For thousands of families, the summer holidays mean loading up the car, marshalling the children and setting off on the open road, even if the journey in question is simply the long, slow gridlocked crawl to the airport. However, according to research from Europcar, although the promise of a well-earned vacation will make anyone feel more relaxed, the thought of everything that can go wrong on a road trip, from unforeseen breakdowns to annoying passengers, is enough to give most drivers nightmares.
The summer is one of the busiest times for traveling by road so it comes as little surprise that 42 percent of drivers surveyed said that the thing that stresses them out the most is other drivers tailgating or generally not keeping their distance, followed by the uniquely European problem of drivers that ‘hog' the center lane of a motorway (39%) regardless of the conditions or the speed at which they're traveling.
And while 37 percent live in fear of being cut off by other cars, over a third (37%) claim to be irritated by Sunday drivers, i.e. those cars tottering along at a speed akin to rolling without the assistance of an engine.
Drivers are also just as likely to find stress from within -- particularly on longer journeys. Over one third are less than appreciative when passengers offer their vehicle and driving-based opinions, while 16 percent actually stress about being able to fit all of the bags plus the children and their toys in the car without feeling too squashed or uncomfortable.
All of those figures pale in comparison to the 62 percent of drivers who say their biggest fear and greatest source of stress is their car's reliability and the thought of being stuck on the roadside with a seriously disappointed family.
How to manage road-trip stress:
Reliability: For those that are unsure of their car's reliability for the annual family outing, the simplest answer is to consider getting a rental car. However, other options include putting the car through a full service with a reputable garage well ahead of the trip. For US consumers, there is also the rather ingenious Automatic -- a device that plugs into any modern car's diagnostics port and communicates with a smartphone. As well as analyzing driving style and routine to help you save money, it will also notify you of potential mechanical and electrical faults. And, in the case of an emergency will automatically call 911.
Breathing space: Anticipating what to pack and what to leave behind can be as challenging as driving around a race track. But to avoid squashing your passengers make sure that you at least start with an empty car. Remove all bits and pieces -- shovels, blankets, snow chains, etc -- that will not be needed on a peak summer break.
Keeping the kids entertained: Use booster cushions so that they can see out of the window so they won't need to ask "are we there, yet?" Also give them their own map so that they can follow the trip and look out for landmarks. Make sure there are also plenty of snacks, drinks and disposable towels packed -- accidents happen.
Recharge the batteries: Make sure older children's tablets and phones are fully charged and the same goes for a standalone SatNav if you're using one. Also, make sure that everyone's packed their headphones to avoid any music taste-based arguments or the younger generation commandeering the in-car stereo. Likewise, if you're relying on a smartphone or tablet navigation app, make sure it's up to date and plan and save the route before you leave rather than once you're already sitting in traffic with a dodgy 3G connection.
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