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Our guide to hassle-free road trips with children

boy sleeping in child car seatIf you’re making a getaway over the upcoming bank holidays, forward planning is vital to ensure a stress-free journey.

If you’re taking the kids away by car over the bank holiday season, it’s worth doing a bit of preparation to make sure things go as smoothly, and safely, as possible.

Here’s our guide to a hassle-free trip, with help on planning the best route, taking the right safety precautions, and keeping your children entertained.

Avoid the jams

During bank holidays, you can count on the roads being busier than usual, so making sure you’re taking the best route is vital if you don’t want your passengers to get bored and grumpy.

If you don’t have satnav in your car, you’ll be able to download a route planner from websites such as the AA. This will indicate how far you have to go and how long your trip should take.

Sites like this will also give you the latest traffic news – check just before you set off to see if there is any congestion or accidents on your chosen route.

If you’re considering taking a scenic route, bear in mind that straighter roads such as motorways can help prevent your passengers feeling car sick, especially in the back.

Think also about what time of day you are travelling at. Roads will be much quieter at night, so if you are planning a long journey, you could do it overnight while the kids sleep in the back.

If you do decide on this option, try to share the driving so you don’t become overtired, and take plenty of breaks.

Take the right safety precautions

If you’re driving with children, the safety measures you’re required by law to take change with their age.

· Infants: Babies must travel in a rearward-facing car seat. This can be either group 0 (from birth up to 10kg, or six-nine months) or group 0+ (from birth to 13kg, or 12-15 months).

This should not be put on the front seat if there is a passenger airbag fitted.

· Toddlers: Once a group 0 or 0+ seat has been outgrown, children should travel in a group 1 forward-facing seat. This applies to weight between 9-18 kgs, or nine months to around age four.

This can be fitted in the front or rear seats, but if there’s a passenger airbag it could be safer in the back.

· Older children: The next stages, groups 2 and 3, cover children from age four (around 15kg) to age 11 (36kg). You should be able to get a booster seat that covers both groups, which will save you having to buy twice.

Booster cushions are also available for these ages: these can be suitable for both groups 2 and 3, although some are aimed only at group 3 (age six to 11, or 22kg to 36kg).

Again these can be used in the front or rear, but avoid using them in a seat with an airbag.

From age 12 (or 1.35m in height), children can travel using normal adult seat belts – but until age 14, it is the driver’s legal responsibility to ensure they are correctly strapped in.

Stop boredom setting in

There are a variety of strategies you can employ to keep kids entertained.

If your car is fortunate enough to have a DVD player, that is likely to be a great help, but think also about taking stories on CD or MP3 player.

There are a number of games you can play on your trip – click here to see our favourites.

And remember the importance of planning and making regular stops so your passengers can stretch their legs and let off steam if necessary. 

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Chris Torney

Chris Torney

Chris is the former personal finance editor at the Daily Express. He's been a journalist for more than 10 years and contributes to a wide range of finance and business titles.Read more from Chris

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