The holidays are fun and exciting times full of family gatherings and Christmas music that (if you’re like me) you begrudgingly wait to listen to until Thanksgiving.
However, if you have a large scattered family like we do, it can also mean long travel days to get to your holiday family gathering.
With our average holiday road trip time length being 12-14 hours each way, we came up with a few tricks to keep the Christmas cheer going as we drove from state to state.
The ideas I list are to keep things fun, light, and interactive. You could easily weave in great lessons on giving and the true meaning of Christmas.
Or, you might just choose to go with the festive thing to help you get through the long drive.
Either way, here are some of our favorite tips for holiday road trips!
Tip #1 – Choose a theme for the drive.
Remember how themed parties were annoying but also slightly more fun growing up? It’s the same idea here!
Choosing a theme for your drive can add to the fun of it. Try finding a holiday theme that everyone enjoys.
It could be as simple as candy canes and hot cocoa or as specific as a movie/character like Elf or Santa Clause. You can even make it themed for the kids with Disney or reindeer.
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Tip #2 – Make it fun.
Choose comfy travel clothes that match the theme for everyone to travel in. Ugly Christmas sweaters might make for a fun and a warm outfit if you’re in a colder climate.
Footy elf on the shelf pajamas is a great option if you have little ones who will nap a lot during the drive.
Amazon has a whole world of matching Christmas outfits. If you’re bold enough to wear them, it’s a cute and cozy option if you’re going all out with Christmas spirit this year!
Tip #3 – Have “incentives” for reaching new points in your drive.
This helps to set stages and next goals for your drive. It also helps to break up the drive and makes it feel slightly less like one long shot and more like a set number of distances.
Fun ways to do this is to have mini gifts for the trip. Then set distances or set times that a new gift gets opened.
I would suggest getting a separate set of stockings from the ones you typically use so you don’t lose your good ones. You can get them at the dollar store, Walmart, Target, or order them on Amazon.
Fun items for this are Christmas candies, cozy slippers, books, favorite snacks, Christmas mugs, handwritten love notes, and small dollar amount gift cards they can use on the drive such as Starbucks, or Chick-fil-a.
If you have little ones in the back seat, you could wrap little gifts like coloring books & crayons, a new movie, special holiday snack, fuzzy socks, stickers, or plush snuggly toys.
Each hour of driving constitutes a new item the kids open. You could give them their coloring book for the first-hour mark. After the second hour of driving, they could open the movie to watch, and an hour into the movie, they could open a special holiday snack to eat as their movie snack.
This can go on until you get to your destination. It helps to add some excitement to the trip and instead of looking forward to the end of the drive, you look forward to a certain next point in the drive.
It not only helps to add new activates during the drive special, but it also is fun to see your little one excited over something small. The idea is almost like an advent calendar, but for your road trip!
Tip #4 – Holiday-themed games, music, movies, and audiobooks.
Play Christmas movies, music, and audiobooks in the car during your drive. You can download these or purchase them before your trip, so you have them on hand for easy entertainment.
Turn road trip games into Christmas themed topics. Play word games that only use Christmas and Holiday words, count how many times you see a specific word such as “merry” or “Christmas” on signs as you drive by and then whoever has the most points at the end of the drive wins.
You can even set little gifts for the winners, like candy canes or a holiday drink from Starbucks.
Keep your eyes out for Christmas lights!
Sometimes whole neighborhoods will go all out with decorations and there’s nothing more fun and beautiful than driving down a road of brightly lit houses. An extra 10 minutes down that side neighborhood street could totally be worth it for a sight you wouldn’t normally or ever see again!
Tip #5 – Holiday-themed snacks.
Create a holiday-themed snack bag for the road trip. If you throw out some of the “normal” healthy snacks rules during the holidays you can buy fun stuff at the store, or you can make your own for slightly healthier options. Read my post about Tips for Your Best Road Trip Snack Bag for extra pointers.
Ideas for holiday-themed drinks are to purchase a cup holder hot water heater so you can have hot drinks without having to stop too much. Another reader just recently told me about these nifty things.
I’m not sure how I didn’t know they existed before but I totally plan to purchase one! I’ve been doing research on Amazon to see which one seems best and while they all have their pros and cons, so far for the price, this heated smart travel mug, seems to have good reviews.
And this one from Ember has a sleek look and the best overall reviews but costs a little more. If you do as much traveling as we do, it could be worth it though!
Once you have a way to heat water, you can get fun hot chocolate, tea, or coffee packs for the trip and make a hot beverage whenever you want one!
For snacks, you can search Pinterest for fun ideas.
Some great starter options are:
• Healthy Vegan Gingersnap Cookies by Alexis on Hummusapien
• Santa Munch Popcorn Snack Mix by Dorothy at Crazy for Crust
• Healthy no bake White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies by Arman on The Big Man’s World
• Maple Pumpkin Trail Mix by Amber over at Slim Pickins Kitchen
These ideas could also all apply to a road trip any time of year or other kinds of travel including train and plane travel.
If you’re sticking to the traditional road trip, check out our post on How to Have your Most Comfortable Road Trip.
Do you have your own tips for making holiday road trips more fun? Tell us about them in the comment section below!
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