How To Stress Less on Family Road Trips This Holiday Season

Nov 24, 2014 02:10 PM EST | Jordan Ecarma

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Holiday travel can be a pain, especially if you're stuck in traffic, but it can be a time for valuable family memories too. On the road with kids? Be ready for Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season with this guide from AutoWorldNews.  

Winter up.

To ensure safe and smooth driving, get your vehicle checked out for basics like tire pressure, oil and coolant and make sure you have a tune-up before setting off on a long trip.

Now that cold weather is upon us, you might want to add some extra supplies. If your driving route could take you through snow, items that should be in your trunk include a spare tire, a shovel, jumper cables, tire chains, salt and a tool kit.  

For worst-case scenarios, keep a flashlight, first-aid kit, matches, extra blankets and some snacks in the car as well.

Plan ahead.

Keep in mind that traffic will vary depending on the day and time. According to recent Google Maps data, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the worst day of the year for traffic.   

Highways will be the most crowded between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on the Wednesday before the holiday, so leaving before 2 p.m. or after 7 p.m. should help you avoid the worst of it.

Have a backup.

We all know that technology tends to fail us when it's needed most. GPS devices are great, but make sure you have more than one source of directions just in case. We recommend a navigation system backed up by at least one smartphone with GPS (that can be recharged), in turn backed up by a good old-fashioned printout of Google Maps or Mapquest directions, just to be on the safe side.

When it comes to infotainment systems, the latest Consumer Reports' survey recommends the Chevrolet Suburban for its plethora of USB ports; the Hyundai Genesis for its top-notch voice command system; and the Subaru Outback for its seamless phone pairing.

Come prepared.

Family bonding, anyone? Holiday travel is the perfect time for road-trip games like I Spy or the Alphabet Hunt. Keep kids entertained by keeping track of state license plates, car colors and landmarks (e.g., whoever spots an unusual license plate or counts 20 white cars first wins). A fun memory game is taking a sentence like "I went to the zoo today" or "I packed a picnic basket" and then going through the alphabet to list items. Whoever can remember the entire alphabet's worth of things seen at the zoo or packed in a lunch is the winner.

Get in the holiday spirit.

If worst comes to worst, holiday movies are a surefire way to keep the car happy on that last leg of the drive. Let Thanksgiving kick off the rest of the season with kid-friendly holiday titles like "A Charlie Brown Christmas," "Miracle on 34th Street," "The Santa Clause" and "Elf."

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