Tips for a road trip over the holidays

07 Dec 2012

It's that time of year when many pack up their bags and, family in tow, head off on a well-deserved holiday for the festive season. Whether you are going for three days or three weeks, there are a few things you should consider before 'road-tripping' away...

Make sure your house is secure

Make sure all the lights are off, the alarm is on and your house is locked up tight before driving away.

Before you get all excited about hitting the beach, you want to ensure your belongings are still there when you get back. Chubb Fire and Security suggest you test your alarm system the day before you leave. Remember to inform your armed response company that you will be testing the alarm, as you don’t want them rushing out for no reason.

Ask a friend or family member to house sit or check on the house every few days. If they are unable to stay in the house while you're away, ask them to go over there in the evenings and switch on a few lights so the house looks occupied.

Chubb Fire and Security urge you not to advertise that you're going away. Only tell the people who will be looking after your house and a neighbour. Give your armed response company the contact details of the friend or neighbour in case of an emergency.

Tip: Pack the car behind closed garage doors, as you don’t want to tell the whole neighbourhood your house is going to be empty.

Make sure you are not leaving your animals unattended. Book them into a kennel or if you feel uncomfortable leaving your pets in a strange place, you may prefer to use a pet sitter or ask a willing friend to stay in the house with the animals.

Tips for the trip

Have your car fully serviced in preparation for the drive, paying special attention to the lights, indicators, windscreen wipers, brakes, steering and tyres.

Gary Ronald, spokesperson for the AA South Africa, says you should have your car serviced, with the lights, indicators, windscreen wipers, brakes, steering and tyres carefully examined for faults and corrected before you set off.

Tip: Pack an emergency kit for the car that includes a torch and some spare batteries, medical supplies, a reflective jacket, a knife and a small toolkit - in a container small enough to fit in the glove compartment of the car and place a piece of paper inside with emergency contacts listed.

Pack a 'ready bag' for the car to avoid having to rummage around in the back seat for the essentials. The bag should contain healthy snacks, a few bottles of juice but more bottles of water, tissues or wet wipes, a small first aid kit as well as medications for headaches, motion sickness and sun block. Remember, of course, to have a car charger for your cell phone.

Ronald also advises motorists to check their insurance policies. Motor vehicle, householder and life assurance policies should be in order and kept in a safe place, along with paperwork regarding your holiday reservation and medical information for yourself and the children, if there are any conditions that could flare up unexpectedly. These documents should be kept together in a plastic sleeve and tucked away safely in the 'ready bag'.

Tip: Do not rely solely on technology. Buy a map book, as this will not run out of battery time and leave you stranded.

Avoid sticky messes by packing a bottle of wet wipes in the ready bag and give children cups with lids to use in the car.

Try leaving a day before the beginning of the holiday season to avoid the rush of traffic. This can cut your travelling time down by quite a portion. If you are travelling long distances, be sure to wear loose, comfortable clothing, with shoes that you can slip off and take regular breaks to stretch and rotate drivers.

Keep the 'are we there yet' at bay

Travelling with children can be a challenge, but there are a few tricks to make the drive as smooth as possible.

One of these tricks is to make them their own travel bags out of pillowcases. These are great because they keep everything your child could need within their reach, as well as a comfy pillow they can rest on during the drive. Slip a set of pencils, a few books, colouring books and a set of small puzzles into a sewn-on pocket to provide them with a few hours of quiet entertainment.

Kele Sebolao, Client Liason from Just Letting Property Group, advises parents to make children go to the bathroom before beginning the trip, and sit them down and explain the rules and regulations of the resort you will be staying at. Nothing kills a holiday faster than undisciplined children running wild around a hotel, and you don't want those children to be yours.

Tip: Keep two plastic bags in the car, one for rubbish and one as a 'sick bag' in case someone should fall victim to car sickness.

Ronald urges parents to make sure their children are safely strapped into the back seat throughout the drive. Smaller children should be strapped into a car seat. He says you should not be able to fit more than two fingers between the strap and the child. Be sure to make regular stops to ensure your child's comfort and do not leave the child in the car unattended.

He encourages parents to map out any stops they may be able to take along the way, for toilet breaks and food runs. Try and stop at the supermarket instead of convenient stores when it comes to food, as they usually have more variety and are cheaper than petrol stations.

If you travel with your children often, a portable DVD player is one of the best investments you can make. It keeps the children quiet for a few hours with the least amount of effort on your part and can make a road trip seem a lot shorter. Also take your child's music taste into consideration when creating playlists for the trip and make sure to include some kiddie sing-a-long songs.

Break the trip into blocks of thirty minutes, as this makes the time pass faster for children. You can designate thirty minutes for car games such as 'Eye Spy' and the license plate game, thirty minutes for quiet time, thirty minutes for sing-a-longs and so on. This is a great way to bond as a family in the close confines of the car, as well as keep the children entertained.

Tip: Have cups with lids on them for the children to avoid nasty spills in the car.

Ronald says make the trip as interesting as possible by allowing children to change seating positions in the car after each stop and on dull stretches of road, introduce ‘spotting’ games or hand out special toys. You should also instil strict rules for the car with regards to children. They should not stick their head or arms out of the window, throw anything out of the window or inside the car, alter the safety harness, touch the door handle, lock or window handle or distract the driver in any way. Victoria Taylor

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