Lifestyle

Hit the road!

Planning a family road trip this summer? We asked the experts how parents can help to keep their kids safe and happy in the back of the car.

Published

Mark Barclay from My Motor World shares his tips for a safe and hassle-free journey.

With the brighter days finally here and the school holidays not far away, many families are keen to get out on the road and start exploring our favourite places again. There’s a lot you can do to help make those family trips safe and fun for everyone.

Check your vehicle before you go

Before any longer road trip, you'll want to carry out some basic checks on your vehicle. You don't want to break down in the middle of the motorway — especially with little ones in tow! For peace of mind do a few maintenance checks a couple of weeks before your trip. This gives you time to get anything fixed if needed.

  • Inspect the outside of the vehicle, especially your tyre pressure and tread depth.
  • Make sure all your lights are in full working order and your windshield wipers are in good condition, too.
  • Look under the hood to check your oil, coolant, and brake fluid levels, topping them up if necessary.
  • Don't forget to check the air conditioning is also working as it should, so you can ensure you and your family can stay cool in balmy summer weather.

Make sure your child is comfy and safe

All children must be in the right size car seat for their height, so it's worth double-checking this ahead of time in case your little one has gone through a growth spurt.

In a well-fitting and correctly installed car seat, the harness should be secure but not too tight or too loose. You shouldn't be able to fit more than two fingers between the harness and your child's chest. The shoulder pads should also sit level to your child's shoulders. If your child is too tall or too old for a car seat, the seat belt must sit across their lap and over their chest and shoulder.

Take regular breaks

You may be keen to get to your destination as soon as possible, but do schedule regular breaks to keep everyone feeling comfortable. When driving long distances, you should take a break of at least 15 minutes every two hours. This will give the whole family time to stretch their legs and let the kids blow off some steam. It can be helpful to plan your breaks before you go so you can be sure there's a good rest spot when you need it. You may also want to share the driving with your partner.

You can also hide a few toys until later in the journey, ready to give to children after a rest break.

Pack water and snacks

No matter how long your journey, packing water and snacks should be high up on your list, as it will keep you all comfortable until your next rest stop. While you're on a road trip, you'll often find yourself eating to pass the time, so be sure to pack healthy snacks like vegetable sticks and fruit. The same goes for drinks. Reusable bottles filled with water or squash will keep everyone hydrated, but avoid fizzy and high-sugar drinks when you're all confined to the car. Nobody wants to deal with a kiddy sugar rush while on the move!

Taking a packed lunch for everyone can also help keep a car trip hassle-free. Instead of finding a restaurant for everyone to eat at, you can park up at a rest stop and find a picnic bench. You could even do a short detour to a local park or beach.

Don't forget to pack other emergency items, such as a first aid kit, antibacterial wipes, and sick bags. You can never be too prepared!

Keep little ones busy

Keeping children entertained can help the trip go more smoothly and avoid a barrage of ‘are we there yet?’ from the back seat. Providing a range of different activities to do over the course of the trip is the best way to keep the kids engaged and upbeat. So, along with chatting, playing games, and singing your favourite road trip songs, take along a couple of individual activities, such as activity books and toys. You can also hide a few toys until later in the journey, ready to give to children after a rest break.

Letting your children decide what they do next can be an activity in itself. If they feel like they're involved in the driving it can help to make them more co-operative while en route. You could even give older kids a basic map and let them help you ‘navigate ‘— just be sure you already know where you're going first!

Visit www.mymotorworld.com

Online car marketplace cinch have some advice on how to ensure children learn ‘safe behaviour’ when driving in the family car.

Buckle up!

It’s crucial to teach your kids about the importance of being strapped in, no matter how fast or slow you’re going. Buckling up can protect your little ones from sudden stops or crashes. In the event of a collision, passengers who aren’t strapped in are more likely to suffer injuries – if not worse. Insisting that seat belts are required at all times should always be at the top of your car-safety list.

Babies must sit rear-facing until they are at least 15 months old. Once children reach the age of 12 or 135cm tall, and no longer need a car seat, they should be wearing a seat belt. As a driver, you will be held responsible and could be fined £500 for failing to comply, however short your journey. One of the best ways to get the message across is by setting the example. Make sure to buckle up as soon as you get in your car so that it becomes part of the routine for everyone.

Ride at the back

Kids aged 12 or younger should sit in the back seat, simply because it’s the safest place to be in a car. Should you be involved in a crash, the airbags that blow up in the front could harm your little ones. Front seat airbags are designed to protect a bigger person’s body and could pose a risk to younger passengers.

The bones and muscles of under-12s are still developing, and their head tends to be larger in proportion to the rest of the body. This means that even in a gentle collision, children find it harder to keep an upright position and may come face-to-face with the airbag as it expands.

If your child is eager to take the front seat like an adult, remind them that all VIPs travel in the back. They’ll have plenty of opportunities to go up front when they get older.

...with the rise of hybrid estate cars and EVs, vehicles are becoming quieter and can be difficult to detect when they pass by. Remind children that they mustn’t rely on their hearing to know if a car is approaching.

