With the countdown beginning for the summer break it's time to prepare your vehicle for trips out of town be it a day at the beach or long breaks at holiday homes or camp sites.
But before you pile the kids, pets and paraphernalia into your car, spend some time getting ready so you don't get stuck on the side of the road with a kaput vehicle.
*Book your vehicle in for an inspection with a mechanic now. Don't leave it until the day before your trip away as you'll probably find the workshop booked out. Many garages offer safety checks for tyre tread and pressure, lights, brakes, cooling systems and other components. You should also check that your spare tyre is properly inflated and that your jack and tools are there.
*If you are towing a caravan or trailer, make sure it has its warrant of fitness. Check the roadworthiness and operation of the trailer - tyre pressures, lights, brakes if fitted and so on. Check the compatibility, fit and operation of the trailer coupling to the tow ball and all other towing attachments.
*Before you pile your gear in, clean the interior thoroughly. You don't want to be in a smelly vehicle during a long trip. Remember to empty the boot of unnecessary gear.
*Have a first-aid kit and torch, and keep them in a handy place. Also think about buying a high-visibility vest - they cost about $2 - in case your car breaks down or you need to help with an accident. You want other drivers to be able to see you.
*If you're going to an unknown location, make sure you know the route (maybe invest in a satnav system for Christmas), take a road map with you and phone numbers of people you may need to call if delayed, such as campground managers.
*It is a good idea to keep a spare key inside your wallet in case you get locked out.
*When packing your vehicle, make sure everything is securely stowed. Even small objects can become dangerous missiles in the event of a sudden stop or a crash. Never put parcels on the back window shelf, as they interfere with visibility and can become dangerous flying objects in an emergency stop. If you drive a SUV/crossover invest in a net to go behind the rear seats.
*Make sure your pets will be secure in the car. Don't let dogs lean out the window as debris may hit them or get in their eyes. Use specially designed leads or cages.
*When packing, never leave children unattended in a vehicle.
*Make sure your cellphones are charged and invest in a car adaptor.
*To keep kids amused during the trip, take games such as drawing boards, magnetic games, oversized calculators, or stuffed animals. A great peacekeeping tactic is to bring several new toys from the dollar store and dole them out periodically. Wrap them to make them special.
*Fill small water bottles for all family members, freeze them and the next day wrap them in hand towels or facecloths so everyone has a cool drink when it gets hot and something to wipe down their face.
*Pack plenty of little snacks - be in it individual lunch boxes or just in small bags to divvy out when boredom sets in.
*Plan plenty of stops along the way. if you're travelling with small kids or animals, make sure you have a bowl in case of illness and water for the animals when you have a break.
*Factor-in traffic jams, roadworks and other delays.
*It can be helpful to pack the car the night before and hit the road early if you have to be at a location at a certain time. If packing the night before - especially when the kids are asleep and there is calm - make sure the vehicle is secure and parked off the road. You don't want to wake up to find your gear stolen.
Next week: Surviving the drive.