One of the best ways to travel with kids is by road. Besides the convenience of being able to travel with more luggage, you have the flexibility of stopping for loo stops, food stops, a-ride-in-a-boat stop and, of course, the king of them all, the-car-broke-down stop. (The last is a great time to delve into the puri-alu stock, besides of course trekking for the nearest mechanic!)The key to a ‘successful’ car trip with family lies in preparation. While part of the charm of any holiday lies in the unexpected, the ‘unexpected’ discovery that you forgot your spare tire at home isn’t likely to add to a rosy holiday memory.
So here are a couple of things to keep in mind before you zoom off.
- First and foremost get your car serviced. Check oil, coolant and brake fluid levels. Gears should be in perfect working order and the battery should be fully charged.
- All indicators and lights must function perfectly. The highway is no place for your headlight to die out on you.
- Check the horn, rear view mirrors, brakes and clutch pads. Remember to tell the service station that the car will be making an outstation trip.
- Check all five tires. If your tires are going bald in places, this is a good time to change them. Make sure the spare is in good shape with sufficient air.
- You need good road maps and the Automobile Association of India combined with maps of the Survey of India can give the traveller a much-needed respite from going around in circles. Do remember to keep checking your route at tea-stops and major crossings. Truck drivers are master navigators – ask them.
- Top your car with fuel.
- Have all the tools for a puncture handy. That includes, beside the spare tire, car jack, spanner, screw driver and a small bottle of machine oil (in case the screws don’t loosen up). And remember to get the punctured tire repaired at the first available repair outlet.
- Carry some spares. Though most places have service stations and mechanics, there is no harm in carrying some spares. Spare bulbs, spark plugs, spark plug opener, battery cables, spanners and screwdrivers should see you through most minor problems. Carry a 5 to 6 metre long thick rope in case your car needs to be towed.
- Avoid night travel as most highways are not lit. A lurching cow or an errant tractor could put a quick end to a holiday trip.
- Take some extra cushions as a long drive is tiring and it will ease the cramped back and legs. Children normally like to dose off in the back seat, so a pillow is useful.
- On a longer haul, it is best if you can have a second driver or at least someone who can relieve you for a few hours.
- Stop every two hours for tea. Roadside dhabas make for great tea stops. Not only will the driver get a much-needed break, everybody can do with a stretch of legs.