We love to travel and have been on some epic road trips in our time, so we thought that we’d share our tips for choosing the perfect road trip vehicle.
Before the boys came along we toured around New Zealand and Australia in various camper vans. As a family our longest road trip has been from Lancashire in the UK, via Dieppe in France, to Penamacor in Central Portugal. We have also driven all over France, Portugal and Spain. Hopefully we can share some of our hard earned insights and make it easier for you to choose the perfect car for a long road trip.
There is nothing more painful than travelling miles and miles in an uncomfortable vehicle. If you are sat still for more than a couple of hours in a row everything turns numb. Not only is it unpleasant but it’s downright exhausting and frustrating. Make sure your vehicle has a reasonably good suspension. Comfortable seats are also a must, especially when you are spending 7 hours plus at the wheel. Also a good vehicle needs to have a cup holder to securely hold a strong coffee to keep me alert!
Read reviews about your vehicle before you buy, it is worth checking out what the experts have to say. Cars.com has some great reviews and guides. Safety is paramount, especially when travelling with children. Get your vehicle inspected before you purchase it and serviced before taking it on a long road trip. The last thing you want is to breakdown mid trip. At the very least check the tyre pressure, oil and water before heading off.
Also check your children’s car seats are suitable for their weight restrictions (they grow so quickly) and fitted safely and correctly.
Top Travel Tips: When travelling in Europe most countries expect children under the age of twelve to be in the appropriate car seat in the rear of the car, it is against the law to travel in the front of the car. When driving in France and Spain in a RHD vehicle you will also need to adapt your vehicle’s lights with stickers to alter the projection of the beam. It is also worth checking each countries individual laws that you want to drive through. In France you will need a disposable breathalyser, in Spain you need two emergency triangles and hi viz vests for all car occupants and all of your car insurance and proof of ownership documents etc.
Let’s face it tech really helps relieve boredom on long trips. Whether you are driving solo or with the family it lightens the mood to listen to good music. Changing the radio station every twenty minutes when you loose signal is way too distracting when driving long distances so having a radio with bluetooth or usb connectivity means you can plug in your phone or MP4 player and rock out. Also having the option to have screens for the kids in the back is sometimes a lifesaver. Admittedly we don’t have screens or tablets in our car, simply because we don’t own a portable dvd or a tablet but as they get older I am sure that this is something we will consider. Buying a car that already has them installed if this is an option, is a no-brianer. When travelling long distances having entertained and happy kids makes for a much easier and more pleasant road trip!
Economy-Miles to the Gallon
We used to have a 2.5l TDi Mazda Bongo, we loved it but it guzzled Diesel. So much so that we never really went above 70mph when driving to optimise fuel consumption. The Bongo was expensive to run, when we chose our latest vehicle, a Hyundai Santa Fe we went for a good enough sized engine to pull our caravan but also a comfortable and economical car. Much better fuel consumption than the Bongo and we can go that little bit faster, when we need to, and not worry about the fuel gauge too much!
Space and Storage
After luxuriating the spacious Bongo, we sold it to buy a Spanish car and opted for a Seat Ibiza 1.9l hatchback. It was a wonderfully economical car and great for road trips in that respect but man it was crampt. When choosing your road trip vehicle make sure you have enough space, especially if you are travelling with kids. Kids have so much stuff! There’s nothing worse than a road trip with masses of baggage in the boot, in the footwells, on the back seat and stuffed between every available gap. The kids are much happier when they have a little bit of space to breathe and it’s far easier to find the toys that they seem to drop every five minutes or so! Read more on our top tips to a survive a road trip with small children.
In the UK it’s not often that you need air con, just open the window and you are away. If you are travelling further afield to warmer climates definitely choose a vehicle that has air-con. When our air-con failed travelling through Seville and the mercury hit 46º we virtually stuck to the seats in our car. Sweating was an understatement and it made the journey oh so much longer and more uncomfortable.
I do not know what we would do without it. Sat-Nav is truly the best, a life-saver. We have been saved so many times by sat-nav, especially when travelling in Spain as the Spanish seem to be in the habit of never signposting where you actually want to go, just the major cities miles away from your actual destination! The one thing I wish we had in our car is sat-nav built-in, then we could use our smart phone for phone calls, or let the kids play games on it to keep them entertained.
Top Sat-Nav Tip: Always check the final destination and route provided by your Sat-Nav. Sat Nav is wonderful when it works but awful when it takes you the ’scenic route’ or to a totally different unplanned destination. Always check your route then you only have yourself to blame if you go wrong!