Summer holiday scenario number one. You’re driving down a sun-dappled country road, a warm breeze is wafting through the windows, and the kids are happily playing a game of ‘I spy’ in the back.

Summer holiday scenario number two. After dragging your luggage to the airport, you shuffle to the departure lounge, only to discover the queue has actually snaked outside and is halfway through the car park. The kids unhappily play a game of ‘who can whinge the loudest’, or ‘I cry’.

We know which we’d prefer. And if you’re considering a family road trip this summer, you’re not alone.

Holidays in the UK 

Staycations have been steadily on the rise for families in the UK. According to Visit England, 7.3 million people holidayed in England in the first quarter of 2016, which is a 10% rise compared to the same period in 2015.

Before you pack the board games, buckets and spades (perhaps some waterproofs too) in the car, we’ve pulled together some expert advice to help you get your car ready for your summer adventure, and to help you cope with any bumps in the road along the way.

Give your car the once over

The last thing you want is to find yourself stranded with no lights in the wilds of the North York Moors, or to have a flat tyre just as you enter one of those impossibly narrow country roads. So spend some time ensuring your car is in tip-top condition, or book a service at your local garage a week or two before you head off.

‘Top things to check include that all lights are working, the oil and windscreen wash are topped up and the wiper blades are in good condition (there is a slight chance it could rain),’ explains Peter McCarthey, who’s been a mechanic for more than 30 years. ‘You should also check all your tyres (including the spare), setting them to the correct pressure and replacing any with worn-out treads.’

Get your car summer ready; wash the car

Family blogger Deb Sharratt, who runs myboysclub.co.uk, suggests giving your car a good wash too — or getting the kids to do it.

‘At the very least, make sure you can actually see through your windows and your lights aren’t covered in dirt,’ she says. ‘The boys love washing our car — and it keeps them busy while I’m packing.’

Get your car summer ready; In case of emergency

In case of emergency

‘Hopefully, everything will go smoothly and you won’t need it, but it’s crucial to pack an emergency kit just in case someone gets ill or the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere,’ adds Peter. ‘Include a torch, blanket, a well-stocked first-aid kit, sick bags and tools, including a jack. Stash some extra bottles of water and snacks in the boot too.’ 

That’s entertainment

Your kids will probably be perfectly happy gazing at their iPads, streaming movies or tapping away on computer games, but family road trips are about spending time with each other too.

‘Spend an evening before you go compiling playlists to keep everyone happy —that could be Let It Go from the Frozen soundtrack segueing seamlessly into The Eagles’ Hotel California, depending on your family’s musical tastes,’ explains childcare specialist Catherine Fry. ‘What could be more fun than a good old-fashioned singalong?’

‘And make sure you pack a “bored box” for emergency entertainment, with sketchbooks, felt-tip pens, colouring books, quiz cards and colourful pipe cleaners, which should result in some fun creations,’ she adds. ‘It’s invaluable for long stretches of driving and in traffic jams.’

Get your car summer ready; Entertainment

The RAC suggests seeing who can spot the most yellow cars, making up a story where each passenger comes up with one sentence at a time, and playing “pub cricket”, where points are scored equivalent to the number of legs belonging to the subject of the pub’s name. For example, The White Horse earns four points.

Get you car summer ready; Assign roles

Assign roles

‘Get everyone involved in the journey by handing out jobs before you set off,’ says Catherine. ‘One child could be a backseat navigator with the maps, for example, while someone else could help to plan stops — whether it’s for a pub lunch, petrol or just a much-needed leg stretch. They can use Google Maps to search, and there might also be apps with information on what’s in your area.’

Quick clean-ups

Kids can be messy. Chocolate smeared all over your car seats, crumbs in crevices and crayon scrawled on windows aren’t ideal, especially when you’re on the road. Wet wipes are your hero when it comes to mopping up spills on the move. But it’s also worth packing some tea towels and bicarbonate of soda, which can be mixed with a little water to tackle tougher stains.

Catherine recommends keeping a small hand-held brush in the car to remove loose crumbs, and she uses baby wipes to remove chocolate stains. For large amounts of chocolate, she dabs the stain with ice cubes to make it easier to scrape off before cleaning. She also suggests using a plastic cereal container as an in-car rubbish bin, to (hopefully) stop kids chucking wrappers and apple cores on the floor.

Get your car summer ready; Clean up
Get your car summer ready; Pack it in

Pack it in

Loose items could cause accidents, so make sure all your gear is securely packed in the boot. To keep things safely out of reach in the back of the car, stuff toys, games and books into tote bags, which you can hang off the driver’s seat.

Kidsactivitiesblog.com has a genius idea for creating a car pulley system with buckets, so you can shimmy goodies back to the kids when required. And for the super-organised, packing individual kids’ outfits in zip-lock bags might sound extreme, but you won’t feel that way when you’re rummaging about in suitcases for that elusive sock.

Now you’re ready to set off, make sure that you find a good deal on your car insurance right here.

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