Wow, 2 hours? I wouldn't go to anything! We drive a little less than that to visit my in-laws, and we go once for Christmas - we arrive on the 26th, and stay for a couple of nights. Whatever the family does while we're there, we participate in, as long as it is family friendly. My families don't really throw parties, and if they do, it's just the actual one family celebration. But if there were many, I'd probably just pick the one that I thought was most appropriate (the one that the largest number of important-to-see family members would be at) and attend that.
About the gifts: my siblings and I made a decision a few years ago that we didn't need to give each other gifts. Instead, we decided to all chip in on a charitable donation to a charity we can all agree on - in our case, Heifer International. We all pay whatever we feel moved to pay, and one person manages the donation.
My dh's siblings tried to start an exchange last year. Dh and I decided that we didn't like the system for a variety of reasons, and that we weren't willing to do that. So we just said no. We make it clear that we don't expect gifts for ourselves or for our children, and that our children understand that. And then we do what we feel is the right thing to do. For us, that is giving a gift of food to each of dh's siblings (6 of them), and giving actual gifts to dh's and my parents. Whether or not people don't like what we do is beside the point. Spending huge amounts of time (let alone money) choosing just the right gift for tons of people would eclipse the entire holiday season, and I refuse to miss Advent because of someone else's confusion about the meaning of Christmas and gifts.
It's true that if you buck the tradition, your dh will "hear about it" from his family. But I would say, bring it on. If you make your own traditions, they will eventually get used to it. They may never like it, but eventually, their expectations of you will change, and even if you have the reputation of scrooge, your life will be more peaceful. OTOH, if you maintain a pattern of giving in to their whims because of not wanting to make waves or not wanting to deal with the complaining, this will only get worse. The in-laws need to learn that your priority is your immediate family, and that they do not get to make the decisions for you. It might be a painful transition to get them to understand that, but it will be worth it.