Yikes. Travelling over the festive season is NOT for the faint-hearted. Here are some tips for safe car travels, and for taking your littlies along without wanting to murder someone en route. Have a gorgeous December.
1. Get your car serviced, if it’s due for one, or take it for a pre-holiday check to ensure that it’s roadworthy before departure. The lights and indicators, windscreen wipers, brakes, steering, and exhaust system should all be carefully examined for faults.
2.Your tyres are the only thing between your car and the road, so it’s important to ensure their continued good condition. Get a qualified mechanic to inspect all four tyres, including the spare, to confirm sufficient tread for the road ahead.
3. Check that your vehicle and drivers’ licences are up to date – no-one likes a long, inconvenient stop at a roadblock, nor a resulting fine.
4. Make sure you have a fully inflated spare tyre, a wheel jack and spanner, two reflective triangles, jumper cables, a torch, a bottle of water, and a basic first aid kit with you.
ON THE ROAD
1. You’re probably planning on using Google Maps or a GPS unit. But it can be fun for older kids to track your progress on a real, printed-out road map, using a marker. Let them trace your route as you go.
2. Safety first. Stop every 200km or every two hours to rest, refuel and refresh. But take a break immediately if you experience headaches, tired eyes, fuzzy vision, drifting attention, drowsiness or yawning, delayed reaction times, or the car wandering across the road.
3. If the worst happens, and you’re in an accident while travelling, take photos with a camera or mobile phone. Then, file an accident report at the police station nearest to the accident, because you’ll need a case number for your insurance company to file a claim. Get the names, addresses, phone numbers and ID numbers of everyone involved.
4. Avoid stopping on the highway itself. Rather take an offramp and stop in a public area to stretch, refresh, and get a break from driving. Roadside rest stops often have lovely views, kids love picnics, and fresh air can be invigorating when you’ve been driving for a few hours.
SAFETY & SECURITY
1. Keep your insurance company’s phone number on speed dial, as well as the number for emergency roadside assistance. If something goes wrong, pull onto the shoulder as quickly and safely as possible.
2. Share your daily itinerary, including stop-overs, with a friend or family member. Text someone the name of the place you stay each night and which city or town you plan to reach by the next night. If something bad happens, it’s good for loved ones to know where you are.
3. Buckle everyone up! Correctly installed child car seats can reduce the need for toddler hospitalisation by up to 69% after a road crash. The new National Road Traffic Act says children under 3 years old must be strapped into a car seat, and those under 1.3m tall in a booster seat.
4. ‘Tis the season for… Shopping, shopping, shopping. But at this time of year, criminals are shopping too! Travel with your car’s windows and doors locked and keep valuables out of sight or hidden in the boot.
If you’re driving with kids this festive season, be prepared. Over-prepared. You can never have too many wet wipes or snacks. Fill a bag with games, toys, favourite objects, extra clothes, pull-up nappies, medicine, a portable DVD player or iPad – and headphones!
Old-fashioned mind games still work well to distract kids from asking ‘Are-We-There-Yet?’ the whole way to your destination:
- ‘I Spy’ is a great way to get children interested in the scenery and the route. You can use ‘beginning with’ for kids who can read and ‘in the colour [red/whatever colour]’ for littler ones.
- ‘Punch Buggy’ involves counting the number of VW Beetles spotted (with or without the accompanying ‘punch’).
- In ‘20 Questions’, players pick a person and their fellow passengers have to guess who it is using only 20 questions.
- In ‘Would you rather?’, everyone takes a turn choosing between a rock and a hard place, like putting their hand in a bowl of spiders or dancing naked while cockroaches are poured over them. This game works equally well for adults and children.
We’d love to hear your tried-and-tested travel tips, so please share them below. Be safe, and have fun.