Holiday travel is never easy, especially when traveling to a big city. But, many times, and more often than not, you suck it up and deal with the hassle of the busy streets and rush hour traffic because it's the holidays and family is involved.
Well, is dealing with the hassle of holiday and Christmas traffic worth it if you drive to New York City from Warren and back in less than 24 hours for five dance costumes and 25 yards of fabric? Apparently it is.
On my two days off this week, my fellow dance teacher, Tracie, one of our students, Tiffany, and I made the seven-hour trek to the Big Apple, all in search of costumes, fabric and for Tiffany to take some classes. But what seemed in theory as an easy, there-and-back trip turned into a lesson to be learned, not just in the world of dance teacher shopping, but for any holiday traveler. I know not many of my readers care about the always interesting topic of dance costumes, but away from the glitter, there were lessons I want to share with all of you about holiday travel, shopping and most important, perfectly picking out the proper McDonald's to stop at during your travels.
Traffic is a given when traveling long distances. You can almost bet on the fact that at some point along the way, construction, an accident or detours will delay your holiday travels. But did anyone ever wonder why sometimes traffic just gets clogged and no one is moving for no apparent reason? Tracie and I pondered this while it took us two hours to get into the city when it was only supposed to take us 45 minutes. While I thought an accident or construction was making me go 30 miles per hour on the New Jersey turnpike, it turns out it was just people who don't know how to drive. So, lesson learned for us to share with you: Give yourselves extra time when traveling this holiday season. While sometimes it's the elements causing delays in travel, most of the time it's just people who probably shouldn't have driver's licenses.
Second lesson we learned: Mahoning Valley hussle and bustle shopping is nothing compared to New York City - and not even the whole city, just the Macy's in Times Square. Besides the fact that there are seven floors to pick from, the men's fragrance department had more employees working on a Thursday than the one in the Eastwood Mall has in all departments on Black Friday. It was insane. And being a girl with the sniffles and sneezes right now, a fragrance department didn't exactly tickle the nostrils.
We mainly went into the store to find a toy for Tracie's son, Evan, but after asking a sales associate where toys were and she could only guess the seventh floor, we turned around and headed for the exit. We found the exit 15 minutes later after dodging more shoppers than I've ever seen in my life and another 50 men's fragrance workers.
Moral of this lesson: I don't ever want to hear people complaining about crowds, lines or commotion again at the Eastwood Mall or any other correlating sites. It's nothing, people, trust me.
Last but certainly not least. While many people are trying to phase fast food chains out of their "unhealthy lives," when it comes to road trips, McDonald's is necessary. It's the perfect spot for bathroom breaks, a quick snack or a refill on a beverage. But here's our tip for any traveler: If you don't see the McDonald's from the highway, don't get off. It might not be there. Tracie and I made that mistake not just once, but twice on our excursion.
Granted, the first time we were duped was when we were looking for a hotel, but nonetheless, the same theory applies. We were in desperate need to find food and a Diet Coke, and we saw a sign for a McDonald's. Fine. Dandy. Great. Let's get off. Ten miles, three reroutes on the GPS and four "Where are we?"s later, we found the McDonald's. And of course, two exits later there were five visible fast food chains for our picking. Rule of thumb: if you can't see it, for all you know, it doesn't exist.
But all in all, we made it there and back and the trip, for all its downs, had plenty of ups. We bought some beautiful costumes, Tiffany was a happy dancer, and all was right in our little dance world.
So then, our hassle was worth it. For one, our problems will help holiday travelers this season. And second, on a completely selfish note, we got to eat authentic New York style cheesecake. That alone was worth the drive.
Sulonen is a sports writer at the Tribune. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org