There are advantages in driving to your holiday destination, if the distance is realistic! No lengthy airport check-ins, no baggage restrictions, just you and the freedom of the open road. But before you head off, make sure your car is in tip-top condition for the big trip.
Give your car a health scan
A good place to start is your tyres. A few simple checks can minimise the risk of blowouts and flats. Your tread depth should be well within the 1.6 mm legal limit, preferably 3 mm. The wrong tyre pressure is another common cause of problems. If tyres are over- or under-inflated, you’re more likely to have a blowout. And don’t forget to make sure your spare is in good condition, too.
The next place to look is under the bonnet. Check the oil and all your vehicle’s fluid levels – brake fluid, radiator fluid and windscreen wiper fluid – and coolant levels.
The same goes for spark plugs, which need replacing at regular intervals. Also check the battery, one of the most common causes of breakdowns. Finally, are all your electrics – brake lights, indicators, headlamps and so forth – fully functioning?
In case you do breakdown or get a flat, always keep a basic toolkit in the boot (jump leads, car jack and wheel spanner, warning triangle, torch, fuel can, fire extinguisher, can of oil, bottle of water) and make sure you have breakdown cover.
Don’t forget to pack..
Deciding what to take on holiday is always a dilemma. There are, however, a few absolute must-haves to make for a safe journey: first-aid kit, blanket (one for each passenger), mobile phone and a few bottles of water to keep you hydrated in case you’re stranded where there aren’t any shops. Also, have all your documents with you ready for inspection, such as your car insurance certificate, driving license, log book and MOT certificate.
Don’t forget to check whether your car insurance policy covers you for overseas driving and do the same for any breakdown cover you may have. You’ll also need a GB sticker, unless you have a Euro-symbol on your number plate. It’s also an idea to check driving requirements of each country you’re travelling in. For instance, in Spain, Italy, Slovenia and Austria, it’s compulsory to carry spare bulbs in your car, should you need to replace any.
Chances are you’re heading to unfamiliar ground, which is why, in addition to a good navigator at your side, you’ll need an up-to-date map of the countries or region you’re travelling through.
Children are notoriously difficult to entertain on long car journeys but you can keep the boredom to a minimum by letting them bring their favourite toys and books, or even invest in a portable DVD or game console.
Another way to keep everyone’s spirits up is to make the car as comfy as possible. Give your passengers in the back pillows for snoozing, plenty of snacks and bottles of soft drinks and, if you’re travelling during the summer months and don’t have air conditioning, fit some sun shade filters on the window.