preparing for longer journeys journeying mercies

a key part of completing a happy and safe longer journey with the family in tow is planning ahead

It may seem obvious, but one of the most important things in making long journeys both easier and safer is to ensure that neither you nor your car runs dry.

Recent research has shown that three out of four people on long road trips in Britain are likely to be de-hydrated - a major factor in creating emotional changes which could lead to alterations in behaviour, like irritability, bad temper and road rage.

During the fraught car journeys faced by many families, especially on holiday trips, it is particularly important for drivers to maintain fluid intakes if they are to face the congestion and arrive at their destination safe and sane. Even an hour's drive across a city can result in the loss of as much as half a litre of water which needs to be replaced if drivers are to remain calm and comfortable. Muscle cramp can be another symptom of de-hydration.

While caffeine-laden drinks are indispensable in giving drivers temporary relief from fatigue while travelling, the best option during a normal daytime family trip is plenty of stops to give everyone a break and a stretch as well as lots of water for passengers and driver. Soft drinks and tea and coffee can also contain ingredients that act as a diuretic: while they may initially quench the thirst, ultimately, they can leave you more de-hydrated as they encourage the body to excrete water, meaning more toilet stops as well. De-hydration can also be responsible for lethargy, lack of concentration and alertness as well as headache - none of which makes for safe and happy drivers.

Longer journeys are often marked by disputes and ill temper when they reach the almost inevitable delays and frustration. By making some basic preparations, being mindful of driving style and keeping fluid levels up, then everyone can enjoy their outing. Drinking plenty, of course, does not include alcohol. Adam's Ale should be the nearest that motorists ever get.

Checklist For Happy Journeys - Complete This Basic Health Check For Body and Car

* Driver, radiator and windscreen washer fluid levels should be topped up with water - but while the car should be full of fuel, an overfull driver is likely to suffer from drowsiness. Both should be ready for the journey ahead, the driver refreshed and alert, the car serviced.

* Begin the holiday as soon as the trip begins. This means wearing comfortable clothes and having plenty of snacks, drinks and treats for all the family in the car.

* For kids it means making sure that they have got things to keep them entertained. Small, quiet toys are ideal while story CD's for older kids and sing-alongs for younger ones help to pass the time. Many kids these days are happy to play the latest games available on their mobile phones but be wary of travel sickness induced by constant concentration. Old favourites like 'I Spy' can also help to fend off travel sickness by encouraging the child to concentrate on items outside of the car.

* Make sure that the car is well ventilated, if you have air-conditioning use it. It will help defray over-heated tempers as well as temperatures. A window blind can also help to deflect annoying sunlight.

* Many children, and adults, find it relaxing to sleep in the car. Pillows and covers are a helpful aid to this although it is obviously vital that all passengers remain restrained by their seat belts.

* It may be helpful to physically demark the rear seat space between children if they are prone to squabbling. A pillow or rolled up towel will encourage them to remain in their own territory and not to distract the driver.

* Any snacks should be bite-sized and not of the sticky variety - although a damp face cloth or wet-wipes will minimise mess.

* Ensure that you have plenty of fuel for the journey. Once stuck in a lengthy tailback, that needle on the fuel gauge can fall rapidly.

* Plan the route, and an alternative, and plan breaks into the schedule. A 20-minute break every two hours is the ideal if travelling with a young family.

* If stuck in heavy traffic, keep plenty of distance between you and the car in front. This will help to keep pressure off the driver.

* Think about the timing of your journey. Setting off late at night or in the early hours of the morning may mean avoiding the jams but it is also the peak time for fatigue rela