10 tips and tricks for long road trips during the holiday season

November 14, 2023


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Happy Tuesday friends! I hope that you are having a wonderful start to your week! Today I am excited to talk about some tips and tricks for long road trips specifically during the holiday season! 

As some of y'all know, when I was growing up we would spend the school year in the south and then spend the summer months in upstate NY. Due to growing up like this and spending 2-3 times a year traveling 40 hours (round trip) I started to acquire some tips and tricks for these types of long road trips. 

I feel like in the last 10 years of writing here on Caravan Sonnet about LOTS of road trips and adventures they have been put into practice in new ways with the recent Eastern Fall Road Trip we just took in the Fall (read HERE), our 2020 New England Winter Road Trip (read HERE) older adventures like the 9 day Alaskan Road Trip that we took in the summer of 2018 (you can read about it HERE) and the most popular read trip in New England/New Brunswick/Prince Edward Island/Nova Scotia Road Trip we took in 2017 (you can read about it HERE). There have been so many different beautiful smaller t road trips and I love a good road trip! 

As I am in the midst of preparing and planning for several other exciting trips that I can't wait to share with y'all, we are also planning for the adventure of traveling somewhere over the holidays! This got me thinking specifically about writing a post for tips and tricks for long road trips during the holiday season that is here! I hope that y'all will find them helpful! 
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If you are looking for other road trip tips and tricks check out these posts below: 
1. Save Gas Money Ahead of Time for the Fluctuating Holiday Prices
One thing that I started doing years ago is putting aside $5- $10 every week specifically for gas money for our trips. Now with todays gas prices this has increased. I typically for a trip that is going to be less than 5 hours away still save that money, but for trips that are longer (over 10 hours) I start putting aside $10-$20 a week. Especially during the holidays when gas prices can fluctuate and be even more expensive this can be extremely helpful. 

Taking the time to do this can also easily eliminates stress about money for road trips when the time comes. Even if you don't save up all you need - you will be closer and it will help out! Another idea is to ask friends and family for Christmas for gas gift cards early that you can use on your trip. Thinking and planning ahead can help save a lot of money in the long run when you are traveling! *smiles*
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2. Pack Water Bottles (or whatever you drink in the car)
As a gal who drinks a lot of water everyday, purchasing water bottles at gas stations gets to be expensive. Think about how you can save by picking up water bottles (or whatever your drink of choice is) ahead of time because most drinks are triple the price in gas stations then can be found on sale at Target, SAM's, or in a local grocery store. One thing that we did for a while when we were traveling back and forth from TN to NY was to purchase extra water bottles whenever they went on sale throughout the year. Another idea (if you are taking a road trip similar to one that I mentioned above) is to stop at a Walmart or Target as you begin your trip. We have done this on a lot of our road trips and it saved a lot of money. 
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3. Pack Snacks & Food if possible or Make these Stops "All-Inclusive"
If you like to eat snacks or food on your trip - try to pack them or make these stops "all inclusive" to keep the trip moving. As fun as the road trip is traveling during the holiday season will be hectic and crowded so making less stops will make it a happier experience. Pick places that not only has food, but has a gas station nearby and a place to walk around for a bit. Keeping things at one place instead of stopping for food and then stopping 20 minutes later for gas, and then stopping another 20 minutes later to use the restroom can really save a lot of time on your trip if you are trying to cut down on time. 
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4. Have "Reward" Places
Depending on where your trip is taking you, you might want to have "reward places". For the route that we traveled from TN to NY we literally crossed through the entire state of Virginia which took close to 8 hours. I love Virginia, and lived there for six years, but driving through it the way we had to was very tedious. One of the things that we started doing years ago (and should have done when we were kiddos my parents said!) is to have "reward stops". Whenever we now finish a section of the trip (we break it into thirds) we do something "fun". Sometimes it is as simple as grabbing a Starbucks or other times we have visited with friends or one time my parents took my sister and I to an old-fashioned amusement park for an hour, these "reward stops" are so fun! Honestly, these simple yet fun "reward stops" can create lasting memories not only for the trip, but for years to come. (My sister and I still talk about stopping at that amusement park more than 20 years later! Don't forget that the long car trip can be just as wonderful a place to create memories as the holiday destination itself!) 
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5. Have "Car Only" Holiday Traditions
My sister is going to die laughing when she reads that I have shared this story, but one of the most fun traditions that we had as kids growing up was our "night spy game". Yes, you are now rolling your eyes and are concerned but seriously y'all, this silly game kept us entertained for hoursI am giggling as I write this but what we would do is have a "special notebook" and we would (once it got dark because somehow this added to the fun *smiles*) write down as many license plate numbers as we could get before we grew tired of this game (which didn't happen for hours). Somehow writing this out is not conveying the fun that this seriously was. *hahaha* But y'all, we laughed and giggled as cars whizzed by us and we tried to write down as many as we could get down. It was a lot of fun and we still laugh about it to this day. And the "spy part" for those who are wondering? I really have no idea. *hahaha*

A couple of friends of mine who are parents to the most adorable kiddos have a couple of DVD's that I think their kids believe only exist inside of their car on long road trips. It is great because the kiddos only see these particular DVD's a few times of the year and they love them. What a fun idea!

