Car travel tips

By the time you read this, I will be about to drive or in the process of driving 9.5 hours from NYC to my hometown* with the two boys. Strangely, I'm looking forward to it, but I know this is because 1) I love driving, and 2) my kids are older now (7.5 and 4.5) so long car trips are about boredom management instead of cascading physical needs.

I'm wondering if we can talk about car travel tips. I'm sure some of us have learned some things in the past few weeks that could help others of us in the next few weeks.

My biggest tip is to allow tons more time than you need. Leave early. Then you can stop whenever you want to and not feel pressed. It's grueling and unpleasant if you're feeling under the gun and hit nasty traffic or treacherous roads or too many bathrooms stops. But if you've got a few extra hours, yes, you can stop if you pass a sign for the National Eagle Center or the Hot Dog Museum or the Schlitterbahn or something that interests you. And if you don't need to stop and traffic goes quickly, then you get there early.

Also, plan in real stops for eating and using restrooms and running around.

Plan your music selections in the car, and have some new activities (coloring and drawing, etc.) they haven't seen before.

In short, plan as much of the backbone of the trip as you can, so you can have flexibility in the actual trip. Oh, and don't worry about the kids being bored in the car. It didn't kill you, and it won't kill your kids. A little boredom is probably good for their minds.

What are your tips? For babies, little kids, bigger kids, yourself?

* If you're in the 419: Children's Wonderland (@ Erie Street Market this year), tomorrow the 24th, noon. Bring a can of food for the food drive for discounted admission. I'll be the one with one bored-looking child and one wide-eyed child.

47 thoughts on “Car travel tips”

  1. Our tricks? Either leave so early in the morning (3?) that you could expect the kids to sleep for the first several hours and not wake up until breakfast at a diner (we “love going to diners”) – or else offer a ride to a student (we lived in a college town then and our destination was NYC – you could always get a student rider) and tell them the ride was free and they would even get a free meal, but they had to ride in the middle between the kids ;-)Also, story tapes!

  2. Good luck Moxie, have a safe trip & wonderful holiday.I drove to NE from the South alone with a 4 year old this summer, and it helped to have a tray for him to snack & play upon. Got a soft one, I think from One Step Ahead. had plenty of snacks & juice boxes, planned for lunches & run around at rest stops, and, had the secret bag of little gifties wrapped in tissue paper for him to unearth as necessary.
    Books on CD (Dr Seuss saved us in the midst of Friday afternoon NY to the Cape traffic) plus I made a couple of mixed CDs to keep me jazzed up.
    Safe travels to everyone on the road or in the air.

  3. Magnadoodle for a 2yo — I couldn’t believe how much time this killed on a recent car trip from NYC to the Outer Banks. Plenty of snacks, including stuff that is usually not on offer (which in my house included pretzels and juice boxes). Window stickers and decals and other harmless things. Lots of books (and an adult on hand who doesn’t get carsick when reading in the car)!

  4. I am generally pretty anti-technology, but someone gave Chuckles a Leapster, which I quickly confiscated and brought out for a car trip. It was a hit. Then, when we got home, it got “lost”. It was “found” again the next year for a car trip with a new game cartridge counting thing.Also, books on tape that chime to tell you when to turn the page.
    And learn to nurse while the baby is strapped in the rear-facing car seat (sag is good for something).

  5. We also love stories on tape or CD; we go to the library the day before the trip and take out a bunch — I find that familiar ones are more appealing than unknown ones. For my 4 y.o., I bring a new box of crayons or colored pencils and a blank spiral notebook; yes, we have tons at home, but the excitement over a NEW box is definitely worth the $1.49. We do word games like I Spy and “I’m thinking of a person” (can be a real person or a character in a book/TV show) and “A my name is….” I also bring some surprise treats she doesn’t know about to balance out the healthy stuff.And a few plastic grocery bags for garbage or throw up (this came in handy on our last road trip. Ugh.)

  6. Moxie, I also grew up in the 419! I knew there was a reason I feel so connected to you!Enjoy your holiday with the family and the car ride. My kids always do much better than expected.

  7. Our long trips (2 hrs +) tend to be on planes, so a car would be a different kind of bored. But I think that my kindergartener would be all over learning to read a map and following along on the journey.Does anyone(homeschoolers, perhaps?) know of any resources that teach that or could teach me to teach her? She reads at (I’m guessing) about a second grade level.

