Taking your car on holiday rather than flying means you can take more with you. But before you rush ahead and pack the kitchen sink, think about your safety and comfort. You don't want to end up making a long car journey with zero visibility for the driver and everyone else squashed in like rush-hour commuters on the London Underground.
To ensure the driver can see out of the back window, try to avoid packing above the line of the seat backs. As well as obscuring the view, anything packed higher than that is at risk of flying forwards in a crash (or after sudden or emergency breaking) and hitting someone on the head. If your boot is just too small, consider using a roof rack or roof box.
A great way of carrying large or awkward items is on a roof rack. You should use one that’s suited to your car, and before fitting, check your car’s maximum permitted roof load in the hand book and don’t forget to include the weight of the rack.
If you are just using a roof rack, make sure whatever is fitted is securely attached and doesn’t stick out dangerously at either side, or to the front or back. Once you start driving, the airflow will try to lift up the front of the load on your roof, so make sure you take that into account with extra bindings.
It is possible the fixings will work loose over the course of a long journey, so stop and check them regularly. Also, don't forget about the roof rack when you drive under low signs or entering covered car parks, particularly if your car is already tall like a people carrier or SUV.
These are a great way of increasing your car’s boot space on a temporary basis for a fraction of the cost of a new car. It sounds obvious but the roof box you choose has to fit the roof bars on your car. There’s a huge variety of roof boxes on the market. Think about how frequently you’re going to want access to the contents of a roof box. Some hinge at the front or back, some open on both sides, some open on only one side, meaning you might have to stand in the road to load/unload it.
Consider the quality too. The more expensive ones tend to be more aerodynamic, therefore saving the amount of fuel you use. Some roof boxes can feel alarmingly flimsy. Consider the locking mechanism too. More expensive ones have a system that prevents you removing the key unless it’s locked, helping to stop you driving off with a roof box that could spring open at any moment.
Packing the boot
Make sure things are secure so items don't slide around every time you brake or turn a corner. Pack heavier and larger items first. Not only will this make it easier to fit everything in, but putting the heaviest stuff at the bottom will also help to keep the car's centre of gravity lower, which will minimise the impact of the load on the car's handling.
Really heavy items in the boot should be pushed up against the rear seats. This avoids the car being too heavy at the back, which could affect the steering, and it also means there is less chance of momentum making them burst into the passenger compartment if you have an accident.
Don't forget your passengers' comfort. Install child seats first as it may be more difficult once you've packed in everything else. It is generally good advice to leave plenty of room for children as squeezing stuff in tight around them is likely to make them restless during the journey.
Need to get to the spare wheel?
When you are packing, consider the possibility that you may get a puncture during the journey. Think about how you will get to the spare wheel in an emergency. Using a small number of bags for your belongings rather than throwing everything in loose, for example, will save you a lot of hassle when you have to unload in the dark at the side of a road.
If you are packing a heavy load, check your car's handbook to see if you need to adjust the tyre pressures. If you do, remember to adjust them again after the trip. Your car's handling and performance will be affected by a heavy load, and stopping distances will be increased, so drive with added caution and allow plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front.
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