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For a stress-free start to the holiday – 10 tips for a safe journey by car

© getty images/Martin Barraud

Many holidaymakers still prefer to drive to their holiday destinations in their own cars. So here are ten tips to make your trip not only safe, but stress free. Have a great holiday!

Tip No. 1: Prepare carefully

The earlier you start to prepare for your holiday, the more relaxed you will all be when you actually start your journey. It therefore makes sense to draw up a list with all the important things you have to do in plenty of time. The list will include both things that have to be done before the holiday and also of course things that must be part of the holiday itself. The best answer is to complete the organisational tasks first. When taking your own car on holiday, small repairs can be carried out by your local workshop first – this is much better than suffering a breakdown on the journey itself.

Tip No. 2: Vehicle check before the big trip

Before setting off for the best weeks of the year, you should have your vehicle thoroughly checked – as long distances and a lot of luggage subject it to extra strain. The first priority during the check should be the brakes. If they do not act evenly, the car is more difficult to steer or can veer to one side if you should have to brake suddenly. It is also essential that the brake fluid is in good condition – if the fluid is old, it can start to boil under heavy braking – which means that the brakes no longer function.

Next in line should be the tyres. They must be able to withstand the heavier weight of the vehicle and also high outside and road surface temperatures. This is why you must make sure that the tyre pressures are high enough. Tyre pressures that are suited to the vehicle loading shorten the braking distance and improve handling and the stability of the vehicle on bends. The right pressures also reduce wear on the tyres. And of course the depth of the tyre profiles should be checked before starting out – the minimum depth is 1.6 millimetres. Insufficient depth means reduced traction and road holding.

The third important items on the vehicle checklist are the lights. Ideally, you should take a complete set of spare bulbs with you on holiday. Then you will always have a replacement if a light goes out during your journey. It is also important to adjust the height of the headlights when the vehicle is fully loaded to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic.

Tip No. 3: The right way to load your car for the journey

A great many different items have to be loaded into the car for the holiday- especially with the family … suitcases, toys, sports equipment, food and much more. Not an easy task, as there also has to be room for the passengers and there must be clear view out of the vehicle. The most important thing when loading is to get things in the right place. Heavy items should be placed at the bottom, so that they do not fly through the air if the driver has to brake suddenly, as they could cause injury. In addition, the luggage should be distributed evenly throughout the vehicle, so that there is no tipping to the right or the left. Items that have to be easily accessible in case of a breakdown or accident must be easy to find (see Tip No. 4).

Holiday luggage can easily be heavier than usual. TÜV NORD recommends checking the maximum laden weight of the car, which is stated in the registration documents.

Tip No. 4: Don’t forget to take ...

Some things have to be ready at hand in the car if you want your journey to be stress-free. Of course these include the vehicle documents and your driving licence. Not to forget your green insurance card and the “D” sticker, which has to be affixed when travelling outside the EU. TÜV NORD has published a complete list of all the other important items you will need – also in the form of a PDF – here.

Tip No 5: A first-aid kit is essential

A comprehensive first-aid kit which includes some basic medicines can save you a trip to the chemist’s or the doctor’s surgery. The basics include among other things painkillers, insect repellent, a thermometer and diarrhoea and constipation remedies.

Tip No. 6: Get enough sleep

It is vital to get enough sleep if you want to start your journey fresh and relaxed. This not only applies to the driver, but also for passengers including, of course, children. Too little sleep can lead to aggressive and impatient behaviour. When travelling overnight, the risk of suddenly falling asleep at the wheel is particularly acute. It is better to start the journey in the early morning.

Tip No. 7: Plan your route carefully

To keep a cool head when faced with traffic jams, TÜV NORD advises planning the route before the journey, along with alternative routes for use if needed. Drivers can find out about road works and busy junctions on the Internet before starting out. In order to enjoy a stress-free journey, it is also important to allow sufficient time. It is better to travel at a reasonable speed – driving excessively fast causes more stress.

Tip No. 8: The correct seating position

Eight out of ten drivers and passengers do not have the best seating position when travelling. Above all during long journeys, this often leads to headaches or stiffness in the neck or back – and in the event that an accident does occur, wrongly adjusted seats can even lead to serious injuries. Drivers who sit too near the steering can we wedged in if the airbag is deployed. TÜV NORD therefore recommends ensuring that the seats are correctly adjusted – and not only before going on holiday, but also before short journeys. Important information for drivers regarding the ideal driving position can be found here.

Tip No. 9: Interesting games instead of boredom and grumbling

Children in particular often find it difficult to sit in the car for several hours. If they start to get bored, arguments and grumbling soon follow. The answer lies in games played together, so that the journey can be free of stress of the whole family:

  • “Find the sentence”: Everyone takes a turn at making sentences from words starting with the letters of car number plates
  • “Animal ABC”: Starting with the name of an animal, follow-on names have be found which start with the last letter – for example elephant-tiger-rhinoceros-squirrel. Other ABC series are also fun, such as with towns, countries, plants or first names.
  • “Auto-Memo”: The first player states an object (red car, bridge, cow). Whoever sees this object first from the car has won and is allowed to name the next one.

Tip No. 10: Snacks for the journey

Never start a journey without having food on board! Light snacks are ideal, as these do not make you sleepy when you are sitting down. A special tip for sandwich lovers: cream cheese or other spreads help to avoid crumbs. Fruit and vegetables also make practical snacks. They contain a great deal of water and therefore help to prevent dehydration. TÜV NORD also recommends all travellers to drink generous amounts. The best thing to drink is simply water, but fruit teas and juice with mineral water are also good thirst quenchers.