The road annually traveled: advice for your Thanksgiving road trip
For my family, Thanksgiving means the three Ts: turkey, togetherness, and travel.
Fortunately for me, I have only experienced preparing the first T (turkey) once. All other years since I became a parent, I prepared for the last T (travel). I've done a lot of holiday driving as we traveled between 200 to 500 miles to visit family each Thanksgiving.
To help you this year, I created my Top Ten Tips (three more Ts!) to help you arrive at your destination still speaking to each other.
Eileen’s Top Ten Tips to surviving the Thanksgiving road trip
- Expect the drive to take longer than usual and prepare yourself for this added time in the car. Leave earlier or later, if you can, to avoid the peak congestion times on the road.
- Pack snacks for the trip and be sure to keep them within reach. Your trail mix won't help you when it's stored in the trunk. Avoid a lot of liquids if your kids will let you. Drinking less water means less potty stops.
- Hide a supply of special toys at your feet that are not usually car toys. Pulling these unexpected items out when the mood turns sour can buy you time before a meltdown.
- Whether you check them out from the library or purchase them for your home library, get some books on tape. You may have to hear them more than once on the trip, but your sanity is worth it.
- If you have a blu-ray or DVD player in the car (which we don't have), pack movies your kids haven't seen, ones you know your kids love, or a selection of movies all centered around a theme. Show the kids the titles and see if they can guess the theme for the drive.
- If you will be driving at night and have independent readers, invest in a book light for each child so your kids can read even when it gets dark.
- Create a tradition for the drive: every time you drive 50 miles, do something special (sing a goofy song, take turns making wacky faces, count backwards from 20). Warning: this passes the drive in a fun way, but can create even more questions of “How much longer?” Our solution: if you ask the question, we will give you the mileage, but you will figure out the math yourself for the answer.
- We always pack our Christmas music in the car for the trip home. Through the years, we created the tradition of "No Christmas music until after Thanksgiving." With this rule, we are listening to music we love, but it hasn't been played for almost an entire year. We all take turns picking our favorite songs as we drive home.
- Tell stories. Everyone in the car takes turns telling a story they want to share. The stories can be based on theme, for example: the time I was most embarrassed, things I love about road trips, Thanksgiving memories.
- Read a book out loud while you travel to your destination and watch the movie about the book as you travel home. After seeing the movie, you can all discuss the differences between the book and the movie and decide which you liked better and why.
- Roll with it. (Yes, I intended the pun.) Sometimes, no matter what you do, kids will get cranky or the baby will not stop crying and you just need to get to your destination with as much of your sanity intact as possible.
Things don’t always go as planned – and that’s OK
This happened to us one year. We pulled over to the side of the road and tried everything to calm our two-month-old son. He would have nothing to do with it and kept screaming. We explained to his older brothers that's just how it goes sometimes, got back in the car, and suffered through the screaming for the next hour. We arrived safely at my in-laws and our youngest passed out and slept for three hours once we got him out of the car seat.
In the end, his exhaustion from the screaming gave him a perfect nap and he awoke in a wonderful mood, ready to play with everyone. Now this is one of our favorite family Thanksgiving stories we remember each year (and we are thankful it only happened one year and not many more!).
We always travel to our families by driving in the car. If you are making the Thanksgiving journey by plane this year, check out these tips for traveling by air for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Safe journey and Happy Thanksgiving to you from me and our entire Mom Central family!
Eileen Calandro is the Chief Mom Connector of Mom Central. You can read more about her road trip adventures with her family on her own blog at calandroclan.com. She would love to chat with you on twitter as @MomCentralChat and @calandro5.