The summer holidays are finally here!
For most, this means an extra 10 minutes in bed, reassured by the fact that there will be far fewer cars on the road during the morning commute to work.
For others, however, it means six weeks of quality time with the munchkins.
The summer break is the perfect way to escape the mundane routine of school runs and smelly PE kits, with many opting for some sort of summer getaway.
Jetting abroad can be costly and hectic, so more and more Brits are opting for UK breaks in sites such as Devon, Cornwall, and the Lake District. For the more venturous, willing to drive the engine further afield, ferrying into mainland Europe is also a favoured alternative to flying.
Of course, both of these options means long road trips are in store, which, for parents, can equate to a long, sore headache.
With RoSPA reporting that 21.5% of drivers are distracted by babies or children while on the road, here’s how to keep sane during your lengthy journeys with the kids.
TRAVEL AT NIGHT
Simply put, the best way to keep the children from whining and throwing tantrums during your journey is by making sure they’re asleep the whole way. Most children have a set routine during term time which means that, despite having no school to wake up for, they’ll be used to drifting off at a certain time. This is the perfect opportunity to set out on your travels as, not only will their state of slumber allow for a more peaceful journey for you, but during the evenings, the roads are far more likely to be quiet.
If this is not an option, then there are always ways to encourage your nippers to kip outside of their usual bedtime. How about tiring them out before the journey? Taking a long walk, keeping them up late the night before, and getting them to dance to their favourite songs are all ways to burn the energy they’d otherwise use to occupy their boredom during your travels. Lavender will also aid this. Stocking up on lavender oils and scents, and dropping a few squirts onto their seat will have them relaxed and soothed in no time.
KEEP THEM OCCUPIED
It’s no secret that children tend to get very bored very quickly. On a long car ride, it won’t take long before they’re fidgeting and fussing out of restlessness. Fortunately, there are plenty of activities to keep your children occupied, even during the longest of journeys. What’s more, you can get involved in the fun too! Here are some of our favourite options:
- Bringing along their favourite toys
- Arming them with activity packs, colouring books and word-searches
- Playing verbal games as a family, including I-spy, How many lorries and I went to the market…
- Map spotting: Get them to track where about you are on a map, this way you won’t have to hear the shriek of ‘Are we there yet!?’
- Carrying their favourite books and perhaps encouraging them to role play their favourite characters
REWARD GOOD BEHAVIOUR
Every child likes prizes. In fact, everybody likes prizes. The great thing with children is that the rewards need not be extravagant giveaways. Sweets and treats are great ways to encourage good behaviour. In moderation, though, to avoid a catalyst to hyperactivity.
The key thing is to let your children know the behaviour that is expected of them during the trip. Try writing out a checklist of fun car rules, showing the type of behaviour mummy and daddy expect on the journey. These don’t have to be strict or formal – in fact, children will be far more likely to abide by rules if they’re presented in a fun and humorous way, especially knowing they could receive a treat for being good boys and girls.
Taking breaks is essential during a long journey. Not only will it allow you to take in some of the great views along the way – but it’ll also stop the fidgeting and complaints of a numb bum.
Children tend to get hungrier easier, and will put all their efforts into making it known! Breaks are the perfect opportunity to make sure they’re fed and hydrated as eating in the car is best avoided; not only could this end up being really messy, but potentially hazardous too! Should the car jolt or brake suddenly, children could end up choking on food; while strapped up in seat belts, it is much more difficult to come to their aid. Instead, it is safer, and much more fun to take a picnic stop.
Service stations can be relatively expensive, so why not get the kids involved by setting up some picnic nibbles beforehand?
Thanks to tablets and portable DVD players, children can now carry their favourite films and programmes with them wherever they go. Most systems also allow users to download and install games, apps and audiobooks too, which should just about keep the little ones occupied for hours.
This option does require some preparation beforehand though. Unless you are fortunate enough to have a system with internet data, most tablets will require some sort of internet connection. To avoid disappointment, pre-download any apps and games at home before setting off on your journey. Also be sure to check the tablet is fully charged before leaving, to avoid batteries running out too soon into your journey.
Nursery rhymes and cheesy pop may not be the ideal playlist for mums and dads, but the children will certainly enjoy them. Who can really complain when a singalong to The wheels on the bus is saving you from the shrieks and screams of restlessness?
Get all the family in on the action, and make it a real musical treat. Children love to be involved, and seeing mummy and daddy enjoying a bit of a warble will provide them with great amusement.
CARRY WET WIPES AND TISSUES
Children can be messy. While on the roads, it won’t be possible to tidy up after them, even when you do get the twitch to do so.
Keeping wet wipes and tissues at hand will provide a quick fix for sticky hands and spills as the kids should be able to tidy up themselves. This will help to protect your interiors from permanent stains of spills and leaks.
PLAN YOUR JOURNEY
Car journeys can be stressful in any case, but not knowing where you’re going can be even more traumatic. On a long trip, getting lost will only make both you and the children irritable. Although most car owners have shunned the road map, and put all their trust into the Sat Nav, it is important to familiarise yourself with the route beforehand – just in case!
Sometimes Sat Navs can be a little bit untrustworthy, especially where new roads are concerned. Doing your research beforehand can prepare you for any diversions or changes to your trip.
It may also be beneficial to carry a road map in your glove compartment to prepare you for any electronic or technical issues with your navigation device.
Don’t make your journey any longer than it needs to be.
There are plenty more hints and tips for driving with children, click for Part Two of our article!
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.
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.