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Hiring a car for a holiday can be a great way to see the sights at your own pace and travel in an environment that gives you complete control. This can be especially important for parents with a myriad of different factors to consider, from car seats for infants, through to entertainment options to keep older minds occupied.
Although choosing the right hire vehicle is a key element in getting things right from the start, there are plenty of other ways where clever planning can make things go smoothly right from the word go.
The fact is that stress-free car journeys for parents with children involves much more than having an answer to the inevitable 'are we there yet?' question, especially if the trip involves long journeys.
Choosing a hire car can be quite confusing as there are so many models and different deals on offer. Expense is also a consideration but the trade-off between size and comfort can be a big deal for a family driving holiday.
As different car choices are subject to a range of factors which include the number of seats, number of doors and luggage capacity, it can be hard to know what the correct mix of all of these will be. Remember that car hire firms will classify vehicles by ‘type’ rather than by certain makes and models.
One way to make things easier is by being careful about how you pack. Using soft luggage as opposed to hard shell cases might give you flexibility, meaning you could hire a less expensive car with smaller luggage space but a bigger interior environment.
Route planning is a very basic factor to get right for any driving holiday and it takes on an extra significance for parents. Making sure that regular stops are part of the itinerary is essential, not only for the inevitable toilet breaks but also for keeping things interesting for everyone.
Pit stops with picturesque views can add value to the trip in many ways, as well as giving children a chance to stretch their legs and get a bit of fresh air. Having a set location to aim for means you can even turn the countdown to arrival into an in-car game, and of course, doing a bit of research on potential stops will mean that you never run out of fuel or miss out on lunch.
Another basic element for anyone travelling with young children in a hire car is seating arrangements. Having child seats as an add-on can be surprisingly expensive and you'll never be sure if they will be as good a fit as the ones you have at home. The simple answer, therefore, is to take your own.
Even if you are flying out to a destination and then hiring a car this shouldn't be a problem, as many airlines, and even the budget carriers, will allow you to take a child car seat with you for free. Just double check with your airline before travel that this is the case.
While games of 'I spy' may once have been enough to keep young minds occupied in the car, today's demands are a little more sophisticated, which means that a tech solution is often needed.
Depending on the car you hire, you might have a full entertainment environment provided for you. However, even if the only bits of technology you take with you are your phones, you'll be able to load them up with enough films or music to keep everyone happy.
Streaming services can also be a great way to mix up the content. You'll find that there are plenty of Spotify playlists aimed at all ages that are themed for car journeys, and of course, an engaging audio book is always a great stand by for a long journey.
It isn't just the kids that can get a bit edgy if they don't get enough sleep and it's easy to try and over-stretch a long drive to reach your destination. One way of avoiding problems is to encourage naps for children on long or late drives and once again, calming music is a great way to create the right environment.
Ultimately though it comes back to route planning and taking advantage of one of the great benefits of a driving holiday – namely the fact that you are in control and can pick and choose where and when you stop, and for how long. This means that breaking a long journey up into a few overnight stays can give everyone a chance to get some rest, while the whole family gets to spend some quality time together in exciting new places.
Above all, the most important tips for parents embarking on a holiday involving a hire car is to try and avoid complications and keep things running smoothly. Complications at the rental desk can get things off to a bad start, so make sure all the documents that might be needed are at hand and have the correct payment method ready to go. You should also carry out checks when you receive your hire vehicle and any issues should be recorded in the paperwork for the hire. This will mean you are not charged for any pre-existing issues such as dents and scratches, as they will all be recorded in writing prior to you setting off.