Tag Archives: tips

Bon Voyage, Bonnes Vacances

Claire and Kids
Claire and Kids

Are you dreaming of a French family holiday but hesitant about taking the car?

Claire from BrightonMums.com urges you to take the plunge, based on recent family motoring trips.

Here she shares her experiences and some tips on planning your holiday journey.

Don’t panic – just drive on the right

Driving on the right is nowhere near as daunting as it seems. Once you’re circulating within the flow of their traffic, everything starts to feel logical. If anything, deserted roundabouts are probably more of a problem, as there’s no other cars to follow!

Read our Driving in France mini-guide for a summary of the main differences between UK and French road rules.

I also found this comprehensive site about what to take and which rules to take note of.

The need for speed

Some parts of the French autoroute (motorway) have a 130mph speed limit (which I secretly LOVE). You may find local drivers go at real speed on the autoroute, they may even flash their headlights to warn you to move from the overtaking lane.

Don’t be intimidated, you haven’t done anything wrong but move over when safe and let them get on with it.



The French autoroute network is no more complicated than the UK to plan around. In fact, I would controversially suggest their signposts are often more logically sited and comprehensive, especially around cities.

France has always had an excellent network of signs for local attractions and landmarks (brown signs with white writing like ours), perfect for tourists.

Invest in an up-to-date road atlas if your GPS won’t work in France or goes wrong for some reason.

Roaming data for phones is mighty expensive too and although some service stations have WiFi it’s not a given.

Hot child in the city

If you fancy driving in Paris, give it a go but plan your route carefully in advance.

During August, when most Parisiennes leave the city, Paris operates a free parking scheme in some central locations. Look for blue dots on the parking ticket machines.

We parked near to Jardin de Luxembourg, a perfect base for exploring the city.

Don’t forget that Paris can get hot and muggy in summer, so when you find the heat gets to you, hop on a Bateaux Mouches along the river Seine to refresh and enjoy the views.

Look at junctions using satellite images to figure out which lane to be in going from one to the next. This will also help you spot roads with bus lanes.

Autoroute Glossary

Take a French phrasebook with you that has a good driving section in. However, here are a few regular words you’ll see on signs on the motorway, which may not be so obvious to figure out for English drivers.

Aire – rest stop usually with a picnic area
Autres directions – all other routes
Cedez le passage – give way
Interdit – forbidden eg interdit à toute circulation = no traffic permitted
Péage – toll
Rappel – reminder (of the speed limit usually)
Toutes directions – all routes this way
Sortie – exit
Véhicules lents – slow vehicle lane
Vous n’avez pas la priorité – You don’t have priority (usually at the junction)

Do you feel motivated to book that trip now?

Alors, on y va! That means ‘off you go…’ of course, and we hope you have a great time.

Mums’ Motoring Heroes

Claire and Kids
Claire and Kids
We asked Claire from blogzine BrightonMums.com to share her tried and tested family #motoringheroes with us, hacks to help make motoring with young children less stressful than it often is.

Here’s what she told us.

“One of the first harsh lessons you learn as a parent is, outings with children need military style preparation. From getting out of the door for a newborn’s very first walk with the buggy, to baby’s first road trip to see Granny through to the first family motoring holiday adventure; parents find themselves constantly developing strategies for child-friendly travel.

The iPad (or tablet) holder

We took our first long road trip to see friends and family in Newcastle and Edinburgh when our youngest was only 2 years old so we certainly needed something to keep the kids amused and pass the time.

I found an iPad holder which hangs on the back of the front seats for a reasonable prize on Amazon and despite having Frozen and Finding Nemo playing in my ear while driving more times than I ever planned for in my life, it was worth every penny.

The fully charged phone

There’s nothing more annoying than a low phone battery, at any moment of your life. For better or worse, I’ve come to rely on my phone for just about everyone; diary management, e-mails, music and GPS maps.

As a busy, self-employed mum, the one-stop shop for life management allows me to get more done. So a reliable in-car charger is a must. I have one with a Bluetooth connection for the radio, so now I charge the phone while I drive and
brainwash the kids with some awesome 90s tunes!