  8. I have three kids (7, 6, and 2). I seat the older two in the back of the minivan with bags packed full of snacks and activities. I also give them 15 “virtual” dollars to start the trip. If they start to fight or complain, they lose a dollar. When we get to our destination, they get to keep the money that remains as spending money. They have only ever lost one dollar each (always early on). And since the trip to my home town is more like 12 hours, they usually earn that dollar back by the end of the trip. I am not a huge fan of bribery/rewards, but I figure that in this case it helps them learn to endure the trip without making me insane.The two-year-old? I put him in the middle row so that I can hand back books and snacks. And then I hope he naps a lot.
    We also have a DVD player, but I try to save that as long as possible. We do books on CD from the library and my kids have enjoyed the Classical Kids series of CDs (there are CDs with stories and music for several different composers).

  9. Malls make great places to stop, as they often have a place where kids can just run around, and it’s warm (if you’re winter traveling). We always get a new CD for the car (often from the library) so that there is new car music, and from an early age I would ask my daughter to pack a box of entertaining stuff for her in the back seat. She chooses things she likes.A white board and dry erase markers has been great fun.
    And patience for me. We once listened to the same Wiggles album all the way across Ohio on I-70. She was two, and she was happy, and so we were happy, too.

  10. Am I the only one dorky enough to sing in the car? My daughter is only 5 and still not too cool to enjoy that.Today’s going to be interesting. We’re driving from SF to LA and had planned to leave 2ish, allowing time for a nice dinner stop at Harris Ranch (those of you who drive the 5 know it’s exactly half way) and sliding into grandma’s driveway by a semi-reasonable bedtime. But we took the car in for a quick tune-up yesterday and guess what? It needs a bunch of work. Thank goodness we did, but I didn’t need to spend the thousand-plus dollars right now, and that pushes back our start time until 3 or 4. That means a lot more time in the dark.
    I may bring a big pillow and see if Mouse (who’s in a plain old booster seat) can lean on it and sleep a little, but it’s not likely. I think we’re going to have to rig the DVD player between the front seats again.

  11. Jumping jacks on the sidewalk of the rest area before you get back in the car! For the kids, and you too if you want. It’s a fairly compact way to get out some energy if there isn’t anywhere to really run around. Would work in airports, too, I bet.

  12. Just wanted to share this story – when my sister and I were kids we spent lots of time in the car for trips ranging anywhere from 4 1/2 hrs to 17hrs (the last done in one day *shudder*). She and I loved to read so we would load up on library books before every trip. My mom would dispense the Dramamine since sis and I both got car sick. We would settle in with our pillows, blankets and books only to pass out 45 mins into the trip and sleep the day away. When we reflected on these trips as we got a little older we teased mom about “drugging” her kids. Now that I am a mom I KNOW my mom was/is a GENIUS! Safe travels everyone!

  13. Have fun in the 419 (I lived there for about a decade until I moved east to the 216!).Anyway – this is more for younger kids but here are my road trip rules: I live by the portable DVD for trips over 3 hours. We take 2-3 12-hour-each-way trips a year and it’s a godsend. The 3 other hard-learned rules are: 1) always have at least 5 empty plastic bags (grocery bags) in the car at the start of the trip. 2) Always have a full pack of baby wipes at the start of the trip and 3) Never be without a small stash of disinfecting/deodorizing wipes & spray in the car.

  14. We use most of these tips too for our long car trips. For time, we’ve settled on a time budget of 50 miles per hour of driving and a one hour rest stop for every two hours of driving. Yes this makes the 7 hour trip to Boston really 10 hours. But we can’t get them back in the car in less if we’re feeding them. I am going to steal the idea of stopping at malls instead of rest stops (though there isn’t much choice when you’re driving through NJ) – might have better food choices too. Since our readers get car sick if they read too long we have to get them to look outside occasionally. We have a very elaborate car hunting game that they may be willing to play the next time we drive.

  15. We now keep a “puke bowl” packed in the car after my oldest daughter got carsick on the way to grandma’s house. A big tupperware bowl with a lid and inside is an old towel and some wipes. This way I’m not scrambling for an empty cup or bag when I hear the tell-tale coughing. I’ve also kept a small potty in the back of the van when I was potty-training my daughter. I put plastic bags inside and she has used it on the side of the interstate when we couldn’t find a bathroom quickly. My 5 year old is now a great traveler, now if the 18 month old could just get the hang of it.

