Surviving the Great Thanksgiving Drive

I’ve been making the annual Thanksgiving Drive for 11 years. This year, we’re staying home for the holiday. Unfortunately, this is probably the year when traffic will be lighter! AAA estimates that 2% fewer people will travel this Thanksgiving. That’s a lot when you’re talking bumper-to-bumper traffic. If you do have to get on the road, see my previous post on long drives as well as these tips.

Start Your Thanksgiving Drive Early
The earlier you can leave, the better. If you can leave today or Tuesday, that’s best. Your trip should be pretty smooth. If you can’t leave until Wednesday, try to leave in the morning. For every half hour you delay, you’re tacking at least another 15 minutes onto the trip. I prefer to leave by 1 PM, but now that my husband and I are both gainfully employed, we usually can’t get on the road before 3 PM. That’s okay, but we’d be in big trouble if we waited to leave until 5 or 6.

Pack Everything the Day Before
Have your suitcases, car games, maps, and food packed the night before. Put them near the door so you can toss them in the car as soon as you get home from work. If you have food that must be refrigerated until you leave, put all of it in a plastic bag in the fridge that you can grab and drop into your cooler just before leaving. Make sure the ice pack is at the front of the freezer, not buried under last summer’s leftovers.

Check the Route for Closures
We learned the lesson the hard way two years ago, when some idiot in the permit department approved a major road closure on the route between our apartment and the freeway. It took us an hour to travel the two miles to the freeway because of that closure. Lest you think they must have been doing vital roadwork, I can assure you they weren’t. The road was closed for a promotional event.

If your city has a traffic website, check it for closures and events along your route. You should also check your state transportation website for updates on highway conditions. This is the season of road closures due to weather, so it’s better to know before you hit the road so you can plan a route around the backup.

Set the Radio to the Traffic Station
When you first set-out, tune the radio to your local news and traffic station. They’ll keep you up to date on new breakdowns, accidents, and other incidents. Even if you can’t avoid them, you should make sure you’ve gone to the bathroom and will have enough gas to idle through the traffic jam.

Dress for the Road
When you’ve got a long trip ahead of you, wear loose pants, a non-itchy shirt, and comfortable shoes. You should also pack sweaters and jackets for the stops. Although it can be 70 where we live and 60 at our final destination, the route in between gets down to the 30s and 40s with high winds. I’ve seen people hop out of warm cars in flip flops and shorts, only to realize they have to stand outside in a long bathroom line. If I’m shivering in my coat, how must they feel?

If you take advantage of these five tips as well as my previous tips, your trip will be tolerable. I’m not going to claim it will be pleasant – no one looks forward to the great Thanksgiving Drive.

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