Over the River and Through the Woods – and Smack Dab in the Middle of Traffic

Over the River and Through the Woods – and Smack Dab in the Middle of Traffic

By Nancy DePalma of www.thedestinationmaven.com and Buttoned Up’s Travel Expert

It’s that time of year again when we all make the trek to friends and family to celebrate the holidays. Whether you’re taking a plane, train, car, or bus to mingle with Mom and Dad over Thanksgiving turkey, you’re definitely going to be part of the crowd. Thanksgiving is one of the most traveled weekends in the entire year, so what’s the trick to keeping your sanity? Be prepared, especially if you’re traveling with kids.

If you listen to the talking heads on the morning news shows, they’re all going to tell you to try to travel on off days, but how realistic is that for most of us? Like the rest of the country, you’re probably traveling Wednesday and returning Sunday. If you don’t need to, great, but what about the rest of us who are locked into those dates because of work and school commitments? Pack your patience! Yes, it’s going to be crowded. If you’re taking public transportation, bring along a sense of humor. Since it’s Murphy’s Law of travel that you’ll be seated next to the snorer sleeping on your shoulder or the person that sounds like they’ve been released from the tuberculosis ward, just go into it expecting the worst and you might be pleasantly surprised. If you’re traveling by car, bring along some new cds or a new playlist on your iPod. If you have kids, pack plenty of snacks, coloring books, games, and yes a mini DVD player. This is not the time to pull out your “my kids aren’t going to be slaves to television” routine. If it buys you some peace and quiet, those Disney princess movies really aren’t going to kill anyone.

If you’re stuck with the Wed/Sun timing, try to think outside the box to avoid the most heavily traveled times. Many people get half-days from school and work on Wednesday, so don’t leave at 3pm that day. Instead, leave after dinner (if you’re not traveling too far) or take the whole day off and go in the morning. Same goes with Sunday. Everyone likes to stay for that last ceremonial turkey sandwich, so the after-lunch times are usually the worst.

Now that you’re ready to tackle traffic and are armed with goodies and entertainment, what’s the best way to stay sane while staying with relatives? The answer to that question could put all the entire therapy profession out of business, but there are a few ways to maintain your mental clarity while shacking up with the family. From your family’s quirks to their house rules, sometimes staying with relatives is enough to send you straight for the traffic jams on I-95. Don’t go into it expecting a vacation. Mom is not the head housekeeper at the Four Seasons, so don’t treat her like one. Also, like any good CEO, go into the weekend with an exit strategy. Knowing when you are coming and going is the biggest gift you can give a host. Don’t overpack, but bring what you think you might need. If you are bringing kids, make sure you have the necessary items (like their special blankie or stuffed animal) but you don’t need to bring an entire library of books or what looks like an aisle from a toy store. Not only does it clutter up the person’s house, but it makes it harder for you to keep track of what you need to pack up when you’re leaving. Aside from items like medicine or eyeglasses, you can always do without or buy at a local store so packing light is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your sanity.

When Sunday does roll around and you can catch a breath back at your own home, don’t forget…Christmas and Hanukkah are just around the corner!

NANCY DEPALMA has been telling people where to go, what to do, and where to eat or stay for almost a decade while writing extensively about travel and fine dining. She has authored or contributed to eight books and has been featured in a variety of magazines and websites. She writes about travel at her new website and blog, www.thedestinationmaven.com. Email her at nancy@nancydepalma.com