Who doesn’t look forward to summer, and all that comes with it?
It’s about relaxation, long days, a bit of sand and hopefully sun, and lots of it. Sounds great, but without the appropriate planning and preparation, that road trip can end up as more like a chore than a tour.
If you are looking forward to hitting the roads this summer with the family, there are a few things you can count on happening. The Motor Trade Association (MTA) says if you prepare for them properly, they’ll just become part of the journey; if on the other hand you don’t take them into account, then it could mean a long, hot and potentially miserable few days or weeks on the road.
Every Christmas and New Year there are some situations you just know are going to eventuate. Things like lengthy queues of stop-start traffic, moving ever so slowly to one of our many popular holiday locations. With few exceptions, there isn’t too much you can do about the level of traffic, other than accept before you set off that you will strike some at one point or another. Realising that there will be hold-ups is a good start – then it’s a matter of ensuring you, your passengers and your car are properly prepared to cope with the additional stress this sort of driving brings (see http://www.mta.org.nz/motoring-tips for specific checks you can make).
Part and parcel of long queues is the appearance of those drivers who think they need to get to where they are going before anyone else. They just want to beat the crowd, whatever the cost. Apart from seeing them in action, there’s not a lot you can do except get out of their way. They are a risk to themselves and everyone else on the road. They will be out there, so rather than let them become a risk to you or anyone else on the road, simply give them room to get by – no matter how irritating you might find it. And, eventually, the law will catch up with these people.
For many people on the road, there’s the internal challenge of children in the car. They do provide their own special stresses from time to time, and it’s usually a bit more complex than the old ‘are we there yet?’ question. Being stuck in the back of a car, where you can’t always see too much of what’s happening outside, isn’t always easy for your younger passengers. Just expecting them to sit quietly for hours on end is not realistic, but there are plenty of things you can do to make the journey easy, for everyone in the car.
- Start by being realistic – kids can’t stay still or be entertained by the passing scenery for as long as adults can, so be prepared to stop more frequently. Aside from breaking the monotony for them, it’s often a good refresher for the adult driver as well.
- Kids can’t ‘hold on’ as long as adults, so expect to have to stop more often for ‘personal comfort’ reasons. Plan ahead; expect to get requests after drinks are consumed. In some places, good convenience stops are few and far between – when you see one coming up, ask who might need to go.
- If you have air-conditioning, make sure it works properly; kids are often relegated to the back seats where it’s extra stuffy, so any exposure to a steady flow of cooler air is usually appreciated.
- Make use of window shades – they’re easy to fit, and can make all the difference for a young one stuck in the window seat position. Plus they’ll help keep the interior temperature down, if it’s a sunny day.
- If you can, rotate seating positions. That way, you can keep interest levels up a bit.
- Not everyone has access to a store of personal music, so be prepared to share a variety of music – 80’s electro-pop might be your favourite, but it mightn’t ‘strum the stings’ of every twelve-year-old.
- Get the kids to bring some of their own entertainment – today’s games are usually quite portable in most cases, so ask them to bring some of their favourites with them in the car (and bring a range of spare batteries too).
- Prepare snacks and drinks to take along – as the airline industry has proved. Choosing what to eat and then actually munching it down is a great way to occupy people.
- Have a few games that everyone can play – and not just eye-spy, either. There are websites dedicated to the subject, which contain a large range of things you can all do together, and they’re easy to find online. Provide prizes too.
- Bring a flannel or wipes, just to keep everyone fresh and clean. There’s nothing as irritating (for everyone in the car) as a sticky spill or mess that’s rapidly going solid on a special toy, favourite t-shirt, or the special velour seat material.
Of course, keep everyone secure in appropriate and properly-installed seating. Try these tips – they’ve worked for plenty of others before. They might just be the difference between an uncomfortable, stressful chore of a trip and that perfect road tour that gets fondly remembered for decades to come.