Maybe during the holiday season for your holiday trip you have specific car only holiday traditions that you save for these trips. Be creative (it could be stopping at Santa's village in a different state, attending a holiday concert along the way, or even seeing lights in a specific neighborhood, etc.) and enjoy the fun adventure!
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6. Understand and Empathize with the "mood" of your fellow Road Trippers Especially during the Holiday Season
Let's be honest, after 20+ hours in a small car together some people might want and desire a little space from each other. Even me who loves to have people close-close (my love language is physical touch/words of affirmation/quality time, and we love the close proximity to people that we love hahaha) can empathize that my sweet family/friends might not find me as funny or delightful after being with me for every waking moment for almost 20+ hours straight. (I know, I know it is shocking! *smiles*) Some people are going to be like me and thrive on this close proximity and others may just appreciate the quiet.

The holidays can be stressful and difficult and a long road trip for some people is going to just heighten emotions. Be sensitive to this and give a lot of grace so you remember the fun times more than anything!

So know your companions and empathize with the "mood". But honestly what is so sad to me is watching some families yell and snap at each other because they are tired and grumpy. Again, I can't stress this enough but remember that the road trip itself is an opportunity to spend time with the ones you love and cherish the memory opportunities. (If you are curious about the Love Language comment... I am referring to this book HERE. Read it friends- It is so good.) 
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7. Appreciate Delays
When I was growing up my childhood pastor said something that has always stuck with me as I have traveled; "Thank God for delays because they are often blessings in disguise." I can't tell you how many times we have been frustrated to run into a delay only to see immediately or down the road that we avoided an accident and I am sure that there are so many things we have no idea we have been protected from. Don't be frustrated with delays friends- you never know what you may have been protected from.
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8. Break up the "Monotony"
This tip is especially useful if you are traveling alone but even with a family it can be practical. When I traveled back and forth from the lower south to Virginia Beach for graduate school it was a good 10 hour drive. Several years later as I moved to work and live in Washington DC it was a good 12 hours from my home. These long car trips by myself could have been very tiring but as I look back now I see them as sweet times to think, process, pray, and consider upcoming decisions. 

In addition to this I found this a wonderful time to catch up with friends and family (on speaker phone for those who live in a state that is "hands free" *smiles*). One thing I did to help pass the time was to "break up" the monotony. For example for an hour I might chat on the phone and catch up with a dear friend and then the next hour spend time just thinking and praying and then the next hour listen to music and in another hour I would call another friend. After this I would sometimes listen to an hour of a book on tape or spend more time praying or listening to music. By constantly breaking the hours up in the car the time went by much more quickly.

It can also be really fun to pick up a book on audio that you & the person you are traveling with want to listen to and haven't read. Save it for a trip and listen to it together. It creates a fun memory and something to definitely chat about. Or grab a question book and ask each other questions. Or even better... just enjoy the company of that person.

This same concept can be great with kiddos also! A great idea that my mama had when we were younger was that she would collect "special and surprise" items for several months prior to a road trip and keep them in a secret bag. To us kiddos it was like she became Mary Poppins on the trip! I am not kidding y'all, she would pull out (slowly!) over the hours different surprises. They were all wonderful and nothing cost a lot of money but it was always fun to see what was coming out of mama's "Mary Poppins bag"! [hahaha! And when we headed out to California for treatment my sweet mama surprised me with a book to keep me entertained! So if you are thinking that this idea won't work with older kiddos you are wrong! I loved it! hahaha!]
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9. Eye Covers are Your Friend 
I mentioned this in a post about tips for sleeping better, but eye covers can truly be your friend in the car. I love me some eye covers. I tried a ton before I found one that I loved. I tried some that were extremely cheap and some that were more expensive before I found my favorite one. If you don't have one I would definitely recommend trying one. This can truly help you get some much needed rest on a long car trip! [This is my current favorite one HERE.]
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10. Take Time to Enjoy the Moments and Places Along the Way. 
Often times with a trip that is long you can start trying to figure out the quickest and easiest way to get to the destination. In doing so though we can sometimes miss out on some adventures along the way. Many years ago as I was driving from Georgia up to our cabin in upstate New York I decided to go an 3 hours out of the way to go over to the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. At the time the Memorial wasn't even completed but I felt burdened as a history teacher and an American that this was important to see. 

As I stepped out of my car and walked around the fence there was only a few of us there and one of those that happened to be there was a family member of one of the heroes of 9/11. Having the opportunity to chat with them and hear their story was incredibly profound and humbling. It is a memory that I never forgot and it was the best use of an extra 3 hours of driving. I can't say enough how much I would encourage you to take the time to enjoy the moments and the places along your road trip!

Another favorite detour of mine was on the New England/New Brunswick/Prince Edward Island/Nova Scotia Road Trip I saw a lake in a distance and pulled off to explore it. It was so beautiful! Or on the Alaskan Road Trip we headed over to Hatcher Pass. Y'all if you have been reading the blog for a while than you know that I fell in love with this area and it's beauty (you can read about it HERE or see a video HERE). There are so many other examples I could share, and I can't wait to share some from our holiday trip, but take the time to enjoy the places and moments along the way- it will make your holiday trip that much richer and better!

Thanks so much for reading today friends! I hope that you have a wonderful day! 

*all of the pictures from the post are from the 2020 New England Winter Road Trip*

1 comment

  1. Great tips for holiday road trips! Saving gas money ahead, packing drinks & snacks, and making efficient stops can make your journey smoother and more enjoyable. Thanks for sharing these helpful insights
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