How To Prepare For Stress Free Journeys
Getting ready for a family car journey can feel like you're preparing for armageddon. But planning ahead, and focusing on a safe and stress-free journey rather than how quickly you can get there; can make all the difference.
These simple steps for preparation, and for the road; can help to minimise the risk of unwanted distraction, and ensure that you arrive safely at your destination.
Plan your route
Whole journeys can be much smoother when you plan your route ahead of time. Before you leave, double check the best route in case of traffic updates; consider where you might like to take breaks; and make sure you have plenty of change for any tolls.
Why not consider taking in a tourist attraction, or somewhere you’d like to see en-route? It might add a little time to your drive, but it will make the journey feel like part of the holiday, give a chance for the kids to let out pent-up energy, and help to break the monotony of motorways.
Did you know that many collisions occur within the first 2 hours of a journey? The stress of getting everything ready, locking up, leaving late, and realising what you’ve forgotten, can mean that your mind is far less focused than it should be. To avoid stress, write down who is doing what task before you go; and allow extra time to leave, so you don’t feel rushed.
Once you’re in the car, take a moment to mentally check you’ve done everything, check your seat is in the right position and that you know where you’re going; before you turn the engine on. It’ll give a much smoother start to your journey, and minimise the risk of distraction.
Take Care of your Passengers
Before each trip, ensure that every car seat or booster is properly fitted, and that your children are strapped in tightly, and comfortably, to avoid any distraction.
Think ahead, and before you leave the house, make sure your kids have eaten and had a drink.
Bring healthy snacks. A little food can distract the stomach from travel sickness, and stop crankiness. Try stocking up in advance rather than getting sugary foods from service stations; and have plenty of water in the car.
Before you leave, and at the end of each rest-stop, ensure that everyone has been to the toilet, even if they say they don't need to.
If your children are old enough, a packet of mints can also be invaluable if you want a bit of peace and quiet: Give everyone in the car 1 mint, and challenge them to keep it in their mouth for as long as possible without chewing or swallowing it. The person who manages to keep their mint alive for longest before it dissolves, is the winner!
If you have an iPad or tablet, make sure you’ve downloaded some of your child’s favourite programmes or a new movie, which can distract them from asking ‘are we there yet’. Otherwise check out the possibilities of audiobooks, or make a playlist of songs in advance to keep the whole car entertained.
Choose travel toys wisely. They need to be entertaining, but not in a manner that could distract the driver. Avoid small parts that can disappear under car seats!
Consider bringing a blanket and pillows for the back seat. Bulky jackets can affect the support of a car seat, so it's best to keep children warm with loose coverings over the top of seat belts. Blankets also encourage naptime, and can help to calm restless little ones.
N/B. There may come a point where nothing can stop a minor meltdown in the back seat, but don’t let yourself get distracted from the driving: Remember that they’re safe in the car, and the best thing you can do for them is to remain focused on the road. If you need to pull over, find a safe place to stop, and never pull over onto the hard shoulder.
Break it up
Fatigue has a serious effect on concentration, and increases your chances of having a crash. Make sure you take regular breaks, and if possible, share the driving with someone else (so you can both have naps on the way).
If you do start to feel sleepy, take a break to stretch your legs, get some fresh air, get some coffee, and have a 15 minute nap. After this, you should be okay to drive for at least an hour. On the road again, crank the window open so there is fresh air circulating in the car, and pick something engaging to listen to.
Check your car health
It’s all too easy to take your car for granted as long as it's running well. But it is important to do regular safety checks, to avoid bigger problems on the road, and the worry of warning symbols lighting up the dashboard:
Make sure your tyre tread is over the minimum 1.6mm (less than this can lengthen stopping distances, and affect the car’s handling)
The wrong tyre pressure affects steering and braking. All the information for your car can be found in its handbook.
Check the engine’s oil and coolant levels, to prevent over-heating and engine failure. Ensure you have enough windscreen washer, and that the wiper blades are working efficiently.
Check your fuel. Petrol Stations can become surprisingly rare when you are in urgent need of them, particularly away from built up areas; so it’s better to play it safe.
Finally, do you have a spare tyre, jump leads and a reflective triangle in your car? A first aid kit, proper Road Atlas, torch, and sick bags can also be invaluable.