8 Tips For Planning The Ultimate UK Family Road Trip

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Because we’ve all got our eyes on summer right now, and, much like the open road, we can hear the sound of endless possibility calling…

But wait. What’s that whining? Are we there yet? A baby crying? Mum, I’m bored. And what’s that other sound? Yep, that’s the sound of your dream ride of fun and freedom, loose morals and looser plans, shattering. It shouldn’t have to be this way, though.

You can still have a great adventure, a more fulfilling one even, with the little ones in tow. And here’s how; our 8 tips for planning the ultimate UK family road trip.

Lock Down The Budget

Trying to establish a budget for a trip so reliant on spontaneity and the thrill of the open road may feel counterintuitive, like plucking a number out of thin air. But when the little ones are involved, it’s important to be practical in your approach. Use a dedicated holiday online budget calculator to understand the costs prior to setting off. In doing so, there’ll be no nasty surprises waiting for you round the bend.

Decide On Your Destination

Choosing the location can be equally mind-boggling. As a starting point, try and think of common interests that you all share as a family. Does everyone love beaches? Or perhaps the family are more interested in historically significant destinations?

Whilst the UK is relatively small in comparison to other countries, you are unlikely to get much done within the space of a week. You can drive from top to bottom within a day but all you’ll get to see is the motorway.

We’d suggest deciding where you’d most like to visit beforehand and try making your way from the top of the country to the bottom or vice versa. You won’t want to overexert yourself by driving hours on end each day, particularly if you’re travelling with a young family.

Take a few days to properly relax and see the sites in each city or town. We’d recommend visiting Stonehenge, Bath, Harrogate, York and Edinburgh if you can but the choice is totally up to you!

Read: 5 places in Yorkshire to visit with your kids

Should all else fail you could use this list of the UK & Ireland’s best road trips for inspiration. Whatever you decide on, when the kids are involved it’s vital to have an itinerary locked down. Which brings us to…

Have A Firm Plan In Place…

Are we there yet? It’s a tough question to field and an even tougher kid to placate if you have no bloody clue of the answer. With kids, we’re sorry to say, the rules are somewhat changed on being impromptu and carefree.

It’s essential to have a plan of attack in place, including a detailed knowledge of where you’ll be staying and the nearby entertainment, activities, medical provisions and kid-friendly food available. This will take huge amounts of stress away from the trip, and allow you more quality time with your family. And that’s what it’s all about, right?

Read: The best UK road trips to do with the kids before they grow up

…But Be Flexible

Yep, we know we’ve just extolled the virtues of meticulous planning, but it’s also important to leave a little room for flexibility on your trip. Military precision is all well and good, but it can ruin the vibe of the holiday entirely if you ignore your kids’ sudden desire to have a dip in a lake or picnic in the forest just because your hostel check-in specifies 6pm on the dot. So, when booking accommodation and activities in advance, make sure you click that oft-ignored ‘cancellation insurance’ button and opt for places which allow free cancellation or date and time flexibility wherever possible.

Pack A Comprehensive Car Care Kit

Ensuring you have a well-stocked car care kit can be a lifesaver on a family road trip, especially when travelling with little ones. Here are some essential items to include:

  • Tyre Repair Kit: A puncture can happen at any time, so having a reliable tyre repair kit is crucial. Consider the Slime Smart Spair Emergency Flat Tyre Repair Kit, which is easy to use and can get you back on the road quickly.
  • Jump Leads: A flat battery can ruin your day, but with a set of jump leads, you can get a boost from a friendly passer-by.
  • Spare Bulbs and Fuses: It’s always a good idea to carry spare bulbs and fuses for your vehicle. The Ring Automotive RCT5 Car Bulb Kit is a comprehensive set that covers most needs.
  • Basic Tool Kit: A small tool kit can help with minor repairs. The Halfords Advanced 30 Piece Socket Set is compact yet versatile, perfect for handling a variety of small fixes.
  • Engine Oil and Coolant: Keeping a litre of engine oil and some coolant in the car can help you top up if levels get low. Brands like Castrol GTX for oil and Prestone Coolant/Antifreeze are reliable choices.
  • Clutch Kit: If you’re driving a manual car, having a spare clutch kit can be invaluable. For instance, a Kia Sportage clutch kit for Kia models or a Ford Clutch Kit for Ford vehicles can be a good investment, especially if your car is older or has higher milage. 
  • Duct Tape and Cable Ties: These can be used for temporary fixes on a variety of issues, from securing loose parts to patching up minor leaks.
  • First Aid Kit: While not strictly for car repairs, a first aid kit is essential for any road trip. The St John Ambulance Car First Aid Kit is comprehensive and compact.

By packing these items, you’ll be well-prepared to handle minor car troubles, ensuring your family road trip remains as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

Choose Your Accommodation & Ride Carefully

One of the best things about a road trip is the freedom to stay in many different places. While there are options for every budget including Airbnb, hotels and even camping, there is, of course, one way to skip this step all this: hire an RV or trailer. This option gives your family full flexibility and best of all, your pets could even come with you.  

You will also want to carry out the necessary checks on your vehicle before embarking on a long journey, including the tyre pressure, tyre tread depth, oil level and engine coolant fluid. Having your car examined is the best way to make sure you have full peace of mind when driving and reduces the chances of a breakdown occurring.

Read: How to prepare your car for a family road trip

Take Plenty Of Entertainment For Adults & Kids

Boredom can lead to plenty of backseat infighting so it’s best to come prepared with entertainment to keep the little ones occupied during the more boring stretches of road and scenery. Make sure all electronics are fully charged and films downloaded. Agree set times for screens before you set off to encourage family members to look up from their devices and take in the scenery.

A family playlist is a great idea, too, with contributions and choices from all members, as this avoids unseemly squabbles about what to listen to and can conjure up wonderful memories once the trip is over. An audiobook that appeals to everyone is also a great way to pass the hours on the open road.

family holiday

Pack Light But Pack Well

Kids need stuff. And so much of it. But your trip will be vastly improved by packing light and only bringing with you what you absolutely need. Of course, medical necessities, snacks, and entertainment are essential, but does the little one really need his lightsaber, superman cape and doll’s house in the back of the car? We think – nope we’re sure – that a cramped, uncomfortable car will elicit more moaning than a couple less toys being present on the journey.

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