The summer holidays can be a busy time for parents, and it’s when most families get to go on holiday. Google search data has shown searches for “family road trip tips” are up 100% year on year, as UK families keen for a summer break seek all the tips they can get!
Whether it’s in the UK or abroad, a trip in the car is often inevitable and when you have children, the seemingly simple process of a taking a drive can become a chore.
To help parents feel more prepared, The Edit by Silver Cross caught up with the brand’s head of Car Safety Hamish McPhillips, who shared his top tips for car journeys with children to ensure your holiday or even a day out goes as smoothly as possible.
1. Route planning. Check, check and check again!
There’s nothing worse than traffic jams when you have children in the car and searches for “free driving route planner” are up 300% compared to last year and “plan a drive google maps” up 200%, showing many are anxious to be prepared before setting out on a long trip this summer.
“With kids growing hungry, tired or fidgety, the car can quickly become a very stressful place to be!” says Hamish. “To avoid extending the journey more than it needs to be, I regularly check our route several days before we plan to travel using Google Maps or other online mapping software. It’s worth doing a final check just before you leave to avoid getting caught up in any recent traffic.”
2. Plan for the worst
Even if you do all the checking in the world, you can’t always prevent delays or breakdowns when travelling so “make sure you pack plenty of blankets to keep the little ones warm, spare clothes, snacks, drinks, nappies and toys to keep them entertained”, Hamish advises. “Make sure you have all the breakdown cover numbers in your phonebook including account numbers so you can make that call for assistance if needed.”
When travelling with children, timings are key. “I always aim to travel around the little ones’ naptime or bedtime, depending on the length of the journey”, says Hamish. “If arriving late to stay with friends or relatives, make them aware you’ll be arriving with sleepy children. Dimming the house lights on your arrival means you can get the children into bed without the stress of them waking up uncomfortable in their new environment.”
4. Pack the car correctly
To a degree, having a stress-free trip relies on you embracing the unpredictability and going with the flow. However, making sure you make a list of essential items can really help. “When possible, I pack the day before, loading the car carefully so all the bedtime essentials such as the travel cot, mattress, bedding and baby monitor are first to hand when arriving. Also, make sure all items you need along the journey such as snacks, water, dummies and favourite comforters are close to hand and reachable”, says Hamish.
5. Take regular breaks
“As yet, there is no published research confirming exactly how long you can keep a little one in a car seat for. However, health care professionals suggest a maximum of two hours for babies, getting them out of the seat in between to stretch and have a feed if needed”, Hamish says. “Ensure you make regular checks during the journey, particularly for newborns and babies younger than six months. A car seat mirror can be installed to help you keep an eye on them.”
6. Know Your Car Seat
Car seat safety is another important thing to remember when travelling by car with little ones. “If you’re switching car seats into a different vehicle before the journey, take an extra moment to check it’s secured correctly – the ISOFIX is latched, the support leg connected or the top tether secure (different fittings depend on the car seat model)” says Hamish. “Don’t put the child in the seat wearing thick jackets as this will limit the tightness of the harness due to the padding, making them less secure in the seat. Instead, use layers of blankets. Check you know how to recline the seat, as you may want to do this during the journey to maximise comfort as the little one is sleeping. Also, if the seat has been installed in the same car for a while, it is good practice just to check the fitting is OK – removing and refitting is a good way to ensure everything is correct and secure. When preparing for a journey with your child, you might also consider car seat accessories like camo covers. These covers can add a touch of style to your child’s car seat while providing protection and comfort. As you prioritize safety and comfort during travel, these accessories can be a practical and fashionable addition to your child’s car seat setup.
7. Secure an IDP
Roadtripping with the family is a great way to experience new places and cultures. However, things can quickly get out of hand when you’re traveling with kids. No matter how careful a driver you are, accidents can still happen. That is why you need to consider getting help from your personal injury attorney or car accident lawyer in case you get involved in an auto accident. And if you’re driving in another country, it’s easy to get in a pickle. To steer clear of such hassles, you must get a valid International Driving Permit (IDP).
An IDP is an official document that can help you get around other countries without worry. Even if you have a valid driving license from your home country, it may not be recognized by law enforcement officers in other countries. Besides serving as additional identification, an IDP will help you avoid serious consequences such as fines or jail time.