Going on a winter break? Maybe you desperately want to get away after the stress of Christmas and New Year. Or perhaps you want to celebrate the end of dry January in style by going away for a few days. Regardless of the reason, you are going away and you are going to take your car with you.
Like people, pets and work, cars also have to go through preparation before you travel. If you don’t prepare your car then you could end up in all sorts of trouble.
So in this article, we are going to go through our top travel tips, from travelling in the UK, travelling abroad to travelling with children and keeping calm in traffic.
OSV’s Top Travel Tips
Top tips for travelling in the UK
If you are taking a break in the UK then you will still have to prepare your car for the journey. Even if it doesn’t feel like you’re travelling too far, it will feel that way for your car. So here are some of our tips for travelling in the UK.
Make sure your car is prepared
Make sure that your car is in tip top shape before you set off and this will help prevent any problems on the journey or when you are driving around during your break. Here are some of the things that you should check;
- Your tyres:
- Check for cuts, bulges and gouges – if you spot any then you can take your car to a tyre fitter who will do a professional inspection
- Check the tread depth – they should be at least 1.6mm across the middle two thirds of the tyre around the circumference. However, many suggest at least 3mm.
- Check the pressure – you can do this using either a specialist gauge, a gauge on a foot pump or by using a tyre inflator at a petrol station
- Wait until your engine is cool and find the coolant reservoir (refer to your manual for this). There will be coloured fluid inside and the level should be in between the minimum and maximum marks. If it needs topping up then you can pop to your local dealer and get the right type of fluid. They will also check the quality of the coolant.
- Hopefully you won’t need to use your wipers but it’s the UK, so the chances are you will. Make sure you have enough washer fluid and make sure that the washer jets are directed at your windscreen and not over it. You can adjust these by putting a pin in the hole and moving them
- Check your wipers by pulling each wiper off the screen at a 90 degree angle. Check to see if they have split or if they smear water. If they do, you will need to replace them.
Plan your journey
With built in sat-navs and live traffic updates and our phones, planning your journey in advance seems a bit redundant now but that’s not the case.
Make sure you plan your journey ahead of time. Have a look at the different routes you could go and which way you would prefer. Sometimes the quickest isn’t the most interesting or the most fun, and it can be worth it to take a slightly longer route in favour of seeing the sights, enjoying the scenery or stopping off in the local town or village. We have some gorgeous countryside in the UK and we don’t often see it because we’re stuck on a motorway, so if you can then taking the time to go a different route could make your journey much more relaxing and enjoyable.
You should also double check for any potential traffic issues. Look for road works, road closures and anything that might slow your journey down. If you are driving through towns or villages then make sure you take into account their busy periods as well, such as the school run.
It’s also worth planning your service stops. Some service stations are nicer than others and have more facilities than others.
We also recommend printing off directions or alternative routes. Once upon a time, everyone had a big map in the glove compartment (my parents had a huge red book sitting in the back of the car) but this isn’t always the case nowadays. In the event of a total technology breakdown (the sat-nav going, no 4G or your phone battery dying) it’s always worth having a map. It could also double up as a fun geographical game for kids if you get really desperate.
Make sure you have the right documents to hand
It’s advisable to have things like your driving licence, insurance details and any breakdown cover documents in your car with you. Hopefully, you won’t need them, but it is always handy to have them just in case.
Also, if you are travelling with your partner and they aren’t insured on your car, then it’s always worth getting them insured on it even if you are the one who plans on doing all the driving. We advise you split the journey but if you don’t then it’s still a good idea to get a second driver insured on your car for the journey.
Top Tips for travelling abroad
If you are travelling abroad and taking your car then there are some extra things you should do to prepare.
Know the law
You should brush up on the road laws for the country you are visiting.
Take France, for example. It is a legal requirement for you to have a warning triangle, a reflective jacket, and a breathalyser in your car at all times. Speed camera detector technology is banned so you will have to check your sat-nav.
In Spain, you aren’t allowed to use your full beam in built-up areas. So there’s a range of different laws that you will have to be aware of before you travel.
