When the weather starts warming up, our minds naturally start to turn to planning a summer holiday. A popular option for getting around – especially for parents with small children- is to hire a car, either at home or abroad. It gives you the freedom to explore your destination at your own pace and be your own tour guide. And with children on board it is a great, flexible option.

If hiring a car for you and your family is something new, here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Add up the extras. Calculate the total cost of hiring a car including any extras you may incur, such as a child or infant seats, or roof racks. If you know you are going to need an infant or child seat, compare the cost of taking your own to that of hiring one. It can often work out cheaper to take your own which your child is familiar with.
  • Check the small print. Always check the provider's website and read the terms and conditions carefully.
  • Be prepared to be flexible. Bear in mind you may not get the exact car you ordered. Many car rental companies make it clear that it will be a 'similar' car and reserve the right to upgrade you to a more expensive model if they are not able to supply the model you ordered.
  • Check the petrol situation. Check how much you have in the tank when you are given the car. Is a full tank of petrol included in the price? Are you required to return the car with a full tank? If so, check where the nearest petrol station is to the car hire return depot.
  • Clarify the policy on excess. You may still be liable for damage to certain parts of the car, for example the tyres or windscreen, even if you have paid to reduce the excess to zero.
  • Make sure you have the right insurance. It is important to look ahead to how you are going to be using the vehicle. You may not be covered if you plan to go off-road or across gravel pathways or unsurfaced areas of road.
  • Read over the paperwork carefully. Ensure that the paperwork clearly states the things you have paid for. Taxes, insurance, car seats and any charges for additional drivers.
  • Look over the car you receive carefully. When you pick up your car, check thoroughly for any damage, inside and out. Make the company aware of any damage you find to ensure you will not be blamed for anything you have not done when you return the vehicle.
  • Stay in touch. Keep a note of the company's contact number with you at all times. If your hire comes with breakdown cover you will need to know who to contact in the event of a breakdown or accident.
  • Be punctual. Leave yourself plenty of time to return the car on time. Most car rentals are hired over 24 hour periods. Returning your vehicle late will likely incur an extra charge, possibly the amount of an extra day's rental.
  • Retrospectively add up the costs. Look over your bank statements at the end of your trip to make sure no unauthorised charges have been billed to your account. If you suspect you may have been overcharged, contact the broker or car rental company immediately and request a full breakdown of the extras, making a note of all correspondence.