Tips for Surviving Holiday Travel With the Family
Even beyond "put a tablet in your kid's hands."
If you’re close with your family or friends, any holiday likely means some sort of travel. That might look like a one-hour trip to a nearby town to visit the uncle or a 16-hour ride to Phoenix to visit your grandma. No matter the distance, you’re locked in a car with the fam, a happy situation that could quickly devolve into tension, anxiety, or frustration if things go haywire.
Family is family, and there’s nothing else like it, but that doesn’t mean the relationships are all perfect. Not everybody is compatible for every circumstance, and that’s okay. To prepare you for the holiday and any time you might spend together in the car, the Car Bibles staff would like to offer a few tips to get you from Point A to Point B without any trouble. Happy Thanksgiving!
When I was a kid, my family and I did a lot of what I’d consider short and medium-range road trips. We constantly did three/four-hour jams to see grandparents, and I remember a handful of 10-hour plus vacation trips into Canada.
I actually don’t recall hating it, for the most part. And forget pre-iPad, a lot of that was the StarTac cell phone era!
Things I enjoyed: Petting my dog (she often came along), doodling, reading comic books, listening to my Sony Discman, and playing super primitive LCD-screen games (like this).
If you played with some of that stuff too, you’re probably old enough to have kids yourself… maybe dig up some of that ancient tech and see if they can beat your high score? The novelty could amuse them.
My only actual piece of advice for family traveling is: Don’t force conversation. Silence should not be awkward amongst fam. Or, if you feel the vibe is right to chinwag it up but you can’t think of anything, here’s a fun prompt my wife taught me: Say a year and season somebody was alive and ask them to recall a memory from that time. It’s a great way to get to know somebody and an awesome time-passer.
If you plan on stopping for a meal on the road, consult the Yelp reviews before you go. Food poisoning is not a great thing to mix with a long road trip.
Is your spare tire good to go? Nothing more stressful than being stranded on the side of the road during the holidays.
Are grandma’s social and political views annoying and unsavory, and she refuses to shut the hell up and enjoy the journey? Maybe it’s best if she rides on the roof, a la Griswold Family Vacation style. Kidding! Kind of. It could be smart to book her a plane ticket though, and just meet her at the destination.
For the love of god, please pee and or poop before you go, if you can help it.
Avoid radio pundits like the plague. Good tunes only. Preferably bangers.
If you’re driving, orchestrate a plan to have the least problematic and coolest member of the family call shotgun.
If you call shotgun, immediately and viciously assume control of the radio and aux input. It’s for the best.
Save any non-political and annoying chat for the car -cover more acceptable, universally enjoyable topics. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a small crossover during a heated political debate.
Satellite radio is ideal. No matter the vibe in the car, having constant music playing instead of occasional annoying ads to fill the void during pauses in conversation keeps things chill.
If you come from a family of jokesters/pranksters like yours truly, this one could go over quite well and help lighten the mood. If you’re behind the wheel, lay on your horn as you pass golfers about to tee off at a nearby golf course. My dad perfected this when I was a kid in the ’90s: honk, but then smile and wave so they think “oh, wait, I think that’s (insert person they know who drives a similar car)” and watch their reaction go from red mist to all smiles.
Embrace the time and appreciate your family. Yes, this post is a slight diss to family time, but it’s in good fun and is no way a suggestion to ignore your relatives. These people are your blood, and unless they’re terrible people or have done something extremely terrible to you, it’s important to pause and be thankful you still have people to connect with. Not everybody has that, and the holidays are a good time to overlook small differences and catch up. A lot of people might have forgotten this in 2021, but conversation can actually be good.
Bring noise-canceling headphones. Having said that about family, travel can take hours, and there are only so many things you can talk about before the topics start to run dry, repetitive, or get heated. If you’re not driving, escape to your own personal world with some relaxing tracks and isolating noise-canceling headphones.
These are also great for sleeping, and sleeping is the best road-trip hack there is.
Pack snacks. This might be the most important tip. People legitimately lose their marbles when hunger creeps into the mind. If you want to keep people happy, make sure you have food to give them when things get testy. Neccos and Werthers should keep the kids and old people happy, and beef jerky should keep the carnivores in line. Maybe some almonds for energy, but don’t you dare bring anything sticky or dusty into the car.
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