Search icon


17th Apr 2022

Road trip? Don’t make these dangerous mistakes on long car trips with kids

Trine Jensen-Burke

road trips with kids

Take note.

As it is the Easter bank holiday, many families may be off to see family around the country – or seizing the opportunity for a little mini staycation.

First long car trip in a while? Or first one as a family?

If you are heading out on a long car trip with kids in the back, here are some crucial safety tips to keep in mind from car seat expert Jumaimah Hussain with nursery retailer Kiddies Kingdom and parenting expert and consultant Kirsty Ketley.

First of all, when travelling by car, children must be in a car seat until they are 12 years old or 135cm to contain them safely and securely whilst in the car.

Make sure you Have a correctly fitted car seat

Ketley explains that “to keep children safe in the car, it is vital that parents follow the law. This means having the appropriate car seat which is fitted correctly. Not all seats fit all cars, so it is important to use one that correctly and safely fits your car.”

She recommends that parents “purchase their car seat from somewhere that has staff trained in car seat safety and that can show you how to fit the seat properly.”

Never buy a second-hand car seat

When purchasing a car seat, Hussain explains to “never buy a second-hand seat for safety reasons as you can’t be certain of its history. It may have been involved in an accident you don’t know about, be older so not designed to current standards, or have missing instructions.”

Place the car seat in the back

Hussain shares that “it’s safer to secure car seats in the rear of the car.”

However, she explains that “in a situation where there’s no other choice, if you are fitting a forward-facing child seat in the front of a car, move the seat as far back as possible.” She also adds to “never fit a rearward-facing baby seat in the front if there is an active airbag on the passenger side of the car.”

Remove thick clothing 

Ketley advises to “remove any thick winter coats or all-in-one suits when travelling, as these can increase the distance between your child’s body and the harness straps. Blankets should only be used laid across your child after they are strapped in, not underneath, behind or between the harness straps and your child.”

Make sure the harness fits securely

To check whether the car seat harness fits, Hussains advises that “when you pull on it to make it secure, it should lay flat with no crumples.” She also adds to “remember to adjust the position or straps as your little one grows, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.”

Avoid spending too long in their car seat

Hussain advises that little ones “shouldn’t spend long periods of time in a car seat. From when they’re a newborn to three months old, they should spend no more than 30 minutes in a car seat, or until they can lift their own head.

The recommended length for babies and infants is no longer than two hours.” She adds that if families are “planning a road trip, to pull over every hour or two and take them out their car seat.”

She also explains that “your little one’s regular place for sleeping should be a cot, crib or Moses basket – not a car seat. There will be times where your baby will doze off in their car seat but in this situation, make sure they’re not asleep in the same position for longer than 90 minutes.”

Keep them safe in the car

To keep your little one safe whilst in the car, Ketley recommends “to make sure to activate child locks on windows and doors to avoid your child opening them. She also advises to “regularly check your child, to see that they are seated and safely strapped in” and to “avoid giving young children snacks in the car in case of choking.”

Prepare anxious travellers

If your child is an anxious traveller, Ketley recommends to “include them in the planning of your trip. This can be helping to pack or picking the music, story, or movie for the car as this can help them feel in control.

Discuss where you are going and Google places that you will visit to help build excitement and remove any fear of the unknown.”

If your child gets homesick, she suggests “letting them know that they will be coming home again. Tell them how many ‘sleeps’ or days you will be away for and to remind them that you will be having lots of fun when away.”

What are YOUR best tips for long car journeys with kids?