More than 100 million Americans travel during the holidays. Are you one of them? Pack a few tips and tricks to survive those holiday road trips, so you can have a good time along the way and get where you're going safely.
Write Lots of To-Do Lists
On top of everything you have to do to prepare for the holidays, now you also have to get ready for a road trip. Don't try to keep everything you have to do to get ready for this excursion in your head. Create list after list so you don't forget anything. Write maintenance lists that include a service checkup for your car on oil, tires, the battery and antifreeze if you're headed to a colder climate. Make other lists that will keep you on schedule too, such as packing lists for you and the kids, gifts you need to wrap for family and emergency items you need to bring like a flashlight, auto, and health insurance cards and extra cash.
Plan Your Route in Advance
Whether you've made this trip 100 times or this is your first adventure that direction, plan your route and create a tentative itinerary ahead of time. We usually jump in the car and program our navigation, but take the time to look up the roads and interstates you'll be traveling. Better yet, make it a family activity by looking at an Atlas together to discover your many options.
Pack for Snack Attacks
You'll hear lots of hunger complaints from the backseat, even if you're only traveling an hour from home. Pack a few snacks for shorter trips to everyone happy. For longer trips, cut the top off of a box and pack a lot of snacks inside. This will give you quick access to those snacks so you can keep rolling down the road.
Keep Essentials Nearby
Pack a bag of must-have essentials that you'll store near the front seat. Add baby wipes, a change of clothing for your younger children, coins for toll roads, your health insurance card and other items you need to be able to get your hands on quickly.
Make Room for Presents
When you're preparing to pack up the car, don't forget all the room you'll need for those presents. We often think of our luggage but forget the presents. Then we pack the car as we usually do for trips before seeing those boxes of presents we forgot we had to stuff in the back too. You also need to make plans for the presents you'll be bringing back with you. You'll likely be bringing a lot more home with you than you took because the kids will be returning with so many presents from family. Try to leave some space in your trunk to give yourself some wiggle room with the large amount of gifts you'll be packing back there for your trip home.
Surprise the Kids with New Toys and Games
Oh, yes. The kids will be bringing home some new toys your relatives give them. But you've got to get there first. Hit the dollar stores for some inexpensive toys that will keep your kids busy for hours while you travel. Dollar stores have everything from dolls and cars to magnetic games and coloring books. Don't let the kids see these surprises until you're on the road. It's a great alternative to letting the kids spend hours staring at DVDs and tablets.
Take Frequent Breaks
You have a long trip ahead of you, and you simply want to be there already. For your sake and your family's, take frequent breaks so everyone can stretch their legs, get some fresh air and, of course, go potty. It will take longer to get there, but getting out of the car frequently will break up those long stretches of open road that have you cooped up for hours on end.
Be Prepared to Sit in Holiday Traffic
Nothing puts the brakes on your road trip fun quicker than holiday traffic. Your route will be congested. Some people will be impatient, maybe even some of the people in your car. Be ready to sit, and prepare your whole family that your usual trip to Grandma's may take double the time.
Holiday road trips can be stressful. You have a long trip. You have a time in mind that you want to be there. You have kids in the car screaming to get out. Your road trip may not go as planned, so make the most of it. Know when your kids simply need to walk around for a few minutes or when everyone is too tired to be on the road and you should stop for the night. Be flexible while you're on the road, and don't let your hurry to get there overwhelm you and the kids. You'll get where you're going, and you won't have a cranky family who's been stuck in a car for 10 hours when you get there.
Make Your Road Trip Fun
Detour ahead. Make your road trip fun with some planned and unplanned stops. Before you leave, look at some of the activities and tourist attractions you'll be passing along the way. Stop and enjoy some of them to make this more than a point A to point B trip. Just remember. Half the fun is getting there.