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What to do when… driving with pets

It’s that time of year again! Everyone in the UK is gearing up for their summer holiday. You wouldn’t leave the kids at home, but what about your furry, four-legged friends? If you decide you want to take your animal companion along with you to your holiday destination, what are the best ways to make their trip as comfortable as yours? Well fear not, Trust My Garage is here with some top tips for driving with pets.

pawprint trail

Safety

First things first, you’ll need to know the law about driving with your animals in the vehicle. The Highway Code’s Rule 57 states:

“When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”

So you’re in the clear to take your animal with you! The Code is very clear about what to do for both animals and drivers, as it’s the best way to ensure that everyone makes the safest possible journeys. While a carrier or caged boot is probably the safest option, if your dog is well behaved and clipped to a seat harness you’re okay to let them feel the fresh air through your windows. If you don’t want to restrain your pet in any way, take this advice from Rachael Kilroy, Senior Veterinary Surgeon at Vets for Life:

“If a dog is not secured safely then sharp braking or a collision could result in them being catapulted sharply forwards, potentially causing life-threatening internal injuries, as well as trauma to people in the car.”

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If your dog is in the car, they should be wearing a seat belt harness or be in a carrier.

 

Animal Happiness

If your pet isn’t used to being in a car, then a long journey shouldn’t be their first real experience. Prior to travelling, you should slowly let your animal into the vehicle to help them get used to their surroundings. Starting out with a very short trip – nipping to the shop, for example – and the building up the length of time in the vehicle is a great way to do this. Even if the first couple of times in the car are when it’s stationary, a good sniff and look around can go a long way to making your pet happier when travelling.

 

Planning

It’s always important to plan a trip, but our furry friends require a little extra attention when it comes to longer journeys!

You should take a regular break every 1-2 hours, depending on how restless your animal is, and pack plenty of water and treats – If you’re feeling thirsty or hungry, your pet probably is too! For longer journeys, you may want to think about planning a route that includes a stop near a park or wooded area to let your animal – especially dogs – stretch their legs and have a run around. When it comes to animals like cats, you might want to bring some toilet training pads too – accidents happen!

dog map

Make sure you plan your drive with your furry pal in mind! (image source)

Your Destination

This might seem silly, but check your destination’s rules on pets! If you’re off to see family or friends, make sure they know in advance that you’re bringing your pet, and if you’re going to a hotel, camp site or similar location, check if – and which – animals are allowed. A quick internet search or phone call to your desired venue should do the trick, as many hotels etc. clearly state their pet policy. It’s no good getting all the way to your lovely summer holiday, only to be turned away at the sight of a wagging tail!

dog at house

Check your destination’s rules about pets before booking to avoid disappointment!

As well at your venue, many people research the area they go to stay at beforehand to see if it appeals to them. With a pet, you may want to take into consideration if the surrounding area is also animal friendly. Some beaches in the UK require dogs to be kept on leads for the duration of their walk, and some allow them to run free, whereas some don’t allow dogs at all. Some quick internet browsing should help you locate the best pet-friendly activities to fill up your holiday and keep your pets involved too.

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If you’re headed to the seaside check the local beaches are animal-friendly.

Car checks

Long journeys can take their toll on a vehicle, so if you’re planning a road trip then you don’t want to create stress for your family and pets with a breakdown – or worse, broken air con! If you visit your local Trust My Garage approved member, you can check your car is running at its best and take away any concerns before you travel, and make sure you, your family and your pets get the best possible summer holiday.

If you’ve got any other top tips, feel free to leave them in the comments! If you’re looking for some more general summer driving tips, check out our post on What to do when…driving in Summer!

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Five ways to ensure your half-term road trip runs smoothly

The half-term school holiday gives you a great chance to go on a well needed and well deserved family break, away from the stresses and troubles of work and 21st modern life – and for some, a break abroad provides a short term escape from the UK’s recent torrential weather conditions. However, with any long car journey there are always going to be problems and challenges for you to overcome, from mechanical faults on your vehicle to the stress of always having to respond to ‘are we nearly there yet’ from the kids in the back seat. We know what it can be like so we’re offering you five top tips on how to achieve a smooth trip this half term, whether you choose to holiday in the UK or abroad.