  16. Audiobooks for kids have worked well for us. Stockard Channing does a wonderful reading of Beverly Cleary’s “Ramona” series. Danny Glover/Bobby McFerrin/Jack Nicholson put out a nice audiobook of Kipling stories.

  17. Man, am I thankful that none of my kids get carsick. I honestly have never had to deal with puke on a car trip.My kids are generally excellent travelers and as a bonus often fall asleep when bored rather than whining. Thus I have been known to let them stay a little later on the night before a roadtrip so they will be a little tired and nap.
    Definitely plan in time to get some physical activity in. Jumping jacks are good when you stop at a rest stop but we also have been known to stop at a fast food place with a playland to let the kids burn some energy off after lunch.
    And yes, we have singalongs in the car.
    Our general rule is to stop and let everyone stretch their legs every 2 hours or so. Unless the kids are sleeping…then we keep driving until they are awake.
    Travel safe everyone! I am beyond relieved that we are not traveling this year other than a 25 minute drive to the in-laws tomorrow.

  18. All of you just gave me a huge gift–had never thought to check the library for books on tape. Thank you! The Scholastic book fair shakedown at my kids’ school had a multi-book CD which I snapped up, and we have a beloved set of three Winnie the Pooh stories as read by Charles Kurault. I also like to get those “invisible ink” books (to keep the inevitable stray marks invisible also).And I’m with you on the boredom thing. It’s a car trip, not preschool.
    Though we do play “first to Z” or “first to 15” sometimes–everyone looks at signs and cars, etc. and calls out letters of the alphabet in order or numbers in order. When one person finds an A, everyone is on to B, etc. For younger kids, first to, say, J, is fine.
    Drive safe and merry everything, everyone!

  19. We just did our first loooong car ride with our almost-three-year-old and just-one-year-old over Thanksgiving. Michigan to Connecticut, fifteen hours one way and seventeen hours the other. Things that worked: lap tables, purchased cheap at a hobby store. A godsend for the near-3, who loves to write/scribble/color (didn’t work for the 1 yet). A big bin of library books between them, with some old favorites thrown in. A Magnadoodle – to my surprise, they BOTH loved this. Play-Doh (the huge mess I fear didn’t materialize). Lots and lots of snacks. Premixed formula! Crazy-expensive, but saved us at least two or three stops AND much hassle. The in-car DVD player. The in-car DVD player! The in-car DVD player!!!! Please, bring on the screen stupor. I think the mall idea is a good one; we really liked the “travel plazas” on the turnpike – they were clean, had food courts, and a little room to run around. When we did a similar trip last summer, we learned to avoid restaurants and did all our meals as picnics at roadside parks – so much more pleasant with little kids. Leaving at 5 am and driving straight through worked much better than leaving at dinnertime and splitting the trip into two days, to my surprise. Witching (three) hour(s) in the car is just not good. If we were to do it again, I think we’d leave at 3 am like somebody said earlier. GodSPEED to those of you headed on long journeys this holiday!

  20. @Charisse – we had a similar situation where my husband’s truck was being worked on and it was iffy if it was going to be finished in time for our trip (we were going from LA up to Sacramento). Anyway, we decided to just go ahead and rent a mini-van – figured it would take out the stress of waiting for the truck to be finished, we would be putting a lot of miles on someone else’s car, the gas mileage would be better, etc. One HUGE side effect that we hadn’t planned on – my boys (3ish at the time) were SOOO excited about the “new” car. The first couple of hours felt like an adventure just because they were in something new. Anyway, maybe something to think about.As for my suggestions – the only one I have is to use food as entertainment. We typically don’t stop and eat somewhere. They’d just be going from sitting in the car to sitting in the restaurant and then we’ve found they have a hard time sitting still in the restaurant cause they’ve been sitting so long in the car. Anyway, I pack up breakfast and lunch (or lunch and dinner) and then dole out at the appropriate times. Eating can be entertaining and there is very little boredom or whining going on when they are eating. Winds up being a 30-45 minute activity. Save the stops for running around or something like that.
    Happy (and safe!) travels for those of you driving or flying. We are staying close to home (now that we have kids, family comes to us).

