holiday motoring preparation - holiday focus

getting ready for a motoring holiday. here's a checklist of things you need to know


The number of road trips we make each year continues to increase despite the every rising costs of motoring. The number is likely to be even higher again this year and roads to favourite coastal and leisure destinations will be packed at peak times. Saturday is traditionally the day most holidaymakers travel. If it can't be avoided, try setting off early in the day or leave late in the afternoon to avoid the traffic congestion.


Many motorists facing a long journey in the UK, or heading for the continent, choose to set off late on a Friday evening to drive through the night and avoid the traffic jams. Many could be courting much bigger problems if they are too tired to drive.

According to the government, a tenth of all accidents on UK roads are caused by people falling asleep. This rises to an alarming one in five on motorways. Worryingly, the recent Green Flag Report on Safe Driving found 60 per cent of motorists admitting to driving when tired.

If you are planning to travel through the night, it is ideal if two people can share the driving, so that each has the chance to take a nap. A sole driver should have a sleep before setting off if possible and then plan a route and extra time to ensure that regular breaks can be taken on the way.


'We always advise drivers to check out their cars and their route before setting off, but would recommend that they check out any medical prescriptions, to ensure they arrive at their holiday destination safe and sound,' says the Green Flag motoring organisation's Nigel Charlesworth.

'It's the season for hay fever and many antihistamines are taken to relieve it can cause drowsiness,' adds Nigel. 'Unfortunately, drivers tend to forget or are not warned sufficiently of the dangers of sleep-inducing medication.'

The Green Flag Report on Safe Driving found that one-in-six drivers admitted to driving when they have taken medicine that they knew could make them drowsy.


When packing the car, keep things you might need on your journey to one side and pack them last to prevent frantic searches through the boot. Only keep things you'll need for the journey in the car - pack everything else away to prevent people being too cramped. A tidy car also means there are fewer distractions for the driver.

It is a good idea to carry a 'survival kit' which should contain a basic first aid kit, snacks and drinks, and sun cream. Also, it is sensible to pack jump leads should the worst happen. A survey carried out recently by Green Flag discovered that only 48 per cent of people setting off on a long car journey would think to pack jump leads.


Bored children can be a nightmare on long car journeys, so keeping them happy is essential, not only for their sake, but also for the driver who needs to concentrate on the road.

(i) Let Me Entertain You

Pack toys and games to keep them amused for much of the journey - things like colouring books, crayons and puzzles are great. Many kids are now using games on their phones and will amuse themselves for hours quite contentedly.

It's also nice to play games which involve all the family, some alternatives to I-spy include:

The Word Game - make up silly three-word sentences using the initial letters from car registration numbers.

The Pub Cricket Game - Taking turns to be the batsman, you score runs for every pub sign you see that involves legs, e.g: The Dog and Duck (six legs) equals six runs, The Kings Arms (two legs) equals two runs. When you come to a sign that has no legs, such as The White Rose, you're out and it's the next batsman's turn.

The Colours Game - each pick a colour and see who can be the first to spot 20 cars of that colour.

(ii) Are you sitting comfortably?

Being inappropriately dressed for a journey can make children feel irritable and unhappy. Children should be dressed comfortably. For a long journey, dress them in layers so they can keep cool or wrap up as needed.

(iii) Block out the rays

Children can easily get sunburnt through open car windows and sunroofs, so make sure their arms and legs are covered with loose clothing. Attach shades to the car windows or apply a high factor sunscreen. A sun hat is also a good idea.

(iv) Snack happy

Take plenty of snacks and drinks on your journey. Make sure the drinks have screw tops rather than cans or cartons, which cause storage problems if left unfinished and toilet problems if consumed all at once.

Try to leave time for plenty of pit stops. This can also help with the dreaded question 'Are we there yet?' Instead of answering 'soon' you can say 'only one (or two) more stop(s) to go' which helps to give children something to gauge the length of the journey by.

You can also make the journey part of the holiday, by stopping at areas of interest. On a long motorway trip this is better than pulling into a service area as it will give children the chance to run around and have some fun every few hours.

(v) Motion sickness

Car sickness occurs when you can't see yourself moving, only feel it. For children who are prone to car sickness try to limit activities where the eyes are focused in the car, such as reading and playing hand-held games. Have books or songs on CD or DVD, so your children can listen while looking out of the window.


(i)Tolls & Fuel

Pay-as-you-go tolls are charged on most motorways in France, Spain and Italy. The Euro is of course the official currency in much of Europe and you can pay by cash (have change ready) or with a credit card.

Tolls on the autobahns are payable in Switzerland and Austria. In Switzerland you buy a sticker at the border that for the year. Euros are not currently in use in Switzerland (but generally accepted). Although these costs may make driving abroad appear more costly than in the UK, the cost of fuel tends to be lower.

(ii) Driving laws

It's important to be aware of the driving laws of the country that you're in, and remember to drive on the right side of the road! Speed limits in France and Italy are 130kph (81mph) on dual carriageways and either 70kph (44mph) or 50kph (31mph) in built up areas. The rest of Europe tends to be 120kph (75mph) on dual carriageways and 50 or 60kph (31 or 38mph) in built up areas. On the spot fine for speeding in France was 2,500 FF (£250), which is now equivalent to approximately 400 Euros.

It is also important to be aware of drink driving limits, which tend to be strictly enforced across Europe. France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands have a maximum limit of 0.5mg whereas the UK's limit is 0.8mg.

(iii) Breaking down

It is always advisable to take out European breakdown cover before travelling abroad. If you are unfortunate enough to break down without cover you could be in for a nasty shock at the cost of getting your car recovered to Britain

Without cover there would be a call out charge plus a mileage fee to get your vehicle home. So if you broke down in St Tropez and lived in Manchester it could cost you a small fortune to repatriate your car.


International motor insurance, or a Green Card, is no longer compulsory for driving in Europe but third party insurance is. You should always carry your insurance certificate, vehicle registration document and a current tax disc, and make sure you tell your insurance company the dates of your trip.