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5 Tips For a Happier Thanksgiving Road Trip


With November and December come the bum rush of holiday travel, visiting and family time, which bring with them excitement, frenzy and, invariably, stress.

The logistics of getting over the river and through the woods (read: over the George Washington Bridge and through New-York-area traffic) to grandmother’s house can raise my blood pressure instead my holiday cheer.

Here are five ways I’ve learned to keep my BP to reasonable levels on Thanksgiving drive.

(You might also like holiday-season flying tips and more travel tips.)

5 Tips For Thanksgiving Travel With Kids

Be Proactive

the reward for holiday travelSince we’re often the ones traveling to our family (my folks), we try not to wait for invitations to decide how we’ll spend a particular holiday.

We start the discussion with family members as early as possible to plan the festivities (no, July 4 is not too soon).

Once we know Thanksgiving will be at my parents’ house, we establish a dinnertime that allows us to travel on  Thanksgiving day, which is less hectic than the day or two before.

Be Prepared

Our hosts often suggest we bring a dessert or some wine. No problem, but we also often offer to bring something we know our kids will eat (I’m sure your homemade cranberry-ginger chutney is delicious but my child doesn’t eat purple. Or ginger. Or chutney).

More important, my son is highly allergic to peanuts so we also try to get a handle as soon as we can on what’s being served. We also vet anything he wants to put in his mouth at other people’s homes and keep his Epi-pen handy just in case!

Be Patient

Thanksgiving travel is pretty much the worst flavor of travel. I’ve learned that if we’re stuck in traffic, no amount of huffing and puffing will make it better.

Moreover, our kids can sense that stress. Keeping cool and keeping perspective is hard, but it helps.

And it doesn’t hurt to have some new puzzles or games and unexpected snacks tucked away for delays; they distract the little ones and keep them from whining at least for a little while. (Need ideas? Try these classic road-trip games.)

Be Present

make your holiday travel this relaxedWith all the prep work of cooking, wrapping and shlepping, we often forget what the point is.

When it starts to feel like work I’ve learned to pause and re-assess my efforts. What’s the purpose of family time if you can’t truly enjoy the moment?

If you spend more time planning and booking travel than you do in your actual holiday destination, that is not a good return on your time.

If you can spare the day off from work, leave Wednesday morning, after rush hour and before the mass exodus.  This might give you time for a stop along the way at a children’s museum, state park, climbing gym, a fun restaurant, or some other activity everyone likes.

This will give you quality together time before mingling in with your larger family and make the trip more than just obligatory travel.  Either making an new stop or doing a favorite stop every year might even become a traditional part of this trip that you all look forward to.

Be Positive

Present holiday-season travel to your family as an adventure instead of an obligation and you’ll make it memorable for the kids no matter what.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Getting past traffic jams, bad weather, botched hotel reservations, or grandma’s back-killing sofabed is doable.

Just Keep calm and carry on. Over the bridge and across the interstate.

How do you manage the stress of holiday-season travel with the family?

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Thanksgiving road trips can be the least fun family drives. Here are 5 ways to keep calm, keep the kids happy and even have a great family moment along the way. #thanksgiving, #holidayseason #travel #driving #roadtrip #kids #tips

Liza Wyles, a full-time working mom of 2, is raising fourth generation New Yorkers. She writes with  conviction that the suburbs are no place to grow a family. She also develops, writes and produces for TV and film and is in blissful denial of a work-life balance. You can read some of her stuff on Aiming Low,   Skirt! or her own Mama Jabber blog. You can also see some commercials she’s made or follow her on Twitter.


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