  21. My tip: Go to the Dollar Store or someplace inexpensive and buy toys. Depending on your child it could be a toy per hour or any combo you wish. Wrap them like gifts and bring a bag for the trash. This creates excitement and something new to do. It also allows parents to help the kids manage their behavior by saying things like “No toys for those who keep fighting, if you settle down we can try again in 10 minutes.”I agree with Moxie, boredom is a good thing to deal with. Tall and Taller got to bring a back pack full of their toy choices and I would have a few surprises and lots of food. They had to deal with the boredom. As adults they have no problem driving long distances and they LOVE to travel.
    Happy Holidays to everyone. I thank all of you, especially Moxie, for allowing me to join your amazing conversations. You have inspired me to take the Q&A format on to TV and Radio and other online endeavors. Have a happy and healthy New Year as well. This is an amazing site and all of you are amazing mothers and fathers. Your commitment to family inspires me and shows me that parents really are interested in changing their family dynamics. Thank you for validating my passion and the career that lives in my heart. Be safe and travel well!

  22. Did 10 hours yesterday w/ a 5 and 8 yr old, having no electronics in the car besides the books on CD and Christmas music I’d packed. Good tricks: lapdesk, surprise books from library they hadn’t seen, new spiral notebooks and colored pencils (the wind up kind that need no pencil sharpener- I will never travel with crayons, markers or dry erase markers again and my car says ‘thank you’), a fun new item I bought called Bendaroos- a bit like wax covered strings or pipecleaners that entertained for a whole hour, some vacation-only snacks, and plenty of chances to run at rest stops. Our favorite game there we call “1-2-3, Run to a Tree” and we just keep saying those words until they’re well exercised!

  23. I’ll second the Bendaroos. My 7 year old and my almost 4 year old played with them for an astonishingly long time on our trip over Thanksgiving.

  24. We’ve done up to 7 hour trips.We have a 3 year old and 1.5 year old and we have found that leaving just before lunch is a good time for us. We grab lunch on the way or pack it with us (depending on how prepared I am). We drive, about 30mins-1hour in we eat (in the car) and then they eventually nap. When they get up from nap we take a 30-40 min break somewhere. Usually by the this time we’re more than halfway there. We have a portable DVD player that we broke out the last time we drove since we were stuck in the horrible I-95 traffic. But that’s a last resort option.
    We have lots and lots of snacks. I get some new toys (or old rotated toys). We sometimes get them a small trinket from wherever we stop. I have lots of the little dum dums and we give those out pretty liberally.
    I love the jumping jacks idea and the 1-2-3 run to a tree.

  25. We have a 2.5 year old and what works magic for us is a ziplock baggie full of a variety of snack foods.First put in a large portion of cheerios, then add small bits of different things such as yogurt raisins, crasins, jellybeans, chocolate chips. If you make the treats a lot fewer than the cheerios then lots of sifting has to occur and a lot of time is spent hunting for the treats. Usually this gives us 45 minutes of almost quiet. We usually have 2 different bags with different treats in them.
    Ahhh the little things! Happy Holidays Everyone!
    Thank you to Moxie and all of you here!

  26. As a kid we played the license plate game where we would tally the number of cars with NY or NJ or PA etc… license plates. A plate from somewhere far like Iowa was worth extra points.We did the same thing with car makes. So each person would choose 3 carbrands like Volkswagen, Honda etc… and every time you saw one of your car brands and the others verified it you got a point.
    Also had fun writing signs to show people out the window like “wave!” or “stick out your tongue” if they did it you got a point.
    My mom was big on word games so giving a girl’s name for ex. and the next person had to think of a girl’s name that began with the last letter of the preceding name. can do the same with countries etc..
    We also did stories where one person would start a madeup story and end at a cliff hanger and the next person would pick it up ending it at another cliff hanger… those were fun.
    safe travels!!!!!

  27. We are lucky in that my mom goes with us on our annual 6 hour drive to my in-laws for Thanksgiving. She sits in the back with dd and keeps her entertained. We take a soft lapdesk and pencils, a new coloring/activity book and some books to read. Those 2 love playing together anyway, so it’s a treat for them. (If we didn’t have Granny, I’d so steal the “give a ride to a college student” idea.Stop about every 2 hours to potty, stretch, get a drink. The thing dd was most excited about the last trip– stopping at the state welcome center and buying a snack “out of the machines” She thought that was the coolest thing ever. Funny.

