What to pack for a driving holiday

Once you’re on the road you have to keep going, so make sure you take what you need

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A FEW years ago we set ourselves on a four-hour journey to meet and stay over with some friends. The suitcase was packed and everything went into the boot. Before we left, we checked everything. All the windows were closed, the back door to the garden was locked, the cooker, fridge, washing machine, dishwasher were all switched off. Great! We slammed the front door, locked it and then jumped into the car.

Two hours into our journey on the motorway, I asked my wife if she could give me the address of the place where we were going to be staying. Frantically she checked her handbag and nothing was there. Then looked at her mobile and couldn’t see the number or address. What were we going to do?

I made the decision that we should carry on as we roughly knew the area where she lived and could probably ask at the local post office if they could supply us with the address, or perhaps we could drive around as we knew the make of car she drove, so might see it parked outside her house. By some miracle, we passed what we thought was her street, and at that precise moment she opened the door to put some milk bottles out for collection. What a relief!

Where are we going today?

So, from that experience, we learned a lesson that when we travel, the first thing we need to take with us is the address book or at least know that the information is located on our mobile. On that occasion two hours into the journey I was ready to put the details into the sat-nav, had I done it at the beginning of the journey then the mistake could have been rectified. But then, who wants to hear the sat-nav telling you how to get to the motorway when you know how to get to the motorway.

If you’re staying with friends then they will take you around the local tourist places, but if you are travelling independently, then a good travel book showing how to get there and what to do when you do get there would be useful. Otherwise, see if you can find the local tourist office who will supply you with lots of things to do when you get there. You may even want to book things in advance before tickets are sold out.

Right checks before you leave

But before getting there, you could still be a problem if you have not signed up to a breakdown service, just in case the worst happens. I belong to Green Flag, but there are plenty of other organisations that can help you, from the AA to the RAC. These offer you breakdown cover before you even leave the house to when you are on the road. But it’s always good to do a quick check on your car before you set off. This includes the correct tyre pressure, oil level, whether your lights are working, engine coolant and fuel level. It also might sound daft, but check that you are fully insured in case you have an accident. And if it is a driving holiday you are going on, I usually service my car beforehand.

Fixing the problem yourself

If you are the type of person that likes to fix things yourself, then make sure you have  the right equipment in the boot to fix the problem yourself. A locking wheel nut key can help you remove a flat tyre, but you will also need a jack and wheel brace, not to mention a spare. You can always rely on a faulty light along the way, so a spare light bulb and fuses should be taken. If the car does break down then a warning triangle is necessary to keep you out of harms way, and if you are travelling in France, it is a legal requirement. Should you be going abroad then a GB sticker is necessary. An international driving permit will get you across the Channel. You can acquire on of those from your local post office. You will need to tell them when you are going and coming back and supply a photo.

Healthy treats

Make sure your CD player and radio are working as that can keep the family entertained while you are driving. You could have a playlist prepared which could help while away the hours. When I had our two kids in the back of the car, I was able to offer them books to read with their mum, or a sticker book when they were still too young to read. Another trick was to get them to spot how many lorries were passing. My wife also gave them healthy treats like fresh fruits, but on occasion had to give in to the  inevitable sweets and chocolates. When eating cloths will be needed to clean sticky fingers and change of clothes if things get too messy. Also, for your own safety, take lots of breaks, so stop at as many service stations as you can to rest your eyes, go to the toilet and stretch your legs. I always have a coffee when I take a break to keep me wide awake.

First Aid Kit

If it’s hot in the car then you’ll need hats, sun cream to protect you from the harmful UV rays, sunglasses to aid your driving if the sun is glaring, and plenty of water to drink. A spare bottle is good for any emergencies like a breakdown. For an English summer, waterproof clothes will be a safe bet. A first aid kit is essential in case of bumps or accidents with plasters, pain relief for tummy ache and diarrhea and antiseptic cream. A good cure for motion sickness is ginger biscuits or a ginger root, though a pharmacy can offer you tablets. Don’t forget some hand sanitizer.

Phone and tablet charger

Never leave your mobile phone at home and a phone charger or tablet charger is essential. If the sat-nav is not working then a paper map is a good back up. And remember to bring some change. That always helps with pay-and-display parking and to use a shopping trolley in a supermarket for any food or drink, if you are having a self-catering holiday.

If you have a very long journey and it gets cold in the car, then take some blankets with you. When you get out of the car to get petrol or diesel or even need to charge your car, it might be cold, so a poncho or cape might be advisable. If you have kids in the back of the car, a few blankets will keep them comfortable and warm if you don’t want to put the heater on full blast which might make the driver feel sleepy.

Special moments

Lastly, bring your camera with you to capture all those special moments  that will make lasting memories. If you don’t have the budget to buy a good quality camera, then use your mobile phone. Many good quality mobile phones like the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy take amazing photos.  I like to use my iPad which picks up a lot of detail. You will be one of millions taking a stay-cation holiday this year due to the pandemic. Please give us feedback on this page if you have time. We’d love to hear from you.


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