Get the car and kids ready for mid-year holiday road trips

With the mid-year school holidays fast approaching, families will soon start preparing for those long drives ahead. “Keeping the kids safe and entertained is an important part of the trip,” says Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), an affiliate association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI).

He says it is essential when travelling with young children to ensure that car seats are properly secured. Statistics show that up to 70% of car seats are incorrectly installed. Parents must also ensure that the seat is the age-appropriate size and kids who are big enough to use the normal seat belts are buckled in at all times.

“Children, especially toddlers, get fidgety when sitting still for more than two hours. It is important to stop at regular intervals to give everyone a chance to stretch their legs and refuel for the next leg. Try to pick pit-stops with fun activities for children such as jungle gyms. This gives kids a chance to work off some energy without distracting mom or dad while they drive!”

Making sure the car is in tip top condition ahead of the drive also needs to be a priority. Ranft recommends heading to a MIWA-accredited workshop to have the car checked a week or so before departing. “Don’t leave the service until the last minute as you may need new parts that need to be ordered and could take a few days.”

He also reminds drivers that every car should contain a breakdown kit with a flashlight in the event of an accident or breakdown after dark, and a fully charged phone for communication during emergencies.

Dealing with bored and grumpy children on a road trip can be challenging, so Ranft offers these helpful tips for happy, safe journeys:

* Pack snacks in the car to reduce the amount of hours wasted at often crowded roadside restaurants along the way. Juice boxes, cereal bars and the South African favourite, biltong, are always a good idea for hungry little people.

* Pack lots of water to prevent dehydration, and wet-wipes to clean sticky hands and spills.

* Revisit the traditional car games of 21 Questions, Eye Spy and or Numberplate Cricket.

* If these don’t appeal, smartphones and tablets are loaded with games to appeal to a range of ages, and with the increase in educational games, could even teach your child a new skill by the time you reach your destination.

* Audio-books are also a great idea. Make sure to pick something that appeals to the whole family.