Set rules for playing in the car

Play encourages kids to think creatively, interact socially and improve their motor skills. But there’s a time and place for everything, and cars aren’t the right environment for loud or physical games. When on the move, excessive noise in the back can distract drivers, meaning they could lose focus on the road and traffic ahead.

As well as explaining why it’s important to keep calm in the car, teach your kids some fun pastimes to keep them entertained en-route such as I Spy. If they’re too small to know the alphabet, get them to try the colour version and take it in turns to spot red cars or green traffic lights. For older children, listening to music, a podcast or a story with their headphones could also do the trick.

Don’t leave the car without permission

After a family meal, can your kids leave the table without asking? Probably not. Likewise, children should never be allowed to exit the car without your permission.

Make sure they understand that opening car doors and bouncing out of the vehicle can be dangerous, especially in car parks and areas of high traffic. This is particularly true with the rise of hybrid estate cars and EVs, as vehicles are becoming quieter and can be difficult to detect when they pass by.

Remind children that they mustn’t rely on their hearing to know if a car is approaching. Instead, they should look around and, once you’ve given them the go-ahead, they can carefully jump out .

Visit www.cinch.co.uk

Packing a car for a road trip can be daunting. One of the biggest struggles is not being able to close your boot because you’ve packed too much. Online car marketplace cinch have come up with tips and tricks to make the most of your car boot space.

Plan ahead

First things first! Check the shape and size of your car’s boot. Vehicles have varying boot sizes based on the brand and model.

For example, the boot of an Audi Q3 offers an ample 530 litres, whereas smaller cars may be less generous. But with careful planning, even the more compact vehicles can hold a surprising amount of holiday essentials.

With the right measurements at hand, you can jot down a list of things you need and cross out any items that won’t be of use on your trip.

Don’t go overboard!

Sam Sheehan, motoring editor at cinch, explains that overpacking your car can have a few downsides.

‘Overloading your vehicle can be costly, in more ways than one. First and foremost, it can have a negative impact on how you handle and manoeuvre your car, making it more difficult to steer and maintain speed.

‘Extra weight can also increase your stopping distance, meaning your car will take longer to slow down if you need to avoid an obstacle on the road.

“Finally, overpacking could get you in trouble with the law. If your car is overloaded past its weight limit, you could be fined up to £300 and hit with three penalty points. So don’t forget to read your vehicle’s manual to see its weight limit and avoid expensive surprises en-route!’

Keep essentials within reach

As you prepare to hit the road, think about what you’ll need along the way.

If you’re off on an activity-packed getaway, such as a weekend of camping, it’s unlikely you’ll need your tent before you get to your destination. Low-priority items during your drive, such as sports equipment, duvets and food items such a teabags for when you are at your destination can be tucked at the bottom of the boot.

Essentials such as medicines and a change of clothes should be at the top of the pile, where they’re easy to grab.

Bring some food with you that is both easy to store and kept within reach. Meal prices at service areas can be difficult to swallow, so packing some treats to snack on the way will work wonders for your mood and finances.

why not swap rigid suitcases for soft sports bags? The benefit is that you can squeeze them into tighter spaces, including spare footwells.

Opt for soft bags

Rigid suitcases are great for storing and protecting your possessions in the hold of a plane. However, they can be awkward to fit easily inside a boot.

So, why not swap them for soft sports bags? The benefit is that you can squeeze them into tighter spaces, including spare footwells. But whether you use standard suitcases or soft bags, remember to put your bigger and heavier luggage in first.

Pack wisely

As you do your packing, consider rolling your clothes rather than folding them. This way, you’ll be able to maximise how much you can slide into each bag.

Not only will this give you more space to play with, but it’ll also help keep the centre of gravity lower, meaning you’ll have better control of your vehicle. Push your weightier bags against the rear seats, so that you can stack the lighter and smaller items on top. And do avoid packing items above headrest level. As well as limiting visibility, objects could fly forward and hit the passengers should you need to brake sharply.

Visit www.cinch.co.uk

VINTAGE VOLKSWAGEN

If you think classic cars and kids don’t mix –think again! Inspired by the Vintage VW Camper Van, the special addition Wonderfold VW Wagon is packed-full of iconic VW features. It’s perfect for carrying kids and luggage on the go, at festivals, at the beach or just cruising around your crib. Classic retro features include: VW bumper, functioning headlights, retro all-terrain wheels and a choice of classic green and blue colours. Plus, it’s packed with all the features you’d expect to keep kids safe and comfy: removeable raised seats; 5-point safety harnesses; removeable, adjustable canopy; one foot break; ample storage and foldaway. At £1,999 it doesn’t come cheap, but it’s guaranteed to bring an extra dimension of summer fun for all the family.

Visit www.WonderFoldwagon.co.uk

Lifestyle

Great British getaways

It’s January, and time to start dreaming of the months ahead when we can enjoy getting out…

Learning

Memories are made of this

A time capsule is a priceless addition to any family home and a great way to bond as a fam…

Learning

The time is right

Learning to tell the time is a key skill for every child. But when should they get their f…