David MottonSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Travel and touring’ written by David Motton
Have you been away yet this summer? Maybe you're reading this at a campsite with wi-fi, or perhaps you're getting ready to go away this weekend.
Everyone looks forward to their summer caravan holidays, but the journey can be stressful, especially if travelling with children.
Škoda has surveyed British parents, and says almost a third (32%) dread long car journeys on family holidays. Apparently the average parent will spend £21 keeping the kids quiet and happy on the way to their holiday, and the same again on the way back. That's almost the cost of a tank of fuel just to keep the peace on the way to and from the holiday.
Parents will hear the words "Are we nearly there yet?" over three million times this summer. "I need the toilet!" will be shouted from the back seats two million times, and "I feel sick!" 1.6 million times. At least so says Škoda.
There is a serious point to this, though. Noisy and unhappy kids make for frustrated and unhappy drivers. It's easy to lose concentration if you're dealing with children as well as driving or navigating from the passenger seat. And concentrating fully on driving is never more important than when towing a caravan.
Prevention is better than cure in the fight to preserve family harmony on a long journey. I've found a pair of DVD players with separate headphones very effective at keeping our two quiet. There's no arguing over who watches what, and the headphones mean mum and dad don't have to listen.
Despite their love of DVD players, tablet computers and gadgetry in general, old-fashioned games still seem to keep my children happy, too. I-Spy is a family favourite once the kids have finished watching their film. It's the favoured in-car game for 52% of parents, according to Škoda, followed by Hangman and the licence plate game.
In really bad traffic, though, there comes a point at which any form of entertainment, modern or traditional, starts to wear thin. The huge queues for the ferries at Dover at the start of the summer holidays are a reminder that planning a long journey with children isn't just a question of keeping them entertained.
It pays to take food and water on any long trip, and not just because of the high prices which motorway services charge. It's worth taking more than you think you'll need, just in case you end up in the traffic jam from hell like those stuck in Kent the other week.
Some of those stopped on the M20 and A20 earlier this summer got out of their cars, sunbathing or playing by the side of the road. It's understandable under the circumstances, but something the police strongly advised against and which could cause further delays when the traffic starts to move again.
Of course, caravanners have an advantage over other holiday traffic, provided there is somewhere to pull over and stop safely and legally. If the traffic is really snarled up, we can find the nearest lay-by, open the van and put the kettle on.
Caravanners are lucky. Instead of getting frustrated by a slow journey, we can kick back, relax and start our holiday early.