Unfamiliar roads and unsettled kids can sometimes make the prospect of hiring a car on holiday seem daunting but get it right and it can be your ticket to freedom with your family.
Fortunately, the experts at Rentalcars.com have shared their top tips on how to have a smooth and bump-free journey.
Book early – sorting out your car-hire in advance can help save you time, hassle and money. Booking ahead online will give you the chance to look at a range of options, including price and car category, and you’ll have more time decide if you need to include any add-ons to your car hire. You’ll also be able to familiarise yourself with the T&Cs from the provider, which will mean you’ll know exactly what to expect when you arrive at the pick-up desk.
Pack your ‘oops kit’ – it’s a good idea to set off for every family holiday armed with a bag of essentials in your hand luggage (for when you fly) and the glove box (for when you drive), so everything is in easy reach. You never know when you might need things like wipes, tissues, hand gels, plasters, emergency snacks and small toys for the kids. The worst thing you can do is leave these in the boot of a car – so make sure you plan ahead.
Fuel yourselves up too – it’s easy to become dehydrated in hotter climates. So, if you’re driving abroad this summer, make sure to bring plenty of drinks for everyone in the car. Stock up on small bottles of water that you can refill and bring a cool bag if you can too. Snacks can also be a great mood lifter and can help keep kids busy, especially on long car journeys. Think of things that are easy to eat, and not too messy for the hire car, like string cheese, small packets of dried fruit and sweet treats that won’t melt! If you need a refill, don't forget to pop into a service station along the way.
Plan your route ahead – some say that the allure of road trips is born out of a little spontaneity and mystery, which is certainly true. But some things just cannot do without planning. To save yourself from last-minute panic on the road with kids in the back, plan your routes and stops well ahead of time. It’s best practice to at least plan the start and end points and have places to stay mapped out if you’re travelling long distances. You can then leave the rest of the trip open to more freedom.
Bring your own car seat – taking your own car seat is a cheaper option than paying daily rental charges. Most airlines will allow you to take a car seat with you for free. Both Ryanair and British Airways, for example, allow a car seat to be transported free for children up to the age of 11, as well as a pushchair. Once you arrive, having your own car seat may reap rewards too. You don’t run the risk of your rental company running out of the seat you need, and you’ll know how to fit it in the car you’re given.
Cut the cost of a sat-nav – remember that there are apps out there that let you download maps for free, to use on your phone or tablet without using any mobile data. HereWeGo is a free app that lets you do this.
Play games in the car – if you’re after ways to keep the whole family entertained, why not have a go at a round of ‘I-Spy’ or play an educational game where you and the kids can learn some of the local languages, using a family-friendly phrasebook.
Sleep patterns – as well as keeping kids entertained, you may also want to think about how to help them relax and unwind. If you’re driving close to their bedtime or naptime, loading your smartphone or tablet with music to help calm them down can be a real help. Spotify has a selection of playlists to help babies and children sleep, and if you download them using Wi-Fi in advance, you won’t run up any data charges while on the road.
Avoid travel sickness – it might not impact everyone, but if you suffer from travel sickness it can make car journeys a nightmare. If you’re concerned that your kids could suffer it’s best to be prepared. Speak to your local pharmacist in the UK before you travel for their advice on what you children can take. It’s always good to have something up your sleeve even if you’ve not had the problem before.
Give the car a quick clean before you hand it back – and finally, when travelling with kids there’s a bigger chance the car will get messy. It’s always a good idea to give the interior a wipe to remove any sticky fingerprints and to take your litter with you. It can be easy to forget that the rental company are trusting you with a valuable item that belongs to them. If you return the car how you found it, you’re unlikely to face any surprise cleaning bills back at home.
For more car hire guides and driving abroad inspiration, please visit Rentalcars.com.
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