A bowl or bin

This is the icky side of parenting; sick. But if you don’t prepare, you’ll be caught unawares and it’ll be a whole lot more icky for you and the car. Motion sickness can strike young children when you least expect, so having a handy receptacle children can easily grab in case they feel queasy while you’re driving could save your car upholstery.

Bags don’t really work, they’re a bit of a faff, so we have an old plastic mixing bowl permanently in the car these days.

You also need good ventilation and fresh water bottles.

Car window blinds

There’s a lot of baby and child accessories you can buy these days it’s baffling. And some are most certainly overkill, overselling to parents with disposable income.

But a good car window blind or sunshade is one of the best investments parents can make. It’s not one to scrimp on either, as poor quality products don’t stand the test of time and this is something kids benefit from until they’re out of car seats.

One of our favourite baby product companies, Munchkin, do a great window roller blind for the car. Sheer style sunshades which fix with suckers are great for older kids, as they can still take in their surroundings out of the window.

What’s that got to do with motoring? I hear you ask? Well all these items make the whole experience more manageable for me but here’s my final and really important #motoringhero for now…

National Trust properties

On long car journeys to see family and friends in England and Wales, instead of taking breaks in grimy service stations we look for a National Trust property en route instead.

And surprisingly, you don’t have to go too far off course to find a hidden gem in their network. There’s often a great café, clean toilets, activities for the kids (especially during school holidays) and a fascinating piece of national heritage to look at. Which is a no-brainer when the alternative is low nutritional value, low taste Burger King or the WH Smith’s Ginster selection with slot machines setting the hum of a polluted motorway.”

Thank you Claire for your tried and tested child-friendly #motoringheroes based on your family travelling experience.

Excellent ideas for motoring grans too of course!!

Do you and your family take long trips in the car?

What items do you swear by to keep family motoring stress-free?

If it’s easier to share your family motoring stories and hacks at Facebook or Twitter we look forward to seeing you there.

How to cope with and avoid a motorway car break down

Members of FOXY Lady Drivers Club get free car fitness checks at their nearest participating FOXY Lady Approved garage
Members of FOXY Lady Drivers Club get free car fitness checks at their nearest participating FOXY Lady Approved garage

In a recent survey carried out by Good Housekeeping magazine, 44% of women admitted to feeling anxious about driving on motorways.

So the thought of breaking down on one is likely to be a further female fear factor, knowing the risks any motorist runs, parked up on any hard shoulder.

Here are some useful tips, stimulated by a recent IAM Press Release, to remind women to check their cars regularly and incorporating our added experience here.

We hope you’ll find them useful.

Tips re a motorway break down

1) Ensure the coolant and washer fluids are topped up, that the oil level is correct and your car tyres are safe and legal by checking your car’s condition regularly. These actions contribute to your car’s reliability whatever the journey and even more importantly on motorways when your car is travelling faster than it does on other roads.

This tip is a salutary reminder to me of the time (pre-FOXY) I didn’t check my VW Golf’s fluid levels in advance of a motorway journey BECAUSE I’d had my car serviced the day before. I didn’t think I needed to. I was travelling from Sussex to Cumbria, in February, and the roads were particularly filthy after an earlier now defrosted snowfall. I joined the M25, picked up speed and as the windscreen smeared in front of me, in the centre lane by now, I applied my windscreen washer switch to find the water tank was empty. My windscreen was virtually opaque by the time I was able to pull into the inside lane safely, when I limped to the next exit. I could have caused and/or been involved in a nasty accident here for something so simple to check. Amazingly the service checklist “Filled up windscreen washer tank” had been ticked and the dealership stuck to this story when I complained.

2) Keep a high visibility jacket, waterproof clothing and a fully charged mobile phone in your vehicle. Or a charger to keep it topped up. You never know when you will need these.

You may have a need for a camera too, so if your phone doesn’t take photos, keep a disposable one in the car as well.

3) If you suspect a mechanical problem looming (and we hope you’ll have time to react), leave the motorway at the next junction or stop at the nearest service station whichever is first. Only in a real emergency should you pull over onto the hard shoulder, parking as far left as possible to avoid slowing down traffic.

