FAMILY Blog: On the Road Again

It’s that time of year again: Time for family, time for festive cheer, time for giving, and yes, time for the dreaded family holiday travel adventure. Most parents cringe at the idea of a long-distance road trip — being in confined quarters with backseat sibling battles over who gets to sit where, who gets to choose the next movie and who gets to play with what toy. There’s always at least one passenger complaining about being too hot, too cold, too bored or too hungry. And of course, there’s the quintessential question asked over and over, “Are we there yet?”

Growing up, I had my fair share of holiday road trips. I spent 10 different Christmas vacations traveling by car with my parents and three sisters from my hometown in Houston, TX, to the corn-filled Midwest to visit my grandparents.

The stress began even before we loaded ourselves into the car — the planning, packing and cleaning. Yes, cleaning. (Even though all I could think was, we aren’t even going to be home!) We’d spend the whole day before our trip dusting, vacuuming and sweeping so that we (ahem, my mother) could have a pristine house to come home to. It didn’t make sense to me at the time, but now I get it — when you’re traveling for 15-plus hours with four kids over the holidays, you don’t want to come home and have housecleaning on your to-do list.

With my mother supervising the cleaning and packing, to prepare for those long hours on the road, my dad would strap our luggage on top of the car to leave room for my sisters and I to watch movies on our little box TV (oh, the pre DVD-installed car days). Eventually, when movie-watching grew tiresome, my parents helped us pass the time with classic car games like “The Alphabet Game,” “I Spy,” and the “License Plate Game.” If we weren’t wrapped up in our own toys and devices, we’d blast our usual stack of CDs (an eclectic mix of James Taylor to the Dixie Chicks) until we came upon a clear holiday radio station to sing-along to.

Inevitably, it wasn’t all fun and games. With every trip, there was some type of sibling drama, sickness, an unexpected detour or car emergency. But basically, over time, we became masters of holiday traveling.

Believe it or not, somewhere along those myriads of highway miles, I grew to appreciate holiday travel. There’s something about extended time in the car with family that makes you feel a special kind of closeness…the adventure, the conversations, the absolute simplicity of nothing but the open road ahead…some of the best family moments can happen when you’re all in this big adventure together. Looking back, some of my best holiday memories involve my family and I in that crammed SUV.

So, if you’re one of the lucky ones traveling this holiday season, just remember to take a breath and try to relax. Focus on the togetherness of holiday travel instead of the stress of it, and you might actually find that you enjoy being on the road again.

Wishing you a peaceful holiday and safe travels,

Britni Petersen


Washington FAMILY Magazine

[email protected]


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