Planning on taking a long and leisurely trip these school holidays? Almost every school holiday we head off somewhere in the car for a road trip to another as yet unexplored part of the country or to a familiar family destination.
But there’s more to road trips than just piling everyone into the car and hitting the road…
Driving for long periods of time can be taxing on you, your car and your mobile devices that keep you entertained and safe, so I’ve put together some simple tips to make your journey worry-free.
Top 10 Road Trip Tips for the whole family!
1. Get your car checked
Make sure you book your car in with your mechanic or dealership a week or two before your road trip to get it serviced. Also remember to check your tyres for wear and have your wheels balanced. When you get onto the road swing past the petrol station to fill up and double check that all your tyres (including your spare) are at the correct pressure for the load you are carrying.
2. Pack a repair kit or join a roadside assistance club
Even though you might not be a handy mechanic, they guy that stops to help you on the highway when your car breaks down might be. Essential tools to pack would be screwdrivers, vice grips, bailing wire and a roll of duct tape. If you tend to road trip a few times a year and haven’t registered for an emergency motor service, you might want to sign up for the AA or a similar service.
3. Stick to the safety guidelines
The maximum recommended driving time for a day is 11 hours after an early start. Stick to the speed limit even if those around you aren’t following the rules! Despite its obvious dangers, speeding also increases wind resistance which will put more strain on your car’s engine. Keep one eye on the road and the other on your gauges (warning lights), for any signs of malfunction. And don’t use your phone to phone or text while driving! Invest in a hands free kit or ask your co-pilot to assist. Your life and those of your passengers is not worth risking!
4. Alternate drivers
It’s recommend that the maximum length of time behind the wheel for each driver is 2 hours, so if you’re driving with another adult driver, plan ahead what times you will swop over driving duties and stick to it. The driver might insist that they are fine later on but tiredness can creep up on you slowly and it’s really important to take rests.
5. Stop periodically
Taking a break every few hours for the driver, and passengers, to stretch their legs is also recommended. Obviously nature seems to call at the most inopportune times (usually when you’re hundred’s of km’s from the nearest rest room), so it’s important to remind everyone to visit the rest room and take a little walk to get the blood circulating again. Plus a small play on the petrol stations jumping castle or jungle gym might be just what you need to reset the atmosphere in the car among the younger passengers.
6. Pack individual snack packs and plenty of entertainment options for everyone!
The main task of the co-pilot on board in any road trip (usually me!) is to ensure that everyone remains at peace for the duration of the trip. There’s nothing more distracting for a driver than fighting, whining children in the back seat of the car! So to make this a more pleasant experience for everyone involved ensure that you have packed snacks to ward off crankiness and entertainment options to keep everyone out of each other’s hair. My best solution so far? Individual snacks packs and entertainment boxes packed with crayons, colouring-in stuff, puzzles, small games, jokes etc. (I was sent 2 a few months back but for the life of me can’t find the details online! If you know of a good one please mail me!) And of course, an electronic device per child never harmed anyone (I’m a firm believer than screen hours don’t count during long car trips if it keeps everyone quiet!) This is the one time you can be very grateful for the incredibly advances of technology! Download a few movie options from Netflix and a few new games onto the iPad for continued peace. Another essential? Headphones! You don’t want to be listening to stereo of Peppa Pig and Justin Bieber at the same time. A set of headphones for every member of the family is a really useful investment. But don’t let the kids spend ALL their times tucked into their headphones. Download a fun audio book to listen to together (We all love Roald Dahl) or teach them a car game from your own childhood road trips!
Check out this list if you’re looking for more screen free entertainment options for your kids while on a long road trip
7. Pack charging cables and a powerbank
To ensure the above quiet continues throughout the journey these are essential items… but also because your phone is one of your most important tools for emergencies on the road. Preferably pack a power bank which can handle multiple devices or multiple chargers per device at the same time and one which you can charge through your cigarette lighter using a car charger. You never want to run out of battery power on your cell phone when you’re having car trouble miles from your destination.
8. Make things comfortable
Recline the seats as much as possible. Put up sun shields to block out the sun so no one overheats or burns. Pack more water, wet wipes and plastic bags than you think you could possibly need and keep them handy so you can access them quickly! Pack pillows for the passengers to use when they need to snooze (travel neck pillows are a win). And if the kids do fall asleep… just keep driving!!! Don’t you dare stop and wake a sleeping child on a road trip! If you’re travelling with a child in a car seat be sure to read this guide on how to travel with car seats.
9. Ensure everyone is secure
Make sure that every child had a secure, comfortable car seat that is properly installed. It’s NB to ensure that all passengers remain BUCKLED UP throughout the journey! They will moan about the straps making them feel restricted but it’s far more important that they are strapped in than anything else! Never let your kids jump around the car. If you’re traveling with animals make sure that they too are secure and look into installing a car net across the back of the boot.
10. Have a list of Emergency Phone Numbers handy
Some handy numbers to save on your phone include:
• ER24 – 084 124
• Police – 10111
• Fire – 10111
• Ambulance – 10117
• Arrive Alive Call Centre – 0861 400 800
• Netcare 911 – 082 911
• National Tourism Information and Safety Line – 083 123 2345.
If you are calling from a mobile you can also get emergency services in South Africa by dialing 112.
Love road trips? Be sure to use this road trip packing list to plan your packing perfectly.
Check out this list of epic road trips around the world – one for every month of the year!
What are your top tips for a family road trip? Please let me know in the comments below…
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Images: Pexels & Pixabay