If you’re shunning air, sea and train as a way to hitting to the Continent this summer, and are taking the car instead, here are some important tips. Adequate preparation is vital in making sure your epic drive stays on track, and can help you avoid pricey repairs or road fines due to ignorance of local laws. So if you’re ready to head off, it’s seatbelts on, check your mirrors and away we go…
1. Safety first
Before hitting the road, you need to carry out common-sense safety checks on the vehicle. Check easily overlooked things like doors, mirrors and seatbelts, as well as brakes, tyres, lights, and petrol, water and oil levels. Consider getting a garage to do this for you, for extra peace of mind. Ensure your car insurance will cover the trip, don’t forget your breakdown details, and remember to pack essential kit such as a torch, reflective triangle sign, high-visibility jacket, jump leads and a first aid kit.
2. Get packing
So you don’t forget anything, pack the car the night before travel to avoid any last minute rush. Spread the load evenly and avoid too many loose items which could hit someone in the event of breaking sharply. Pack plenty of drinks and easy snacks, wet wipes for spillages, bags for rubbish, CDs, and plenty of games to keep kids from getting bored.
3. Plan your route
Make sure you know exactly how to get to where you’re going before you start your journey. You can do this the old fashioned way by using a map, you can get directions from an online route planner (the AA and RAC have these), or use a SatNav that’s loaded with up-to-date European roads (though the mechanical voice will drive you mad by the time you reach the British coast, let alone continental Europe).
You also need to plan the timing of your drive. Avoid rush hours whenever possible as the last thing you want on an extremely long drive with your family is extra stress.
4. Take regular breaks
Tiredness can dangerously affect your concentration, so avoid driver fatigue by taking 15 minute breaks every two hours. Never drive all day – share driving duties if at all possible – and if you feel sleepy, pull over at the nearest safe place and get some sleep.
Don’t underestimate how hard it is for children to be cooped up in the back for long periods; plan ahead and check for parks and playgrounds along the way.
If you’re aiming to be at a particular destination, such as a campsite or ferry port, at a particular time, plan meal and toilet breaks into your journey. Also, factor in some extra time in case you hit traffic jams or roadworks.