So, here’s the thing about Thanksgiving weekend: It starts on Wednesday! Isn’t that just the best? Aren’t we all so happy that the weekend is extra-long and we can spend it relaxing at home and not have to go anywhere other than, like, to our refrigerators to get more beer? Lol. You’re not staying home, are you? Probably you’re not! Because if you were, you wouldn’t be reading this, right? What would be the point? Of course, if you’re reading this and you aren’t driving out of New York for the holiday, but are only imagining what it’s like to do so, then you’re just a straight-up sadist and I have no time for you. (Kidding! If you’re a sadist, then I almost assuredly have time for you because that’s what I’m into apparently; just ask anyone who’s ever been close to me.) Anyway: Traffic. Let’s talk.
As someone who has been driving out of New York City for holidays pretty consistently since I was less than a year old, I feel like I have some pretty solid advice to offer on the topic at hand. The most important thing to remember at this point, is that we’re all in this together. Like, we literally are! That’s why the roads are so damned crowded. And I’m not going to tell you to consider public transportation or bus-rail-air travel, because I have enough respect for you to know that you’ve already considered these possibilities and they just don’t work for you. That’s ok! You’ll be ok! The experience of trying to leave New York City on a holiday weekend is one that many people have experienced before and many will have to again, and so it’s important to remember that you will survive. You might even enjoy parts of it if you follow the advice below, which I’ve handily numbered for you in order of importance, because it’s the holidays, and I’m nothing if not generous.
- Leave Right This Second: It’s already Tuesday afternoon! What are you still even doing here?? Ok, ok: I get it. Not everyone can take Wednesday off work, but if you have, like, any flexibility at all, leave today. Just not at rush hour. If you can’t leave RIGHT NOW, then wait till tonight, preferably after 8pm. Take advantage of the wide-open roads and the pleasures of night driving. Laugh to yourself about how you’ve given yourself a five-day weekend. What a genius you are. Hooray for you. Yay.
- Leave before 1pm on Wednesday or after 8pm: The people at Google released Thanksgiving traffic hacks last week and revealed that traffic is at its heaviest between 4-5pm on Wednesday, which, duh? I mean, it would be like that even if it weren’t Thanksgiving. But also, this is an important reminder, we guess, because people still insist on leaving at that time. The best thing to do is leave crazy early or crazy late. Like, take a nap during rush hour in order to be as fresh as possible for a long, late-night drive. Make sure whomever is expecting you leaves the door unlocked in case you don’t arrive till 2am. This might seem crazy, but much crazier will be you when a 4-hour drive takes 8 hours.
- Check the Traffic Patterns Before Setting Out: God, remember the days before Google Maps, when we only got traffic updates via Bernie Wagenblast (yeah, that’s a real name) via 1010WINS? Like, I love me some Wagenblast, but also, those traffic reports were always just enough out-of-date that frequently roads that were described as jammed had already been cleared by the time we’d arrived. Download apps like Waze, iTraffic, and Beat the Traffic to keep you up-to-date on whatever’s happening on the roads.
- Avoid Manhattan: Unless you are going to Manhattan, DO NOT GO IN MANHATTAN. It’s not worth it on the holiday weekend. Maybe it’s not worth it ever? HARD TO SAY. But, seriously, don’t do it. Take the Verrazano Bridge instead. Feel victorious that you’re just going to Long Island, and that Manhattan isn’t even a consideration for you. Just, really, please: Do not enter that traffic-godsforsaken island.
- Parallel Paths: But let’s say you have no choice, and you have to go into Manhattan. Not only that: You have to go during rush hour. Ugh. Well, don’t take the main highways, namely the FDR and the West Side Highway. If you’re heading toward the George Washington Bridge, use Riverside Drive as an alternate route. You won’t be the only person doing it, but you’ll be one of the few. And it’s a scenic enough drive that you’ll feel ok about doing it. And when you reach the GW? Lower level always. ALWAYS. There’s no trucks allowed, and it’s never as crowded as the Upper Level. If you want to do the East Side, go up Park Avenue. Wish you were visiting someone who lived there instead of your girlfriend’s family in New Rochelle. Come to terms with the fact that a classic-seven on Park is just not your life. Don’t cry. Things could be worse.
- Snacks: This is VERY IMPORTANT. You should always have food to keep you and any other passengers entertained. Dried fruit is good. The key is not to have anything too salty, because that will make you thirsty, which will make you drink a lot, which will make you need to pee. Nothing is worse than having to pee when there is nowhere to pee other than an empty Snapple bottle. Well, worse is when it’s an empty La Croix can because that is a tiny opening! But so, bear this in mind when you’re packing snacks and drinks, because comfort here is key.
- Music: So, so, so essential. Let’s face it. You’re going to be stuck somewhere in this journey, at least for a little while. So you should have something good to listen to in order to distract your mind from the futility of this car ride and, naturally, of life. One good place to start is this list of breakup songs that are not by Adele. Another good song list is this one of melancholy holiday music. Let the music match your mood, you know? Or here’s a playlist of winter songs! They all sound like snow. Even though it’s not snowing here yet, it probably will eventually, so get ready with this music.
- Read Something Beforehand: As a last resort, you can always talk to the people who are along for the ride with you. The only rule here is: No personal drama. Save that for the actual holiday! Instead read some things on the ol’ Internet that’ll give you plenty to discuss with your fellow passengers. Here’s some good things I’ve read recently. Or even read some books and short stories ahead of time. Here are some good lists of those. Discuss. Enjoy the ride. Happy holiday. Etc.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen