Do’s and Don’ts of Holiday Car Travel

Here are some do’s and don’ts to follow to keep everyone happy and full of cheer until you reach your holiday destination.

Driving over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house can be a great family tradition, but sometimes there is less than holiday cheer in the car on the way. Here are some do’s and don’ts to follow—some obvious, some not so much—to keep everyone happy and full of cheer until you reach Grandma’s house.



Overpack the car. Not only could it make traveling uncomfortable, but piles of unsecured items can become dangerous projectiles in the event of a crash. Keep heavy items low and secure items that could fly forward in the event of impact.


Rely on caffeine or energy drinks to keep you awake. Yes, you may be technically awake, but your reaction time is still less than it should be. Pull over and take a 15 minute nap, or let someone else drive for a while.


Text or use handheld devices. Not only illegal, but studies show it is just as bad as drunk driving. Get to your holiday alive. The texts and phone can wait. Hang up and drive.


Leave all your entertainment at home.  The kids—and you!—can only entertain themselves for so long, and bickering and whining go hand-in-hand with boredom. Portable DVD players, car games, coloring books, and songs and audio books the whole family can listen to and enjoy are a must.


Forget to take a paper map, as well as your GPS, so you don’t get lost in the snow and cold. A GPS is a wonderful invention, but at times it can start to glitch, have outdated maps, or even go into crazy mode and send you in the wrong direction. At those moments a paper map is a great backup. It also lets you see the big picture without trying to zoom out on your GPS.


Leave during rush hour. I know that sometimes you don’t have a choice, but if possible schedule your trip so you miss heavy traffic. It will add a lot of unnecessary time in the car, which adds to unhappy feelings.




Fill up your gas tank before you leave. Might sound obvious, but in all the rush and hubbub trying to get everyone ready and packed in the car, sometimes it can slip your mind. But in the winter weather it is especially important to keep your tank at least half full at all times will remove unnecessary stress and give you options in case of bad weather, heavy traffic, or cases of emergency.


Have an emergency kit in the car. Include flashlight (and extra batteries), extra water, small shovel, ice scraper, jumper cables, and a first aid kit. Also have a few extra blankets in case the heater stops or is unable to run.


Check laws in other states for rules on cell phone use or pertaining to child seats, as they can  vary from state to state. Speed limits can change as you cross state lines as well, so be aware. Being pulled over is not a fun way to start a holiday vacation.


Buckle up. Not only is it law, but if you have a car accident on slick roads, your life and the lives of all in your car can be at risk. Be safe. Wear seatbelts.


Check the car a couple days before the trip. Check brakes, fluids, and tire pressure, and make sure the car runs smoothly. If you wait until right before you leave to check the car’s condition you could delay your departure time because you have to buy more oil.  


Eat and drink in the car. The number one complaint from kids—other than “they’re touching me!”— is, “I’m hungry.”  Having snacks throughout the car ride will help alleviate boredom and keep kids happy. It also helps keep the driver awake! Don’t be afraid of a few crumbs, and choose anti-mess foods like grapes, carrots, apples, or other bite sized foods.


Take small breaks while you drive. Stretch your legs, get the blood flowing again, and regain your alertness. It is also important to stay hydrated. It is also not a bad idea, if you’ll be driving through your normal dinner time, to stop and eat at a restaurant. I’m not talking drive-through, but actually going in and resting from driving for a little while. Do a quick Google search of the area you plan to be driving through at dinner time, something like “restaurants in Newburyport, MA” and pick something quick, but that will give you enough time to rest and refuel your body.



With these Do’s and Don’ts in mind, you’ll be sure to drive safely over any rivers, through any woods or mountains, and reach your destination with holiday cheer!

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