Updated: Jun 16
I have always been that mum with the ‘have car, will travel’ mentality, and once I found the joy in driving overseas, Europe got that little bit closer. The more I did it with the children, the more confident I got, and whilst Ben doesn’t have the same amount of holiday as me, I soon found myself taking the children on road trips to Center Parcs in Holland with my mum as an extra pair of hands.
The kids have got really good at car journeys and last year on a camping trip I actually was taken by surprise at how long the kids could go for before we had to stop. But the comfort of the journey is only one small part in getting you to your location stress-free and safely, giving your car the once over is really the critical bit.
Start with the car seat, the thing that is going to keep your little darling safe on your travels. It’s important not only that the car seat is the right size for the child, but it is fitted correctly. We can get into the habit really quickly of not checking once it is in place. Just once in a while check it is. If you think you are due a new car seat for your child Halfords offers the best advice on which one is best for you: https://www.halfords.com/baby-and-child/buying-guides/car-seats-buyers-guide.html.
So, it’s now about your car and running some checks to ensure that it’s safe, and that you are confident that you will get from A to B with no hiccups!
Lights…. Get someone to give you a hand with this, by standing behind the car and going through all the lights. Start with brake lights, both indicators, hazards and fog lamps. Pop it in reverse and just check the lights come on. And, whatever you do, keep the handbrake on to avoid running over your mates that have helped you out!
Have a good look at all the tires on the car, including the spare. When you’re looking at the tread you need to be looking for any soft or bald patches and that the tread is above 1.6mm. To do this you can invest in a depth gauge which shouldn’t cost you more than £3. Then take it for a quick drive somewhere safe where you can do some gentle braking. Listen for any noise that might need looking into further. Whilst you’re out take it to the petrol station and check the pressure on all the tires, including the spare. If you don’t know what the pressure should be, check in the owner’s manual or have a look online.
Next up is under the bonnet! If you’re not comfortable with what you are looking at or touching, nip it down to a local garage or your dealership and get them to check for you. You’re going to check two things at a minimum.
1) The washer fluid: Even if it is the middle of summer make sure you are topped up, as even sea salt will reduce visibility.
2) The oil: Take the dip stick out, give it a wipe, pop it back in and see where the level is.
If you are an electric car owner, have a quick check that your cables are in good condition, and you have the right converters if you are travelling overseas.
So, now you know you are going to get there safely, it's time to look at what you can do to make that journey just that little bit more enjoyable. As a Mum and a long-distance driver, I favour doing the bulk of any car trip with the kids asleep. It's just easier for me. However, if your children are tricky passengers don’t feel bad about using a screen in the car but make sure it is at eye level to avoid car sickness.
Car sickness can strike at any time for kids! My son had been a prolific puker most of his life so we learnt to balance what he was eating before getting in the car, or to travel on an empty belly. But, whilst we had all the attention on him, my daughter projectile vomited down the back of my chair! We now keep a bag between them in the middle of the car just to be safe.
A car tidy of some sort is good value and very useful. When they get a little bit older they can choose what they want to put in, and most of them mount the screen in the correct position.
Do make regular stops if you can, whether these are planned or unplanned. If you are driving across Europe some of the service stations are brilliant and great for an unplanned stop.