Yorkshire country road

5. Patience!

The roads during half-term are going to be a nightmare as motorists with the same idea as you look to make the most of schools being off for the week. It’s important to remember that other drivers are in the same boat as you, and there’s no point in being aggressive towards them. Other drivers aren’t there to annoy you and all they want to do is get from A to B, just like you.

So how can you stay calm and collected? Ensure you’re comfortable in your seated position and take breaks every two hours to prevent yourself from becoming tired, stressed and wound up.

Being courteous will go a long way and you should always acknowledge other drivers letting you pass and apologise if you’ve made a mistake – this will make you feel better as well. Remember, we’re all human and we all make mistakes.

By staying positive in your car you’ll notice the effect it has on the rest of your holiday – you’ll know how uncomfortable it is when you’re in a car being driven by someone who has lost their tether – don’t be the one who ruins your family holiday before it’s even started!

4. Invest in a Sat-Nav

Whilst some will be travelling to loved ones this half-term, many others will be driving down unfamiliar routes to places they’ve never been before. Whilst you might think you have the navigational skills of a homing pigeon, there’s always the chance that you’ll get hopelessly lost, and so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t invest in a Sat-Nav, or at least an up-to-date map. Just remember that a Sat-Nav is not infallible – and is certainly not a substitute for concentration, awareness and common sense.

3. Prepare yourself and your car for driving abroad

If you’re travelling abroad this half-term and are expecting to be driving then you need to be aware of the various laws. According to recent figures, of the two million Brits that travelled abroad last year, 76% (3/4) of them felt nervous about driving, but with this doesn’t need to be the case.

It’s important to note that there’s more to consider than just driving on the right hand side of the road. Remember if you’re driving a hire car then the speedometer will be in km/h, and if you’re driving your own car you should familiarise yourself with the km/h markings. You may find it handy to put a small label on your dashboard showing the equivalent mph speeds for common limits. If you have a car with an electronic speedometer you will probably be able to switch it to km/h (although if you have one, your trip computer will also display in metric units which may be an inconvenience).

In Europe, or any country that drives on the right, you need to adjust your headlight beam so that the dipped beam does not dazzle oncoming drivers. For more information and advice on driving abroad please head to our driving abroad blog post.

If you’re driving in another country the likelihood is that you’re going to be embarking on incredibly long drives. It’s very easy to drive much further than you would in the UK and it’s so important to bear in mind the effect this will have on your tiredness.

2. Check your car before you go

If you’re embarking on a long journey in your car then it’s vital you carry out a number of checks on it to ensure it’ll last the distance. The acronym POWER will help you remember what checks to carry out.

Fill your tank up with Petrol (or diesel) because there’s a chance you’ll drive many miles without seeing a station, and the last thing you’ll want is to run low on fuel.

Oil is your car’s bloodstream and helps lubricate the moving parts in your engine. Without enough oil your engine might seize, causing costly damage.

Most modern cars require a special engine coolant but in an emergency you can top up with Water, though this isn’t ideal as modern coolant contains additives to prevent corrosion to maintain the waterways in the engine. It is of paramount importance that the engine is cool before removing the cap so let your engine fully cool down before you touch it.

You need to ensure the Electrics (lights) on your car – indicators, brake lights and headlights – are all working properly before setting off or you’ll be at risk of having to call out a mechanic.

Ensure your tyres (Rubber) are in good condition ahead of your trip to prevent having problems further down the line. Check to see if they’re properly inflated, have the correct tyre tread (a minimum of 3mm is recommended ) and are in good condition.

All of those bold letters make the acronym POWER, an easy checklist you can follow to ensure your car will drive smoothly and safely. It’s important you get into the routine of carrying out these checks throughout the year, as they will help reduce breakdowns and expensive repair costs.

1. Get your car serviced at your local trusted independent garage

Whilst you can carry out the checks mentioned above yourself, it’s always best to put your car into the hands of experts, who will be able to detect problems at an early stage before they result in costly damage. Remember that by choosing an independent garage you’ll receive the same quality of service as you would at a main dealer, but at a more reasonable price.

Visit the Trust My Garage website to find your nearest independent member. Each Trust My Garage member has all the skills and technical expertise required to give your vehicle a thorough service. Members of Trust My Garage are true professionals, complying with a strictly code of practice. What more, all members of Trust My Garage are independent garages – local independent businesses which are part of the community. Trust My Garage is the truly independent scheme for independent garages.