, sleet and ice are particular worries, so now is the time to be cautious and remember what it means to “steer into the skid.”



Remember: Any road trip is a good road trip! It’s the unplanned events that can transform an ordinary car trip into an adventure. This isn’t to say that we hope you get stuck in an ice storm this holiday season. But if you do find yourself dining on fruitcake and eggnog instead of actual food, it isn’t a tragedy; it’s the journey, not the destination. Perhaps the scenic route was a gift.

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