Summer holidays: How to stay safe on the road when you are driving with kids
The summer holidays are only a few weeks away. Of course, with COVID-19 still on the loose, travelling abroad may again be disrupted thanks to the short sightedness of our airline industry. Yet summer, despite its erratic mood swings, makes us want to spread our wings again, and our desire to leave home has never been stronger. If you are worried about flight cancellations, why not take the train, or, even better, drive to your holiday destination?
Whilst some single parents may consider driving on holiday solo stressful, others love the benefits of a road trip with kids in the UK or in Europe. Driving to your holiday destination is often cheaper – even when you factor in high fuel charges and ferry or Eurotunnel costs – and a lot less hassle than navigating a busy airport with several kids and luggage in tow all on your own. It also gives you a huge amount of flexibility, as you are able to stop on the way and go on day trips without the need to hire a car or taking an expensive taxi. Naturally, a little preparation goes a long way to ensure your family’s safety, so here are our top tips for how to stay safe if you are planning to drive on your next single parent holiday:
1. Plan your route
Planning your car journey in today’s digital world can be as simple as using your satnav, downloading a route planner app or connecting to Google Maps. Make sure to put some time aside to familiarise yourself with any new app, as you want to avoid fiddling around with the screen whilst driving!
Remember to check that you get up to date traffic and weather information and have paid any subscription you require for your satnav or app. Also beware that some satnavs have the tendency to take you down winding, single file country lanes. So, look at your satnav’s setting and cross check with a route planner map before you set off blindly following your satnav. It might also be worth chatting to friends who have driven to the same destination route before for some insider tips on which route to take.
2. Pack wisely
If you are planning to travel by car, give some thought to how you will fit your luggage inside the vehicle. It’s tempting to take more than you need when you have kids, and when you don’t have to lug your suitcase around the airport or train station. A great solution is a sturdy roof rack. If you drive a land rover its Discovery 4 accessories will come in handy. This will ensure the weight of your luggage is evenly distributed and you won’t need to worry about excess luggage blocking your view. Roof racks can also be used to carry bikes much more safely than strapped to the back of the car.
When it comes to packing, don’t forget to include a first aid kit, roadside assistance kits, food and water especially if you are driving through rural areas that you are not familiar with.
3. Tell a friend
Once you have planned your route, inform a trusted acquaintance or family member of your destination and expected arrival time each day. This will put their minds at rest and ensure that in the unlikely event that you break down somewhere rural without a mobile phone signal, help will be on its way. If you are planning to visit a particularly rural region, consider taking a GPS transmitter. This could even be programmed to send pre-written texts at a click of a button.
4. Get your car serviced
If you are unsure about the condition of your car as you don’t usually travel long distances, invest in a service. The older your car, the more likely that you will run into problems driving long-distance. Chances are your car might just need an oil change, or a new pair of windscreen wipers. But if it’s new brake pads or tyres that are needed, you will definitely feel glad to have taken it to the garage. Either way, you will feel safer driving on holiday knowing that you have done everything you can to help prevent a breakdown.
Of course, should the latter happen, you are best off having roadside breakdown cover – even if it’s just for a flat tyre. It also doesn’t hurt to learn some car basics before you travel such as changing a tyre, checking oil or radiator levels and adding more oil/fluid, or even just adding screen water.
5. Keep your vehicle clean and tidy
A road trip may seem like a perfect way to keep yourself and your kids safe from catching bugs and viruses, but if your vehicle isn’t kept clean, it could quickly become a germ-infested space. Keep upholstery wipes in your glove box, so you can quickly and easily wipe spills, food stains, and accumulated dust or grime off your car seats. Alcohol-based sanitising wipes will also be useful to clean door handles, the steering wheel, and of course sticky little fingers.
Get your kids and other passengers to wipe dirt and mud off their boots or ask them to change into clean shoes before getting in the car. Car mats can become unhygienic quickly as you and the kids will frequently get in and out of your car. Even just shaking dirt off your car mats from time to time will help to keep the interior of your car clean. Consider investing in a car bin and car organisers. When you travel a fair distance, these will go a long way in keeping your car tidy and germ free.
Another part of your car you should pay special attention to is the air conditioning system. Vents and ducts can be a breeding ground for germs and should be cleaned regularly as car passengers will be exposed to viruses, fungi, and bacteria through the circulated air. You can do this yourself or ask a professional when you have your car serviced.
6. Ensure you are well rested
When you are the sole person driving, you will have to ensure you are well rested. Try to have approx. 8 hours sleep before you set off. You also need to factor in time for regular breaks. Studies have proven that tired drivers are less alert and have shown a delayed reaction and impaired judgement similar to that of a person under the influence of alcohol. So, if you are tired, have a break and an energy boosting drink or food to improve your focus. Planning ahead and booking an overnight stay en route to your holiday destination is always a wise choice.
7. Check the weather forecast
If adverse or extreme weather, is forecast, it’s probably worth setting off later than planned or making a small change to your route. High winds and heavy rainfall increase the probability of an accident multifold. We often underestimate the weather in the UK, but Scotland and many coastal areas do experience high winds even in summer. Naturally, the same can be said about many other European countries, so do your research and check the forecast for the places you are planning to travel to and through.
8. Keep documents safe
Make sure you lock any important documents away. You can use a metal cash box or a small lockable travel box and place it in the glove compartment of your car, so that you always have any important documents on hand during your journey.
Don’t forget to take photos of the things you might need in an emergency, such as any medication, your credit card, or your passport. Take a backup credit card and keep it in a separate place and leave unnecessary documents and valuable items at home.
Even though it’s a good idea to carry a little cash with you, most businesses take card payment nowadays. Just carry a small amount for things like public toilets, car parking, and ice creams.
9. Take entertainment for the road
Whether you are going on holiday with teenagers or toddlers, kids need to be entertained during the journey, otherwise they will distract the driver. You don’t want to be reaching into the back of the car or fiddling with the CD player whilst driving, thus endangering not only your own family but also other drivers. Get a backseat organiser and lap trays with different activities for your youngest and audiobooks and headphones for your older children. Think of toys that take up little space but give maximum enjoyment, such as a deck of cards, a book, or a DVD player, which will keep all ages entertained and will come in handy at your holiday destination, too.
Driving to your holiday destination can be a real adventure especially if you travel through more than one country. It can be a fascinating and rewarding experience that will leave you with a sense of achievement. Needless to say, preparation goes a long way to ensuring your family’s safety en route and preempting unnecessary surprises. We hope our post has helped you prepare for any challenges that driving on holiday as a single parent might bring.