No one loves doing long drives for the holidays. Traffic sucks, salty roads suck, and the whole experience of actually getting to Grandmother’s house can be a Herculean ordeal. That’s why, yesterday, we asked for your best holiday travel tips — anything to make those long drives just a little bit easier. Here’s what you said.
Get a Hotel
Do not stay more than one night at a relative’s house. Togetherness is great, but too much can be extremely stressful.
Do yourself and your family a favor and get a hotel room. Everyone will be more comfortable and the chances of getting on each other’s nerves is greatly reduced if you have a place you can retreat to and decompress.
It’s nice to get away from the noise, the mess, the people, the arguments. Staying at a hotel removes you from the situation, lets you breathe, and stops you from going full National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Do Friendsgiving Instead
Stay in town. Go to someone else’s house for holiday celebrations.
Bonus Pro Tip for Halloween: put an empty bowl on your front porch with a handwritten note in it: “Out trick-or-treating. Please take only one.”
Why not enjoy a nice meal with your friends? Who doesn’t love a themed potluck? Doing Thanksgiving with people local to you saves you the hassle of travel.
Leave on Thursday
Every couple years I drive from KY to MI for thanksgiving, my input on this is your drive is in that 3-6hr range, drive early on thanksgiving morning. The days leading up, and especially the day before are awful when it comes to traffic, but Thursday morning is the opposite and its glorious.
The day before Thanksgiving is traditionally the worst traffic day of the year. The day of Thanksgiving, by contrast, is usually much better. Do that instead.
Get the Wifi Early
Stealing this joke from a tweet I saw, but ask your dad now for the WiFi password so he can find the little piece of paper it’s written down on
He’s going to search the junk drawer for the piece of paper. Then the bin of cords in the basement. Then, eventually, he’ll realize the password is written on the router itself. Then he’s going to forget about it for three days, then he’ll remember and text you a blurry photo of the router where you can make out most of the letters. But at least you know where to find the password when you get there.
Don’t Settle for Any Old Vehicle
Bring the right tool (vehicle) for the job. One year when traveling out of town for the holidays to visit in-laws and saddled with two little ones in the back seat, we had the bright idea to take the sedan instead of the SUV. We figured it got better gas mileage and more comfortable for the drive. We stuck the presents and luggage in the trunk, and headed out.
The problem, of course, is doting grandparents like to spoil their grandchildren with a wretched excess of gifts, and, lo and behold, there wasn’t enough space in the sedan to haul it all home. So, we came to the conclusion that we would just take what would fit and grab the rest the next time we visited. Well, kids don’t understand that, and unless we wanted a mutiny on our hands, we had to ship what wouldn’t fit. It ended up being quite costly and a far sight more than what we saved in fuel from taking the smaller vehicle.
Remember that you’ll probably be leaving with more stuff than you showed up with. Leave some room in the car so you can fill it up with Grandparent Gifts.
Dead legs, a plane flying empty without passengers to get from one airport to another, although still not cheap but can be deeply discounted. If you have the means and you really like your family, this may be an option.
Another alternative is plan ahead for destination holiday with extended family on a charter jet. Usually includes pickup and drop-off to/from home. Then you’re traveling with family instead of a bunch of random strangers. Concierge check-in and baggage check and no TSA body cavity check.
Either way you will be the family holiday travel boss.
Yeah, absolutely, just fly private. What, are you going to fly on one of those public jets? With the poors? Dear God, man!
Be Kinda Rich
If you can afford it rent a vehicle.
Keep the mileage and the wear off of your own vehicle, without spending private jet money. I mean, it’s still more money than just using your own car that you already have, but you’ll totally make it back in resale on your super-low-mileage ‘99 Camry. Actually, in the Bring A Trailer era, you might.
Share the Neural Load
Divide the number of hours in the drive by the number of licensed drivers in the vehicle. Take full use of this commodity by splitting duty and enjoy watching Top Gear reruns in the back seat while someone else is driving.
Neural handshakes may be beyond our current capabilities, but you can at least split the work of driving with someone else. Maybe even multiple someones. Do you really want to do that whole drive yourself?
Be the Road Warden
Go full Dad on your passengers. Make everyone line up for a piss before letting them the car. Fill the gas tank at the last station before the highway/freeway. Pack the car with snacks.
“No, we’re not stopping at McDonalds. Eat some peanut butter crackers.”
Manage the trip like you are fleeing the city before it gets nuked. Your passengers/victims will quite understandably think you are an ogre. However, nobody will complain when you get to your destination fast and have more time to spend with your loved ones before having to get back in the car for the drive home. You weren’t the hero they wanted, but you were the hero they needed.
None of this applies if the trip is an obligatory visit to relatives who you know are going to bombard you with their shitty post-election opinions. In that case, you leave the headlights on overnight and call them in the morning to say the car won’t start.
A trip is simpler if you don’t have to stop thirty times en route. Less jolly, maybe, but simpler. Which matters more to you?
Be Like the Birds
If you have to go somewhere, you could at least go somewhere warm. That’ll leave the north nice and empty, for those of us with no interest in that kind of heat.
Check the Weather
When I worked out of the house as a online marketing contractor, we’d leave when the window was clear for crossing the Sierras at Truckee from Utah going to California. Then, we’d leave when the window cleared again.
Thanksgiving travel is never fun, but it’s probably a little worse if you get caught in the snow on the side of a mountain. Try not to do that.
Blame Yourself for This Hell
Don’t be one of those people hating on travelers if you’re traveling. Like the saying goes, “you’re not in traffic, you are traffic.”
If you’re complaining about how many cars there are on the road, from inside one of the cars, you’re part of the problem. Acknowledging that is the first step to fixing the problem. The second step is trains.
Time Your Flights
Fly very late at night or first flight in the morning.
If you don’t have private jet money, fly early or late instead. You’ll save a few bucks at the travel desk.