4) Once you have pulled over, switch on your hazard warning lights so other road users are aware that you have stopped.

5) Use the emergency roadside telephone where you need to call for help. The distance to the nearest phone will be marked on the white posts on the hard shoulder – the reason for this is important. The operator will then know precisely where you are if you use this phone, whereas they mightn’t know exactly where you are if you use your mobile.

6) Make sure you and any passengers leave your vehicle by the left-hand side as soon as possible. Stay behind a barrier or up the embankment. If you feel threatened, get back in, lock the doors and call 999 for the police. But remember your extreme vulnerability here. Too many cars are hit from behind by motorists we can only assume do not realise when cars ahead are stationary.

7) NEVER attempt a DIY repair or wheel change on the hard shoulder. Your breakdown service or the Police will tow you off the motorway where necessary to a suitable garage or safe repair location.

8) Make sure you know IF you have a spare wheel and keep this at the correct pressure as the other four tyres. If you don’t have one (and few newer cars do) make sure you know where your tyre repair spray can lives as well as your locking wheel nut so the garage/recovery service can make good or change a wheel if necessary. Remember in future that runflats warn you of punctures, giving you 50 miles in distance to drive at a maximum of 50mph to sort out a change of wheel. That is very reassuring ie no tyre blow outs on motorways. Please see this blog for more information about a new runflat-equivalent tyre called DriveGuard – well worth investing in, given the choice.

NB: You may not be able to stop on a Smart Motorway – this is what they call stretches of motorway where the hard shoulder is used to ease traffic flow at peak travel times.

Neil Greig from the IAM explains…

“On Smart Motorways the hard shoulder is used as an extra lane. If your car develops a problem on this type of motorway then leave at the next exit, or pull into a motorway service area.”

Always be prepared for a car breakdown

There is no simple way to minimise the fear of a motorway breakdown. Running a well maintained car is key (a high percentage of breakdowns are tyre related) but being prepared for unexpected breakdowns means you know what to do and in this way you can avoid the experience becoming too traumatic before you set off safely again.

If you’d like to JOIN FOXY Lady Drivers Club to enjoy motoring services, including FREE car fitness checks from selected FOXY Lady Approved businesses, ladies evenings covering car maintenance and tyre issues, and trustworthy advice like this.

In short, the subscription benefits of FOXY Lady Drivers Club include
+ preferential rates for car insurance
+ exclusive new car deals (Suzuki and Citroen)
+ regular money saving offers
+ VIP services* at female friendly approved garages & dealers
+ a friendly motoring helpdesk
+ expert legal, claims and accident advice
+ a monthly e-newsletter packed with news & female reviews.
PLUS a copy of the latest Official Highway Code.
*free car checks, member discounts and local ladies’ evenings.

Concentrate on speed limits

keep-calm-and-stick-to-the-speed-limitInappropriate speed is a contributory factor in too many accidents, usually as a result of driver error, often caused by a loss of concentration and, too often, by not knowing the law re speed limits.

Not only is driving too fast and ignoring speed limits potentially dangerous (and expensive when you get caught) you could be invalidating your insurance cover and, when you have children in the car, you are influencing their future driving attitudes and behaviour.

So here is some advice including useful tips from the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists).

+ In a built up ie residential area with street lighting, the speed limit is 30 mph – unless stated otherwise. A 30 mph speed limit may not always have a traffic sign to confirm this, so street lighting is key. Never assume it’s more than 30 mph unless signs tell you otherwise.

+ A 20mph speed limit will always be shown by a traffic sign and often backed up by road markings. They are usually found in residential areas, busy town centres, and near schools. Keep an eye out for the signs.

+ Circular red-rimmed signs with a speed limit inside are the law, including temporary signs. Ignore this and you can be prosecuted and get points on your licence.

+ If your SatNav tells you a different speed to that signed, your SatNav is wrong. Stay alert at all times and always drive within the signed speed.

+ Where you might be struggling to keep to 30 mph try using third gear…

+ On the motorways, electronic speed limit signs may be displayed as advisory ie if you see a rectangular speed number with flashing amber lights you are being advised to travel within the recommended speed ie this is not a compulsory limit.

