Thanksgiving Road Trip Tips: the Early Bird gets the Open Highway

road trip

Last week we drove to San Diego over the Thanksgiving break for 3Po's and Jammy's soccer tournament. Alfie has been saving up his vacation days for his parents' Christmas break visit, so we didn't want to take any more time than we needed to. We decided to drive down on Wednesday, spend Thanksgiving morning at Disneyland, then continue on to San Diego in the afternoon. After 2 days of soccer, we would drive back to Palo Alto on Sunday.

The trip from Palo Alto to San Diego takes just over 7 hours... in theory. In reality, driving through LA always adds about an hour (or more!). When people heard of our plans, their eyes widened in horror -- we would be driving through LA at the worst times ever! A quick internet search confirmed their predictions: LA has the worst traffic in the country over Thanksgiving. The worst day of the year to drive through LA is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the second worst day is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and the third worst day is the Sunday after.

road trip

You'd think that being a Filipino (and one from Manila) would make me indifferent to traffic (10 hours to drive 450 miles? Pfft! It can take 3 hours to drive 3 miles during Manila rush hours!). Actually, it makes me even more allergic to traffic.

road trip

We made three decisions for this road trip that helped ease the torture and made the drive quite bearable:

1) Leave early
Leaving early is the single most effective thing you can do to avoid traffic. Everyone I polled advised me to get through LA by 1:00 pm the day before Thanksgiving, otherwise the highways would turn into a parking lot. We took everyone's advice and resigned ourselves to 5 consecutive early mornings. On Wednesday, we left at 6:00 am, and on Sunday, we left San Diego at 5:30 am (and we woke up early every day in between due to Disneyland and soccer games!). We avoided the worst of the traffic! The highways were definitely more crowded, but there was still enough space on the highway during those early hours to keep everyone traveling at a decent speed.

2) Have an alternate route
Google maps was our savior. It helped us avoid a 1-hour delay in the middle of nowhere by sending us on a small detour; we exited Highway 5 just before the slowdown, and got back on just after. Not all vehicle GPS systems are as good as Google maps (or Waze) at calculating alternate routes mid-trip.

3) Take rest stops
Rest stops added 60-90 minutes to our total door-to-door travel time, but they helped break up the journey and gave us a chance to stretch our legs. At every rest stop, Alfie and I alternated between driver and passenger, so we never drove much more than 2 hours straight. That way, our journey didn't feel as long or as tiring. Technically, our Thanksgiving visit to Disneyland was also a rest stop! Some of our fellow soccer parents also broke up their journey by stopping overnight somewhere between Palo Alto and San Diego.

road trip

Having older kids also makes things a lot easier, We didn't have any whining from the kids, and they entertained themselves the entire way. We set limits on screen time to give their eyes a break, and spent a few hours playing road games. Having beautiful scenery to stare at helps a lot!

road trip

How was your Thanksgiving break? Hope you had as much fun as we did (despite the long drive)!

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