There are many advantages of traveling by car: you can make your own route, make stops whenever you want, and not be tied to luggage allowances that transport companies have. But to make sure nothing can spoil your trip, you need to be properly prepared for it. In this article, we’ve put together an all-season checklist for a family road trip.
1. Check the vehicle
Before the trip, observe the condition of the car. Find out what is wrong with the tires: check the pressure and the condition of the tread – the remaining depth of the pattern should be more than 1.6 mm.
There should be no deep cracks on the tires. If the tires are unevenly worn or you feel vibration in the steering wheel, you may be out of balance. Contact a specialist who will check it on a special balancing machine.
Check the battery – you can do this with a multimeter, for example. Connect the instrument to the battery at rest: if it reads 12.6-12.7 V, all is well with the charge.
Make sure that the engine oil, brake fluid and coolant levels are normal. Typically, the brake fluid is in a translucent container – you can visually assess its amount. If the fluid level is approaching the “MIN” (minimum) mark, it is worth replenishing it.
Before a long trip, change the oil to a fresh one – especially if you haven’t done so for a long time. It’s a good idea to change the oil after 10,000 to 15,000 km or at least once a year, regardless of the distance traveled.
Check whether the car has a first-aid kit, and make sure the expiration date of the medication is okay. Check for a tow rope, fire extinguisher, and battery charger.
If you’re driving to an area where there may not be a gas station on the way, take a spare can of gasoline. For a winter trip, remember to put a shovel and a brush and scraper in the trunk.
2. Keep children safe
A child under the age of 7 can only be in a car in a special seat. It does not matter whether you are going to the nearest shopping center or planning a trip across the country. A child between 7 and 11 years old may be carried in a rear seat or safety belt in a car seat, and in the front seat only in a car seat.
Car seats are divided into several groups according to the age and weight of the child. But it’s better not to be guided by numbers, and try on the seat. If the child is cramped, and his head is above the back of the seat, this model is not suitable. It is desirable to choose the device which has a side protection of shoulders and a head: it will rescue at a blow from the side.
Seats may differ in the way of installation: in the direction of travel or against it. It will be safer to place the car seat on the back seat. If you want to install the design against the traffic on the front seat, be sure to plug the airbags.
When choosing a car, pay attention to whether it has ISOFIX, an internationally standardized child restraint system. It allows you to quickly and reliably install the child restraint system in the vehicle. With an additional anchorage point on the car body, the car seat moves less from side to side – so your child’s safety is guaranteed.
3. Prepare your documents
To travel within the country you need a passport, driver’s license, vehicle registration certificate and vehicle registration. If you go abroad, don’t forget your passport and insurance. You also need documents for children: birth certificate or passport.
Before traveling, make sure that you take into account all the requirements for visiting points of interest on the route. For example, when travelling in Europe, some regions may require a QR code for vaccinated or coronavirus patients or a negative PCR test.
Medical insurance for domestic travel is not required, but you can get it. A health insurance policy does not always allow you to make an appointment with a doctor on the same day because of the lines. And if you have additional insurance, it will be easier to get an appointment and undergo the necessary examinations.
4. Stock up on toys
Consider a variety of activities to keep the children entertained while on the road. You can take coloring books, pencils and markers, board games, puzzles, and books. The choice depends on the age and interests of the child.
For example, a two-year-old child may be interested in developing books with large illustrations, slides, flaps and secret windows. A child who can already read, will be attracted to fairy tales and travel stories. Toys are better to take the new or favorite. Give them to your child better not at once, but one by one: so during the whole trip he will have something to do.
You can think up some verbal games that the whole family will be involved in. For example, “The fourth man too many”. The leader should think of three words from one group and the fourth word from another group. The rest have to guess which word is extra and explain their choice. For example, the leader names four items: pants, sweater, overalls and boots. The child has to choose the extra one out of them – it’s boots. Although, if he or she comes up with a good explanation, it is possible to recognize the correct answer not the one that the author has in mind.
5. Install a play table in the car
To make it easy for your child to draw or read, get a play table for the car seat. When your baby gets bored on the road, you can take a break and offer him entertainment. The design will be held securely thanks to the special straps, and in the pockets of the table is convenient to store various small things that may be needed on the trip.
Some cars already have folding tables on the front seats. Adults and children can put food and drinks there during a stop. On the front seat, you can attach an organizer and put toys in it so that the child always has them at hand.
6. Take a healthy snack on the road
A child can get hungry at any time. To avoid searching for the nearest cafe at the most unexpected time, keep a supply of water and food on hand.
Try to choose food that will not spoil or stain the cabin. Great for dried fruit, nuts or cereal bars. Of fruits and vegetables you can take on the road beforehand washed and sliced carrots, cucumbers and apples (unlike soft tomatoes and bananas, they do not crumple on the road). It is better not to take sweet and salty foods, as they only whet your appetite.
If you want to drink or eat something hot, take a thermos with tea, broth or soup. For food there are special thermoses with wide necks and handy lids – it can be used instead of a plate or mug.
7. Think about the stops along the route
Before the trip, mark on the map the places where the whole family can rest comfortably. It is desirable to make stops every 2-3 hours. So the kids will run a little and will be easier to bear the rest of the trip, and the driver will take a breath.
Set aside time for unexpected stops – so you’re not nervous that you will not get somewhere in time. Even if the child sleeps fine in a car seat, try not to drive nonstop all day. It is better to spend the night in a hotel, and then continue your journey.
8. Make a playlist
Children’s songs and tales can help you pass the time while traveling. So you don’t have to remember them on the road, think of a playlist in advance. For example, include songs about traveling from your favorite cartoons and sing them in the car with your child.
Not out of place would be to take a tablet: during the trip, one of the parents can watch cartoons on it with the baby. Choose stories in which the characters travel – for example, “Moana” or “Up”.
9. Talk to your child about the trip
Start preparing your child for the trip ahead of time. Don’t keep things intriguing – it’s better to tell them where you’re going, why you’re going, and how long you’ll be traveling.
Describe what you will be doing on the road. If you’re going to grandma, tell her, for example, that she’ll be waiting for you and treat you to delicious pies upon arrival. And if you are going to a new city, show your child pictures of the place and tell an interesting story about it.
Even before you travel, plan short trips so that your child has time to get used to the child seat. You can start by going to the nearest supermarket, and then gradually spend more and more time in the car.
10. Take care of comfort
Consider what items you need to take on the road to ensure the comfort of all family members.
For example, a thermos cup will keep your tea hot longer, and a cooler bag can hold food you cooked at home. In winter, you can take several plaids and woolen socks on a trip. Add to this a spare set of clothes for the child, so that you have something to change him if he gets dirty.
To avoid going to the bathroom at the gas station with a small child, take a travel potty with changeable bags. They are soaked in gel that retains moisture inside and are disposed of in the same way as diapers. Don’t forget your first aid kit – it should contain all the basic medications your family members may need.