Driver Concentration Tips

Driver concentration is key. How many of us recall thinking ‘I can’t remember how I got here’ on a regular route we drive to and from work? That’s always worrying…

So here are some of my driver concentration tips that I hope can help you. If you have others by all means email me or tweet me to add these – see blog footer here.

+ If travelling alone and needing help to concentrate I talk out loud, describing my journey. Sounds mad but it works because you can’t be thinking about other things as well.

+ If with children you might involve them too to help you spot the speed limit signs. This helps them prepare for safer driving too.

+ You might also play a driving game to slow down in enough time to be doing the precise lower speed limit when entering that zone. I think of this as a curtain – when you pass through into the lower speed zone you should be doing the new speed precisely…

And you shouldn’t speed up until you pass through that curtain again, into a faster speed zone…

These are all things I do to stay alert and drive within speed limits – I also take regular stops and drink good strong coffee on long journeys.

I hope these tips might help you.



How to enjoy motoring and save money

ack: Figaro Owners Club
ack: Figaro Owners Club

We were asked to write a blog for the worthy Money Advice Service about motoring savings their readers can make.

I am more than happy to oblige as saving money with women drivers in mind is a subject dear to our hearts.

My experience is that some rich people treat cars like designer fashion. When something stops looking new or the height of fashion, they want it replaced pronto.

You don’t want to buy a car from people like this for fear they’ve neglected the car, knowing this won’t be their problem come MOT time. This is why c40% of cars and a shocking 50% of vans fail their first MOT (safety check) after just three years.

And why you really don’t want to buy one of these vehicles even if they’re cheap at the time…

However, if you buy the right car in the first place ie a value for money car that’s clearly been maintained, serviced and cared for it’ll be more reliable for longer than one with a scant service history suggesting a car that’s about to get VERY expensive to run. We call these cars lemons as they always leave a bitter taste in the mouth – and motoring memory!

But if you continue to look after your car once it moves into its mellow MOT years, it’ll last you much longer and make motoring more affordable and enjoyable into the bargain.

Tips how to cherish a family car

A cherished car is safe and reliable for longer. Here are a few money-saving tips to help women economise on motoring bills.

1 If you are the main driver, get an insurance quote from a company that specialises in female drivers and excludes boy racers. There are big savings to be made for many women.

2 If you drive less than 5,000 miles a year, it still makes sense to have your car serviced once a year (because professionals can spot what’s likely to become expensive before it does) but you’ll save money, depending on the age of your car, by making do with an oil and filter change one year (cheapest formula), an interim service the next (medium cost) and a full service (the expensive one) every three years. And if you do this at the same time as the MOT ask for a half price one (saving c£27)…

3 Put a small amount of money away a month towards annual car servicing and unexpected car repair bills. You can’t run an older car without unexpected bills but if you have a ring-fenced motoring reserve to dip into this will ease the inevitable financial pain.

4 By all means shop around at MOT time but be canny. Garages aren’t regulated and mechanics don’t have to be licensed so some unscrupulous back street garages advertise MOTs for less than the cost of doing this to then rip you off. For example, a half price MOT brings in c£27 for the hour this takes. That’s not a lot to pay someone and contribute to overheads. Instead, check the garage is listed at Motor Codes or the IMI Professional Register – then you know the business has invested in being better than the rest and is unlikely to rip you off.

5 Check your tyres regularly. Illegal ones carry a fine of £2500 and 3 penalty points EACH. Choose a businesses listed at the female friendly Tyre Services Register because they’ve signed a promise to ‘never overcharge, patronise or sell you tyres you don’t need.’ They’ll also advise you about the best buys at the time. Never buy part worn tyres – yes they’re cheap but a false economy as you don’t know where they’ve been.

6 Shop around for local fuel. Supermarkets aren’t always the cheapest/nearest and if you sign up to the PetrolPrices website they’ll tell you where your best local deals are.

7 Register with FOXY Lady Insurance for an insurance quote at renewal time. You can do this now. We’re cutting the cost of car insurance for nine out of ten motorists and this could be you…

I hope this helps you save money on your bills. Here’s to happy motoring for less in future.


FOXY Lady Drivers Club