A driving holiday can be a great way to enjoy going to different places in a way that is truly bespoke – whether that means a… romantic road trip for two in a soft top, low slung speedster or something more suited to a family excursion. However, whether you are going on a UK staycation or taking your vehicle overseas, there are some basic safety tips that can apply to all scenarios.
Going on holiday always requires some planning, no matter how relaxed you are about getting to where you are going. When it comes to a driving holiday there are some things that are essentials and others that are optional, but your pre-travel checklist should always include the basics.
Making sure your vehicle is in a safe and roadworthy condition is an obvious starting point. The easiest way to ruin a road trip is by having a mechanical failure or a breakdown that could have been avoided with a little attention to detail before setting off. Tyre condition and pressure, recently changed oil and a top-up of window washer fluid are all simple tasks that all drivers can do for themselves. The general driving condition shouldn't be a cause for concern, so make sure that any niggling noises like squeaky brakes or strange knocking sounds are checked out, well before you intend to leave.
Sat-Nav technology has made longer journeys much easier than they were in the past, but you still need to know the correct details for your various destinations in order to programme your devices properly. Up-to-date software should alert you to any road closures or maintenance works that might disrupt your journey, but it's always worth checking online with news sites and specialist travel information providers just to make sure you're aware of any potential problems.
Working out whether or not you will need any overnight stops on the way to your destination is an essential part of planning, and of course, if your trip is going to take in various different locations you need to work out where you'll be each night. Whether that means booking hotels or B&Bs, reserving space on camping sites or seeing how far you get before deciding where to stopover, you'll need to do your homework well in advance, especially if you're travelling at high season holiday times.
If you are travelling with children it can be important to make sure that an in-car entertainment regime is in place. Although the obvious aim is to keep things relatively quiet, too much noise or too many screens in operation at any one time can be distracting for the driver and can cause safety problems. Again a little forward-thinking can easily solve these issues and even old tried and tested standby travel games such as 'eye spy' can keep even the most jaded young tech addict occupied.
Any experienced long distance driver knows that having regular stops is essential for safe driving. Weary eyes and tired minds are both equally dangerous and a pit stop for some fresh air or a cup of coffee breaks up the journey and gives the driver a chance to refocus.
This is also a point when it comes to working out how far you intend to travel each day, as being over ambitious and trying to do too much can undermine your safety preparations in other areas. This doesn't just come down to the length of the route itself or the distance between target locations – unexpected traffic delays, difficult weather conditions or the behaviour of other road users might adversely affect your plans, so a degree of flexibility is always a good idea.
Being prepared for an unexpected emergency is never a nice thing to think about but should be part of your overall planning. A relatively simple thing like a flat tyre can cause disruption depending on where or when it happens, while the possibility of a more serious issue such as a medical episode or a crash should always be taken into account. An emergency kit in the vehicle including items such as a torch, food and water, blanket, first-aid kit, battery pack and phone charger means that you will be prepared for most eventualities.
A staycation road trip in the UK means there will always be an air of familiarity which isn't the case if driving overseas. For anyone taking their own vehicle across the English Channel to drive around Europe, the first and most obvious safety consideration is driving on the other side of the road. Not only can a right-hand drive car mean it is difficult to navigate the roads of the European mainland, but it can also be something of a culture shock to change to driving on the 'other' side of the road, and anyone doing so for the first time should be extra cautious at first.
When it comes to road regulations and driving in Europe, a lot depends on what happens with the UK's future relationship with the European Union. At the moment there are various legal aspects to be aware of, depending on which countries you might be visiting. Safety equipment can be a legal requirement, whilst rules about speed limits and car light illuminations can also differ across Euro borders.
A roadside assistance programme is always a good idea for a long trip and checking that you are covered in the right way is an easy thing to do. For travelling overseas it might mean a little extra outlay as an add-on to your usual package, simply check with your chosen service to find out the details.
As with driving in the UK, having the correct insurance is a legal requirement, regardless of which country you visit across the EU. Obviously, any form of travel should always be covered by an insurance policy that ensures legal compliance, as well as offering peace of mind should accidents or other unwelcome scenarios occur.
If you intend to hire a vehicle to take overseas, you can add another layer of protection with a car hire excess insurance policy. This is usually payable should your vehicle be damaged or stolen, and can amount to hundreds or even thousands of pounds. However, a standalone policy from a third party can cover the excess payable, providing peace of mind for your trip. You will still need to pay the excess in the event of a claim, but you can then claim it back via the policy.