  28. Hey! I am in the 419 and am going to Children’s Wonderland today (the 24th) at 10am (I have younger kids who will poop out by noon, unfortunately). I wasn’t able to meet up with you at the museum last time you were here(or maybe that wasn’t the last time you were here) but I was so interested in meeting you and other fellow Moxie readers. I hope you’ll plan another meet-up here this trip or next time you’re here.Anyway-our road trips involve a lot of snacks and sticker books. My 5 year old will sticker for 1-2 hours straight (which is nothing short of a miracle!) and my 2 year old does a lot of napping. We also make frequent stops. Rest areas are especially appealing to my older son (not sure where the charm is but 5 years boys are a bit of a mystery to me anyway!)
    Welcome back and Happy Holidays!

  29. Sorry to hijack your post again Moxie-just wanted to add that the Imagination Station (formerly COSI) is open again downtown. Kids love it (if you need some post-Christmas entertainment). ooh-and the Lights before Christmas are going on at the zoo for the next week…if you haven’t seen those-they’re fantastic!Ok-sorry…I’m out!

  30. Lots of food! There’s nothing worse than being on the road with hungry kids and no decent food anywhere.When we drove cross-country (Manitoba to New Brunswick) when I was a kid, my dad made us tables for our car seats. I don’t know if they would be legal today, but they were awesome — we could draw and look a books and my brother & I totally kept ourselves entertained.

  31. Best tip ever… Allow ONLY water in the car. This cuts down on beverages being consumed for sugar or flavor (only or actual thirst), and cuts down on bathroom stops.

  32. I grew up with a father who hated to fly. We drove PA to FL (keys!) annually. We drove PA to CA in two cars and back in three when I was twelve. My 16 year old brother at the wheel of the third car! One car ran on PROPANE!!! We drove and drove and drove.Today, we drive with toddler in tow. DE to ME. DE to VA. CO to WY…
    Some rules off the top of my head.
    – Long drives are boring. Set children’s expectations accordingly.
    – Plan your stops. Three to four hour increments. Talk to people who’ve done the drive as they will suggest the cleanest, least busy stopping places.
    – Pack a cooler and keep it handy
    – Check car before each restart for Teddy bears and lovies.
    – Fix annoyingly twisted car seat straps before departure
    – Magic pen books and Mad Libs are fun at any age
    – Read current map well before departure
    – Make hotel/motel res in advance. Knights Inns are gross no matter what your age.
    – Air mattresses are more comfy than Motel beds. My oldest brother ‘sacrificed’ and slept on one across the USA. We were in Utah before I caught on.
    – See a sign for something neat, go ahead and stop.
    – The Red Rooster on 86 in NY is a neat stop. Given the chance, take it.
    Finally. This is IMPORTANT!
    Plan for the main driver to get a serious nap in the day after arrival. It’s part of the navigator/ person you’re visiting’s duty to help make this happen.
    Long drives – any drive over two hours in fact – take a LOT out of you. You’re trying to keep passengers happy and keep from road daze so take care and be careful. We were always in bed early when travelling as kids and I try to do the same.

  33. @Kate, I would start with a “map” of something local, like of your house with a treasure (piece of chocolate or necklace kit or something) hidden. Letterboxing might be fun, too. And imaginary mapping. If she likes drawing, draw maps with her. My friend’s daughter likes to draw villages with a stable, castle, forest, etc. Lots of children’s books have maps inside: Winnie the Pooh, The Goose Girl… Also lots of local places, the mall if you go there, our local arboretum has a map… You could put a map of the US or the world on a wall and have friends and family from other places send postcards with pictures, and put them up around with yarn going to the places… For navigating, you could print stuff out from Google maps and highlight where you are going, give her directions so she can “navigate” from the back seat. If your library has “Click” magazine, there was an issue a year or so back on mapping that she might like.For travel, second the wonderful Charles Kuralt recordings and have to add that Andy White’s original reading of Charlotte’s Web is a IME an absolute GEM! We just about wore out the library recording. (For grown-ups, Barbara Kingsolver’s reading of _Prodigal Summer_ is my favorite…)
    At night, those glow-in-the-dark stick things are good for a little bit of entertainment.

