Essential Holiday Road Trip Guide

A winter scene of snow and small toys including a red car.

Traveling for the holidays? Have kids that will ride along for the journey? You may have driven the country in the summer months, but traveling by car during the holiday season is a totally different ball game. This article will discuss the essentials for holiday travel, broken down into a few parts. The first section will offer a list of essentials for a safe and happy car trip with the family in tow, the second will discuss items for the comfort of your travelers, and the third will discuss how to incorporate holiday joy for your family while on the road.

Keeping Safe

Depending on where your final holiday destination is, road tripping in the colder months comes with a series of hazards that simply aren’t relevant when traveling during other times of the year. Before you begin your journey, be sure to assess the following items on your car in the name of winter road safety.

Car Vitals - Before leaving, one should always assess the vitals of their car, specifically how they pertain to the snow. Experts suggest changing the oil, and testing the battery to ensure it will hold a charge in colder temperatures. Also be sure to inquire about snow tires, which aid in safety on wet and icy roads.

Someone scraping ice off of a car windshield.

Safety Equipment - Keep in your car a first aid kit, road flares, extra blankets, emergency food, and a phone charger with car adapter. Also pack ice scrapers and a snow brush, should you need to pull over and scrape down your vehicle. Along those lines, it's wise to pack a box of kitty litter and a candle and shovel, which will aid in loosening tires and gaining traction when they're stuck in deep snow.

Refuel - A gas tank can freeze. Experts therefore always advise car owners to keep winter gas tanks at least half full.

Keeping Comfy

Carry-On Bag - Even though you’re not on a plane, it's smart to pack like you are when going on a holiday road trip. The idea is to prepare two suitcases. The first is a large case with your clothes and anything needed for an overnight trip. The second bag should be smaller to keep personal items you'll want on the trip such as snacks, magazines, head phones, etc. This will be kept with you for the drive. Keep the bag with your clothes and toiletries in the trunk since you won't need it until you get to your destination.

Food - Pack a bag for food and snacks for the family to share, with goodies you only allow on vacation. This will cut down on meals and drive-through breaks along the way.

A boy having fun with a tablet in a car.

Entertainment - I don’t care how tight of a family bond you may have, but after being strapped in a car with your loved ones for a 6-hour drive, arguments will eventually occur. This is when it's wise to have books, movies, laptops, phones, and anything else to allow for fun distractions that will keep the peace.

Blankets and Pillows - Not everyone can sleep in a car, but during winter on a long drive, it's nice to be comfortable!

Bring the Holiday Cheer

Music - Whether you have kids traveling with you or not, nearly everyone loves to feel the holiday spirit, even while traveling long distances by car. I suggest packing holiday CDs or saving playlists to your phone so you'll have holiday music on hand when radio stations fail.

Elf on the Shelf - Traveling with kids can be a lot to handle, but bringing an Elf on the Shelf or an imaginative equivalent along for the ride can greatly reduce fits and tantrums. At every stop, have him move locations to keep the interest of your children and make them look forward to getting back on the road.

Decorate the Car - There's no reason why you can't hang lights and ornaments in the car to keep the atmosphere festive. To occupy the kids' time, provide paper and scissors to cut out snowflakes and snowmen and tape them on the windows.

Giving Gifts - If you're the type of parent who offers rewards for good behavior, why not give small wrapped gifts for every benchmark of travel tearlessly achieved? It's a great way for kids to self-monitor behavior and keep the excitement of the holidays alive.