By Chris A. Harmen
There simply isn’t any substitute for a safe car or people mover. Ask dealers about the safety ratings on their vehicles and check out the major automotive magazines and websites for their top picks. Look for features like side curtain air bags, easy tether systems for children’s car safety seats and back-up alert systems.
If the kids aren’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Keep this in mind when you shop for your next vehicle for a long road trip. Look at the comfort features from their perspective, not yours. Is there plenty of legroom for teens as well as a reliable tether system for car safety seats? Can younger children easily see out of the side windows? Are there plenty of places to stow away a cooler with drinks and snacks, toys, books, sweaters and all of the endless paraphernalia of childhood? Also consider separate climate controls for each section of your vehicle. While you may think it’s cozy in the front seat, someone two rows back may be roasting. Letting passengers adjust their own climate zone can save lots of arguments about whether it’s too hot or too cold. You can get some great insight from your toughest critics if you test drive a vehicle with your kids along for a ride. They won’t be afraid to let you know if they aren’t comfortable and why.
Manufacturers are increasingly offering seating options that can be rearranged to meet your family’s changing needs. Stow and go seating is very popular and gives you additional flexibility for hauling anything from furniture to flowers when you don’t need all the seats for your family road trip.
Road trips can get to be very expensive, particularly if you have a vehicle full of kids who want snacks and souvenirs at every stop. Driving a fuel efficient car or people mover can save you money you’d rather spend elsewhere and minimise boring stops to refuel every hour. Of course, you’ll want to stop periodically for restroom breaks and for everyone to stretch their legs, but isn’t it nice to know you won’t have to pay at the petrol pump every time?
Even the most beautiful scenery can become repetitive, particularly for the plugged-in generation. If you want to stop the whining in its tracks, make sure you’re driving a car with as many entertainment options as possible. TV/DVD systems mean you can plug the kids into a movie or favourite television show, and multiple audio jacks mean they can listen clearly while you enjoy some peace and quiet. More than one MP3 docking system is also a great option, allowing teens to choose their own music without punishing Mum and Dad with it.
Traveling long distances with your kids doesn’t have to be a punishment if you take everyone’s needs into consideration. If you’re planning on making a new vehicle purchase to use for family road trips, be sure you take a test drive with the whole family along for the ride to ensure everyone’s safety and comfort.
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