  34. OK, massive thread-jack here, so ignore me if you’d like – anyone else’s kid’s sleep going to crap with the holidays/changes in schedule/revolving door of guests? I am at my WFE with my almost 21 mo, bless her heart she is so tired she can’t fall asleep at night and we have to go the “Scream it out” route. Almost afraid to take her in to day care tomorrow b/c she might be too tired or off-schedule to take her regular nap. *Sigh* any tips for getting them back on schedule? This is our first major disruption, and she’s had a big leap in verbal skills lately, so we are getting pushed around in the worst possible way.Oh, and happy holidays. Hope everyone is having happy travels.

  35. @ CaliBoo – I put my foot down and refused to take the 27 month old down for an extra night at the in-laws since the cousins were flying in late-ish at night and I knew he would not get a good night’s sleep. We drove down first thing in the morning (a plus to having an early riser) and it worked out fine. Of course the one night we did stay over bedtime was miserable and I ended up sleeping in a bed with him. And now that we are back home, I’m going to have to wean him off mommy in his bed. He went to bed by himself without too much extra struggle but he woke up twice wanting me to lay down with him. And I hear ya on the being pushed around with new verbal skills. It’s just so cute and compelling.We had a nice visit over all with the in-laws and there was no (direct) mention of the spanking. I think it worked out for the best. Thanks for the support everyone!

  36. We just got back from a normally 5 hour trip with our 3 month old twins yesterday. It took us nearly 7, due to traffic and stops. But, it was okay. I packed extra bottles and we stopped before they needed to stop. We learned that lesson the hard way. Nothing is more miserable than a crying, hungry baby and no where to stop! (We were on a dangerous part of the interstate and couldn’t just pull over on the side of the road.)

  37. Oh, I forgot to add: Chick-fil-a is the best place to stop. Clean bathrooms and changing stations, decent food, friendly staff (they brought our food to our table so we could be with our babies) and no smoking.

  38. @mom2boys – glad to know I’m not the only one, and that you made it through the holiday gauntlet. Thanks for your support and sharing so openly.

  39. I think it helps to give everyone a job to do. It’s important for kids to feel needed and competent, and having small responsibilities (helping to read the map, getting snacks and drinks out of the cooler for the driver, answering the cell phone, counting out change for the toll booths, watching for exit signs) gives them a chance to contribute to the success of the trip.My mother used to drive cross country with us (me, my sister, my brother, the occasional best friend and/or dog) by herself, and she always put one person in charge of the cooler, and assigned other jobs (map reading, entertaining the baby/toddler, walking the dog at the gas station)as necessary. I think it helped us to feel responsible and competent, and I think it also cut down on fighting and boredom.

  40. @mom2boys – Been thinking about you & yours, so glad to hear it was a drama-free holiday. ;)We are home again after flying twice across the country (I always say ‘I’ll never do it again’ – but we live so far from folks that driving is out of the question). Spent most of the trip stranded at my parents’ house in the middle of the huge Midwestern snowstorm. As expected, there were good times (seeing my parents play with DS is so precious) and bad times (DH yelled at me in front of his brother). Such is the holidays for me. I need to work at lowering my expectations…

  41. ITA w/ comments about new toys and plenty o’ snacks. We drive between ME and NJ at least 3-4 times a year – sometimes just my daughter and me. Bringing the dog along gives her “company” in the back seat (and the dog can listen to 3.5-year-old chatter much more patiently than I can). And I’ve just started using Google Maps to track spots along the way – whether to avoid them (grody bathrooms) or to remember great spots (cool playround off the Merritt Parkway in CT). So far, I’ve marked a bunch of restaurants/rest stops and gas stations/bathroom stops, as well as a playground or two. Now, if I can just remember to check it the next time we’re en route…

  42. @hush, I totally know what you mean about lowering expectations during the holidays. We too had good times (like you, seeing both of my parents play with DS and having him loving it was amazing) and bad times (being totally behind schedule on Xmas am, so everything felt rushed – not my intention, and growing tension in my parents small house as our dogs started to snap at each other – ours is very protective of DS). I always think I can out-plan the bad times, but with DS it just seems impossible (and hello, not realistic). I was wondering this Xmas if we’ll ever have an Xmas that goes off without a hitch, considering DS is in the mid-year disregulation stage every Xmas. Ugh.At least this year was less stressed than last year.

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