Check your insurance
Make sure that you’re insured to drive in other countries and what sort of cover you will have when you are there. Third-party cover is often compulsory but if you might not want just third-party insurance and instead might want better cover. Talk to your insurer, they will be able to give you a range of options and you can work out which cover is best for you.
You will also want to check your breakdown cover. Make sure that it covers you if something happens abroad and find out what the procedure is if your car does breakdown. For example, will they collect your car? Will they provide a replacement?
Top Tips for travelling with children
We aren’t going to tell you how to parent, obviously. But going on a long car journey with your children can be very trying.
So here are some of our top tips for car journeys with children.
Plan and plan some more
There are many things to do before setting off on a long car journey with kids. For example, make sure you have a bag packed with the essentials that is within easy reach at all times. Here are some of the things you might want to have to hand:
- You can never have too many. Pack as many as you would if you were going to a festival.
- Food and drink
- Pack them a lunchbox with some of their favourite foods and drinks in. It should keep them entertained and also make sure that they don’t go hungry or thirsty should you get stuck in traffic. We advise avoiding sticky foods and drinks though.
- Runny noses aren’t ideal, and they definitely are not ideal in a car.
When planning your journey, plan for toilet breaks every so often. Children can’t hold it as long as adults and you don’t want to have to pull over on the side of the road if they get desperate. Therefore, make sure you plan your route to take into account toilet breaks.
Provide as much entertainment as possible
Make sure you have a few of their favourite TV shows downloaded on an iPad or tablet before you leave as you won’t be able to stream when you’re on the road. Make sure that you have the chargers for said tablets to hand. There’s nothing worse than the tablet running out of battery and the charger being at the bottom of the suitcase in the boot of the car.
We also recommend making sure they have other analogue things to keep them entertained. Books, magazines, travel games are all good ideas to keep the kids entertained if they don’t want to play on their tablets or said tablets are charging in the front of the car.
There are plenty of games you can play as a family as well. There are games such as I Spy, Twenty Questions or, my personal favourite, the car colour game. The car colour game is best for motorway driving instead of when you are stuck in traffic. Each of you chooses a car colour and you keep count of how many cars of that colour you see. It keeps them distracted and is a great way of getting your kids to focus on the outside world rather than on their screens.
Kids can get irritable and they can argue and they can sometimes get a little bit irritating themselves. However, the key is to keep calm. Don’t lose your temper otherwise it will start the holiday off to a bad start. Try and resolve any arguments before they begin and pull over if you have to.
Enjoy your time together, there is very little chance for people to spend a lot of time together these days and if your kids are slightly older then sometimes the only way you can spend time with them is to keep them in a moving vehicle for an extended period of time with no escape!
How to stay calm in traffic
Traffic jams can seem inevitable and there is a chance that you will get stuck in traffic. Getting stuck can be frustrating and can ruin your whole journey. However, there are things that you can do to keep calm:
- Stock up on your favourite albums and audiobooks
- Find things to distract you and that includes listening to your favourite albums, podcasts and even audiobooks. This will take your mind off the fact that you are stuck in traffic.
- Keep a stress buster in your car
- Keep a stress ball or similar in your car with you. This will help relieve frustration and will also prevent your hands from getting stiff and tense.
- Keep an emergency traffic kit
- This could include a phone charger, some CD’s, a book of games for your kids and even some non-perishable foods to keep yourself happy when you are in traffic.
So those are some of the things that you can do to stay calm in traffic.
Hopefully this has given you an idea of how to prepare your car for travelling in the UK, abroad and with children. The key is to prepare. Plan for every eventuality and then you will not run into any nasty surprises and potentially ruin your journey. Keep everything you need in the car with you at all times, save for having something vital stuck in the boot. Make sure you have plenty of water, food and some of your favourite things with you to hand. If you have kids in the car, then make sure you have a few games ready to play in your head to keep them occupied and plan for more toilet breaks than if you were on your own. Treat the journey as part of your holiday, enjoy the time you have with your family and appreciate the views you are driving past.
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