Summer holiday travel tips: how to prepare your car and yourself for a long journey

Essential pre-trip checks and advice to help your holiday go without a hitch

Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 8:57 am

Millions of families are expected to take to the roads in coming days as English and Welsh schools break up for the summer, joining the Scottish and Northern Irish pupils already on holiday.

The RAC is predicting “unprecedented” level of traffic over the summer as millions of people opt to holiday in the UK rather than overseas, with the West Country, Scotland and Wales set to see the most visitors.

Whether it’s a trip to the coast or countryside such journeys put additional demand on our cars and ourselves so it’s important to make sure your car is in good condition before setting off and that you’re equipped to deal with the stresses of long journeys.

Proper preparation can reduced stress on the road

Here are some simple checks you can carry out on your car plus some advice on keeping your cool on the road.

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Tyres

As the only point of contact between your car and the road your tyres are vital to your safety and a few quick checks will make sure they’re roadworthy. Check the pressures, remembering to adjust them to match the car’s load, and examine the tread depth - the legal minimum is 1.6mm across the central three quarters of the tyre. Also look out for any cracks, splits or bulges in the tyre. These can lead to catastrophic failure on the move, especially when the temperatures are high, so have any signs of damage assessed by a professional.

Tyre checks only take a couple of minutes but are vitally important

Fluids

Thousands of breakdowns every year could be avoided with a few quick under-bonnet checks so before you head off make sure all your fluids are topped up. It’s quick and easy to check your oil, coolant, brake and washer fluid levels and it could save you from delays and an embarrassing call to the recovery service.

Lights

You might not need your headlights in the height of summer but faulty lights are a common MOT failure and can get you in trouble with the police so check everything before you go. Make sure you check the operation of headlights, tail and brake lights, reversing lights, indicators and fog lights. At the same time, check the condition of your windscreen wipers to make sure they aren’t worn or damaged and clear the screen properly.

Keeping young passengers happy can sometimes be a challenge

Fuel

You might think it’s an obvious thing but data from Highways England shows that in 2019 6,000 motorway breakdowns were blamed on drivers running out of fuel. Traffic jams or diversions can easily eat into your car’s fuel reserves so make sure you’re topped up before heading off.

Once you know your car is in good shape you should take some steps to make sure you are too:

Plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time

It’s always a good idea to check out your route in advance, even if you’re planning on using sat nav to guide you. Checking your route beforehand can identify potential trouble spots and help you plan lunch stops and other breaks in advance.Try to be flexible with your plans and if you can’t be, make sure to allow extra time to get to your destination in case of congestion or delays.

Take a break

Being stuck in the car for too long can make people uncomfortable and irritable so it’s a good idea to take a break every two hours. Getting out, stretching your legs and getting some fresh air will help everyone feel more relaxed and energised.

Eat well and stay hydrated

Try not to eat junk food or a heavy meal before travelling as it can leave you feeling uncomfortable or drowsy. However, driving when you’re hungry or thirsty isn’t good for your concentration or temper so be sure to keep topped up with water and healthy snacks.

Keep the kids entertained

Travelling with children will inevitably see them get bored and frustrated so find ways to distract them. Play games like I Spy, sing some songs or bring along activity books so they have something to take their mind off the journey. If all else fails, a tablet or in-car DVD player might keep them happy for a while.