The simple fact is that although
babies love it, toddlers don't. Younger babies often fall asleep
due to the motion of the car and so the journey can be relatively
stress free. When awake, babies in rear facing car seats can be
occupied using visual cards or a plastic mirror stuck to the car
seat or a soft mobile.
"Taking the car can work well for families, but remember to plan your route ahead of departure"
Soothing lullabies can also work wonders
and rattles and mini rainmakers are always popular. Toddlers on
the other hand, become bored and are frustrated at being tied
up in a car seat for long periods of time. If possible, sit at
the back with them as they will appreciate the company and you
can keep them entertained. Investing in a tray table is a good
idea as it is helpful for playing with toys and colouring, but
be prepared to keep picking things up from the floor. Children's
sing along CD often work well for a while and small snacks such
as raisons are an excellent distraction also.
Taking the car can work well for families, as it you can dictate the pace of travel, stop when traffic is bad, make up for it when it has cleared and of course fill the car with everything you might need- just in case. Suggestions for a smooth and hassle free trip include:
- Plan your route ahead of departure. The AA has an excellent
route planner to help you find the best way to get there.
- Check the tyre pressure and oil and water levels of your
car the day before and fill up your petrol tank at the same
time. Being organised helps to get your journey off to a smooth
- Never travel anywhere with a baby or toddler without the
correct child restraint seat for their age and weight. Not
only is it a legal requirement to ensure that they are correctly
restrained, it could save their lives.
- For long journeys, try to leave before dawn. That away you
will make good head way before your little one even wakes
up. Don't worry about getting your baby dressed; just remember
to take their favourite blanket. When they do wake up, it
will be a good time to stop for milk and breakfast and the
driver can have a rest too. For shorter journeys start your
drive during nap times.
- Make a point to make a stop about once every 2 hours, to
allow for a nappy change, toilet stops, warming milk and jars
of food, letting your baby have a stretch or toddler run about
and let off some steam. It also gives the driver a well deserved
- Check you have valid breakdown cover. If you are unfortunate
enough to breakdown, make sure you tell the operator that
you have a baby with you. Most companies will make yours a
- Keep a day bag with you in the car containing the essentials
at hand, such as nappies, wipes, milk, food, snacks, a beaker
of water, bibs, a muslin cloth and a change of clothes for
your little one. A spare set of clothes for yourself and a
flannel are also very useful. Keep a spare carrier bag handy
for dirty items or rubbish.
- Equip your car with a 'Baby on Board' and if you are driving
alone, a child rear view mirror angled towards your baby is
also handy, ensuring that you needn't keep turning around
to check on your baby or toddler.
- If you are driving in hot weather, make sure you have a
sunshade on the window beside your baby, ensure that they
drink lots of water (although not necessary for breast feed
babies- instead make sure you stop and nurse them more frequently),
and use cold mineral water and a cloth to dab them and cool
them down. Sun cream is also vital.
- Never be tempted to breastfeed you baby in your lap, whilst
the car is moving. However difficult, always wait until you
have found somewhere to pull over and stop.
- Ensure that the company that you decide to use has the correct
child seat for your little one. If you decide to take your
own car seat, you will need to check that it will fit and
that the car has a suitable rear seat belt to secure it. Remember,
never fit a rear facing car seat in the front passenger seat
of a car fitted with front airbags.
- Take out adequate insurance - check the amount of collision
waver damage that the insurance covers.
- Always check the car for knocks and scratches before you
start driving and point these out to the car hire staff.
- Ask the car hire staff for instructions on what you should
do in the event of a breakdown or accident.
- Always check the fuel type -don't assume that it is unleaded.
- Return the car with a full tank of fuel- it is almost always
cheaper than paying for it at the car hire company's rate.
- If you are picking the car up from the airport, always get
directions to your accommodation from the car hire staff. They
are almost always happy to help and often give you a local area
map to get you started. The majority of accidents that occur
in hired vehicles occur soon after collection from an airport,
where tired and disorientated travellers lose concentration.
Therefore, take your time to become familiar with the car, your
route and take it easy once you get going.
- Carry your driving licence; photographic identification and
car hire details with you whilst driving. In some countries
this is a legal requirement. If you are stopped in the US, remain
in your car with your hands on the steering wheel, until an
officer comes to speak to you.
- Observe speed limits, remembering that much of the world's
speed limits are given in kilometres per hour.
- If you are going to a country where they drive on the opposite
side of the road, selecting an automatic car is often a good
option as you needn't worry about changing gears with your right
- If you are going somewhere hot, select a car with air conditioning.
It may cost a bit more, but the comfort it will provide the
whole family is certainly worth it.