Open Letter | 

Our chosen route felt like being stuck in a real-life version of Tron, with two kids and four cases of wine in the back

Surviving the holiday journey with satellite navigation is the ultimate relationship test

Roisin Gorman

Holidays are coming. Let the rows begin.

You can usually tell where a couple are in the holiday cycle from the fuming index. Day one, keeping a lid on the post-work organising everything stress, because you’re on holiday. Day three, quietly seething because he’s on holiday and your domestic duties have just moved to a different sink. Day four, blazing row. Day five, it’s not your sink so who cares, and holiday vibes set in.

But obviously if there’s a long and complicated drive involved all bickering will begin as soon as you start your engines and plug a destination into the available tech.

After years of being sent the wrong way by a satellite which is having a bad day my trigger words are ‘but the sat nav says…’ I’ll freely admit I’d get lost in my own living room, which is why I believe signposts exist for a reason.

On one of our first sat nav experiences we were racing back from a family holiday to Charles de Gaulle airport in France. The sun was shining, the airport was in the distance, as indicated by the road signs and all the planes, but the sat nav told us to turn off the motorway so the driver dutifully did as he was instructed. Who knew France has a Charles de Gaulle roundabout? It got one star from me on TripAdvisor.

On the ring road around Paris, beautifully named the Boulevard Peripherique, a thundering four lane dual carriageway of terror the sat nav lost signal in the tunnels and kept suggesting we ‘turn around where possible.’

It felt like being stuck in a real-life version of Tron with two kids and four cases of wine in the back. The husband, to his credit, has navigated the Peripherique with hand-written directions on some crumpled A4, which is like climbing Everest in flip flops. Probably.

I’ve learned the hard way about fastest route versus most direct route, after tootling up tiny roads with grass growing up the middle as cows laughed at the tech-dependent tourists and normal people zipped by on the motorway.

I’ve also had to change the sat nav’s voice from stern English male to softly spoken Irish female - we’ve called her Kathleen - because a Jeremy Clarkson soundalike barking instructions when you’re already wondering if you’ll ever see home again is not helpful.

It’s not always the device’s fault, particularly when it’s given the wrong information. On a holiday in Sligo the townland we were staying in was one of three possibilities, and I chose the wrong one on the car’s guidance system. We eventually went old school and asked for directions from a kindly farmer who said he couldn’t send us over the mountains. I wouldn’t have sent us over the mountains either. We’d still be there.

We finally arrived at the correct destination to find the 20-year-olds had managed not to accidentally switch off the 4G on their phones and then not notice and had driven straight to the front door.

This year Scotland’s the destination with its lovely M8, one of the busiest UK motorways which cuts straight through Glasgow city centre. It’s like doing 70 miles an hour past the door of Primark. You really miss the window displays.

The car will be correctly directed, all phones will be fully charged and internet-enabled, and a map is coming too. If it goes horribly wrong we’ll just have to start new lives in the Highlands.

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