The Holiday Survival Guide: Over the River and Through the Woods

The holidays are a great time to get together with your family and friends. This means Travel. Getting to Grandma's house may be as simple as going across town or as complicated as going across country. 

When I was a kid I remember this adventure to getting to Grandmas house as super fun and super easy. We did, as the song goes, literally have to go over the river and through the woods to get to her house.  My mom would pick us up out of bed, somehow get us into our winter coats over our pjs, and slide us into the back of the car (pre-car seat era) at 4 in the morning. We would sleep most of the way until it was time to stop for a breakfast break and then we would drive our parents crazy with our refreshed energy levels until we did finally get to Grandmas some time after lunch. It was a long drive. We sang songs, we played car games, and we occasionally had a good sibling argument in the backseat. This was always met with the ridiculous question from our Dad,  "Do you want me to pull the car over?". Easy.

When I grew up and had kids of my own I realized this maneuver took much more planning and effort than I had ever realized. I marveled at how my Mom and Dad did this without having us all strapped into carseats. (I LOVE carseats - and not just for their safety features).


If you have little little kids at home it can be much easier for family to come to you. But then that presents itself with an entirely different set of challenges. 

Whether you are going across town or across state lines here are some of the Stay at Home Mom Survival Tips for Roadtrips during the holidays:


Even if you are going to Grandma's house and you have been there a million times before it is still a good idea to hit the Internet before you go and check out the road conditions and weather forecasts before you go. 

On a recent trip we discovered that our typical route had several road closures and it was worth re-routing on an alternate course that added 15 minutes on paper but actually ended up saving us hours of travel time.

Most states have a reasonable DOT (department of transportation) website with webcams and road conditions listed. Washington State as a particularly good DOT site.

There are also some great travel apps for your phone to use while on your adventure but it's still a good idea to check out your route before you even leave home.


When at all possible travel on any other day than the day before the holiday. This is the busiest day and the day when people are Rushing to get to where they are going.  You may be a good driver but it is all the other crazy drivers out there that you have to watch out for. 

Even though we know it is a stupid idea to text and drive I still see at least one car swerving around the road with a driver texting and driving each time I go out.  

Watch out for the crazy drivers. 

Give yourself as much room as possible between you and other clusters of cars.

If you are the driver and have to use your phone then pull over.


Before you leave check your car kit that you keep in the back of your car at all times to make sure it is stocked up and up to date.  We keep our car kit in a covered plastic storage tub in the back of the car. This kit includes:


  • Paperwork - make sure you have your up to date car registration and insurance cards in your car. You may think they are there but it is totally worth one quick visual check before you go to make sure they are there.
  • Current AAA card. If you are traveling with small kids in the car you should have a AAA membership. Even if you are not traveling with kids a AAA membership is a good example. I have been a member since the early 90's and each year it has paid for itself.
  • cell phone charger
  • Paper Towels / wipes / garbage bag - Messes happen. Be ready for them.


  • reflectors to put out on the road in case you have to pull over. 
  • duct tape
  • blanket
  • canned food / with pull tab lids (so you don't need a can opener) Canned fruit because it also has liquid
  • kitty litter to use if you are stuck in the snow/ice - gives your tires something to grip on to.
  • chains - * see #4 below
  • fold up shovel
  • basic first aid kit
  • bottle water / mio - for a little flavor
  • jumper cables
  • flashlight
  • gloves / warm hat
  • ice scraper
If you have a small car it might be tempting to leave some of this out but if you have to make a choice between safety items and your gifts / suitcases then consider sending our gifts and clothes ahead via Fedex to your end destination. DO NOT sacrifice your safety items because of space.

CLICK HERE for the State Farm recommendations.


Before you go make sure your car is ready to go.

  • If you are traveling through snow country make sure your car is snow ready.  On a recent roadtrip it began to snow and the mountain pass was particularly snowy.  We were in an All Wheel Drive Subaru with studded winter tires. Police were stopping cars and not letting them through unless they pulled over and put on chains. When our car got up to the roadcheck they just waved us on.

    If your car is not an AWD with studded winter tires then make sure you have chains.

  • Check your tires - we buy Les Schwab tires and for the life of the tire we can take our car in and they will rotate and check our tires for free. It is a great deal. They also can check brakes and alignment which is also important information.

    Make sure your tires are ready for the conditions.

  • Jiffy Lube - Your car is a huge investment for your family. Making sure you have regular oil changes is the best way to protect your investment and to ensure that your car is safe on the road.

    The reason I like Jiffy Lube is that they are a national chain and when you take your car to one location it is like taking your car to every location. If you are traveling and you need to get your oil changed or any of the fluids topped off you can go into any Jiffy Lube and your car records will be in their system.  Additionally, the Jiffy Lube app is really easy to use and can tell you where the nearest Jiffy Lube is located. But even better than telling you the location it will tell you if there is a coupon that you can use on your oil change service. I typically get at least $5 off every time I go in using the app.

  • Clean out your car. The road trip will be chaotic enough without having last weeks mickeyD's empty lunch sacks on the floor of the car. Traveling with kids is a messy proposition. No reason to start out with a mess.


Most important to your roadtrip preparation is to calibrate your expectations. If Google Maps tells you that it will take 5 hours to get to your destination you may want to plan on 7.  The way to make sure that kids have fun on the road trip is to plan on enough stops for potty breaks and for a chance for kids to stretch their legs.

In this survival guide we didn't even get into keeping your kids entertained on the road.  Gadgets to play with in the car

Having fun on your roadtrip means minimizing unwanted stops. By taking a few minutes to plan ahead can make all the difference.

* This post was not sponsored by any companies even though there are several name brand companies mentioned. If you have a favorite company we would love to hear about it on Facebook.


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