Driving to Thanksgiving? 10 Tips for a Fast, Easy Trip

Looking forward to seeing your whole family again this Thanksgiving?
Many of us have big trips planned for the upcoming holiday. The days around Thanksgiving are among the busiest travel days of the year, and long road trips at this time can prove a challenge.

If you’re planning a long drive for Thanksgiving dinner, whether to visit family or old friends, follow these 10 tips to make the trip as fast, easy and safe as possible.

1. Get your car ready

Your car should be ready for the long voyage ahead, which means ready for anything: top condition and a full checkup before pulling out of the driveway. Check all the fluid levels: oil, automatic transmission fluid, brake fluid, and windshield washer fluid. Take a look at tire pressure and tread depth. When you leave, make your first stop at the gas station so you start off the trip with a full tank. (And in general, for long driving on the highway I recommend you keep the tank at ¼ full minimum. You never know how far it will be until the next service station.) For holiday travel, it’s good to pack the car as much as you can the night before. The day of travel is usually busy enough. You’ll cut the stress a bit if you can get something out of the way beforehand.

2. Pick alternative driving times

The days around Thanksgiving are among the busiest days on the road of the entire year, especially the Wednesday before and the Sunday after. If you can, save a headache by leaving on Monday or Tuesday instead, and coming home either a day early on Saturday or a day late on Monday. By that time, traffic will have more or less leveled out to normal.

3. Find an alternative route

Whenever you leave, but especially if you drive during peak Thanksgiving travel times, you may find your route much more packed with other cars than you expect. Have a backup route in mind, in case the traffic is too much to handle.

Image of navigation map on the driver’s dashboard

4. Use GPS

I don’t think so many of us are still relying on paper maps, but if you are, driving for Thanksgiving is the time to put them away. Traffic jams, blockages, wrong turns and other surprise detours can add a lot of time to your trip, especially if you aren’t able to adapt instantly. GPS gives you the best new route on the spot. Whether you have a GPS device, Google Maps on your phone or built-in satellite navigation in your car, a little dependence on technology can save a lot of trouble.

5. Watch the weather

Late November is a tricky time to drive in many parts of the country. Not quite fall anymore but not yet winter, you can expect rain, snow, sleet, hail, ice, ice, puddles, or just about anything! Before you leave, check the weather forecast for the entire time you will be on the road and a few hours before and after to be on the safe side. Don’t forget to check the weather for all regions you plan to drive through. While driving, tune into the local weather channel on the radio ever so often.

6. Snacks, supplies, and entertainment

For long drives, bring some snacks and drinks to keep everyone’s morale up. Healthy, low-sugar treats like fruits and nuts are ideal. Plenty of water is important, since with heat or air conditioning it can get pretty dry in the car after a while. A good road trip playlist and some toys and games are a must to keep the kids from driving each other (and everyone else) crazy. Never underestimate simple, classic games like I Spy, I’m Going On a Picnic or 20 Questions. No equipment required, just someone to get it started. It’s also important to bring emergency supplies: extra water, a flashlight, first-aid kit, and a blanket if you’re driving in a cold climate.

7. Pets and kids are safely secured

Pets will be safest in a carrier or secured to the seat with a harness. You don’t want Rowdy climbing in your lap while you’re trying to merge onto the freeway or running under your feet. Don’t feel bad about it: animals who aren’t used to traveling will usually feel safer and more at ease if kept in an enclosed space. While we’re at it, make sure your kids wear their seatbelts. Infants under two years old or less than 40 pounds should ride in a rear-facing car seat. And set a good example: you should also always wear a seatbelt!

8. Bring coins or E-ZPass

It’s the little things that often slip the mind and cause a big headache later. Along with the other 1,000 things you pack for the trip, remember coins or small money for the tolls, or your interstate pass if you have one.

9. Get rest and stay alert

If you’re the driver, make sure you take good care of yourself to stay safe on the road. Try to get plenty of sleep the night before you drive and leave early in the day if possible, so you don’t leave already tired. Long highway driving can be exhausting and puts you in a sort of trance after a while. Staying fresh and alert is a matter of life and death, so don’t push the envelope just to get to your destination a few minutes earlier. Take a break and stretch your legs every hour or two. (It’s better for your health, too: sitting for long hours without moving puts you at risk of blood clots!) Be honest with yourself. If you feel like you need a break, or a cup of coffee, or for someone else to drive for a while, go for it. No one will mind so much if you’re half an hour later than planned, but they’ll be happy you complete your long trip safe and sound.

10. Avoid distraction and stay calm

Holidays with the whole family aren’t always like a perfect Hallmark card. They can bring up a lot of stress and tension. This usually starts with the drive, especially if traveling with children. Just getting everyone organized is enough of a project, much less keeping it together for long hours on the road. Plus, the road is packed with other drivers also in the middle of difficult, stressful journeys! You can’t change the circumstances or the other drivers, but you can change yourself. Try to stay calm and focus on the bigger picture, no matter what happens. Remember Thanksgiving is supposed to be about gratitude and people coming together, not just another chore. A big part of keeping it together as a driver is minimizing distractions. If possible, let someone else be responsible for entertaining the kids. Whoever’s in the passenger seat can handle the phone and help with navigation.

Conclusion
Thanksgiving can be one of the most joyful times of the year. Getting there can be a challenge, but with these tips, I hope you’ll have a fast, easy and stress-free drive. And if you want something more to be thankful for this year, check out the zero-down lease deals that Capital Motor Cars is offering now on top new vehicles, just in time for the holiday.

Capital Motor Cars are here to support drivers this season, so check back next week for more advice about driving during the holidays.

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