Welcome to the April issue of Hotspots.

Spring is most definitely in the air and as Easter looms we bring you day trips to keep your little ones happy during the school holidays. There's also a bevy of in-car games to entertain them en route, plus tips for keeping them safely strapped in while you're on the move.

Check out our print-out-and-keep travel guide to Paris, exclusive to 'Hotspots' subscribers, along with travel ideas for all the family and a London walk that takes in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race on 29 March.

Read our lowdown on the new Porsche Boxster and find out about the issues affecting motorists right now.

I do hope you find 'Hotspots' interesting and informative. Please get in touch if you have any feedback or suggestions at [email protected]

Hotspots Editor
  Motoring – highlighting topical advice and the latest news from the world of motoring as seen through  
Eco-driving tip of the month
Checking tyres Boost your green credentials
Tip of the month »
Are we nearly there yet?
Child on back seat Handy games to keep the family occupied in the car this Easter.
Take a look »
Belt up
Seatbelt Tips to prevent your little angels from undoing their seat belts.
Read more»
Stop the sickness
First aid kit Ways to prevent travel sickness.
Read article »
Car review
Porsche Boxster Our review of the new Porsche Boxster, for those unaffected by the recession.
Porsche Boxster review »
  Campaigns – news from the frontline as AA President Edmund King and the rest of the Public Affairs team address the big issues affecting motorists today.  
President's log
Edmund King Edmund reveals how the AA really makes a difference.
President's Log »
Fuelling the CO2 debate
Exhaust pipe A third of UK drivers have been led on an environmental guilt trip.
More about CO2 »
Mobile phones in cars
Mobile phone Around 100,000 drivers break the mobile phone law at any one time.
More about mobiles »
  Travel – home or abroad we can help you choose your destination and plan your journey.  
Paris in the spring
AA Essentials - Paris Print out and keep your very own travel guide, exclusive to 'Hotspots' subscribers
Get the guide »
Bag a bargain
Shopping Head to an outlet shopping centre for some serious discounts.
Outlet shopping »
Day tripper
York Minster Top events and attractions for Easter and beyond.
Easter activities »
Walk the Walk
London walk Follow the route of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race on this Thames-side trek.
Walk the walk »

Checking tyre pressureEco driving tip of the month

Tyre pressures
Check tyre pressures regularly and before long journeys. Under-inflated tyres create more rolling resistance and so use more fuel. Don't over-inflate either though – getting tyre pressures right is important for safety. Refer to the handbook as pressures will normally have to be increased for heavier loads.

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Are we nearly there yet?

Tap into children's imagination with these great but simple games to pass the time on a long car journey.

Who's next door cartoonWho's next door?
Great if you're stuck in a traffic jam. Everyone chooses a window and takes a quick peek at the person in the car nearest to them. Then it’s up to you to decide what sort of person they are. Choose a name, give them a voice, pick a job – and if you’ve got time decide where you think they’ve been or what their favourite meal is. And for extra fun, make the whole game a secret spy mission. Tell your kids that the aim is not to be seen looking by their chosen target. If they do their turn is over.

Number plate cartoonNumber plates
Everyone chooses a passing car and memorises the last three letters of its number plate. Now make a story using the letters as inspiration. Use the first letter to decide the name of the main character. The second letter can be an item or animal that’s in the story. And the third – what the character was doing. You’ll be amazed at the stories. And who knows – maybe you’ll encourage the next J K Rowling.

Name that tune cartoonName that tune
All you need are your hands and something to tap. The game starts when the first tapper beats out the tune of a song on their legs, the seat, the roof, the window – pretty much anything. It’s then up to the rest of the car to decipher the song that’s being played. Try using songs with familiar drum beats and less singing – it’s a lot easier this way. The winner is the person to guess correctly first. Then, it’s their turn.

We all went shopping cartoonWe all went shopping
One person starts and says "I went shopping and bought a …". The second person repeats the first person’s phrase and adds their own item, and on, and on, and on, until someone or everyone forgets who bought what. The wilder and wackier the items the easier it is to remember, and the more amazing the shopping list becomes. Where else could you have bought a spade, a piece of cheese, a house made of carrots and a dimple for your chin?

Click here for printable PDFs of all these games and more

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Belt up!

How to stop children undoing their seat belts

Most children will eventually find they can undo their seat belt. So why don't they make seat belts that can't be undone by a child? This is because it must be possible to release the belt in an emergency, quickly and easily.

Children on back seat of car

At worst this might be with a car inverted in a ditch at night, with access at arm's length through a window, or by a person in shock, unfamiliar with such equipment.

Any form of 'Chinese puzzle' is out. The catch cannot be hidden, must be obvious and accessible and must not require a large amount of force to release it.

A different type of catch, perhaps a friend's seat, may not be undone as easily as one with which a child is familiar, but this is usually only temporary. Given the right conditions they will soon get the knack.

Don't be tempted to make additional security attachments to the buckle. Anything like this will inevitably compromise safety and again tends to be only temporarily effective, presenting a new challenge rather than solving the problem.

Diverting the child's attention

Rather than trying to persuade your child that the buckle cannot be undone, try persuading them that there is no advantage in doing so. These are techniques you might like to try.

Show that the car does not go (or soon stops) with the belt undone. The best time to start this approach is when you get a new seat (or perhaps when a car is changed). But remember to do it when there is no deadline for the journey.

If the child is old enough to really want to get somewhere, that's ideal. Try telling the child that unless the seat belt is fastened, they won't get to the party, zoo, etc.

A raised seat can also be some help, as it will increase your child's field of view. A 'play tray' attachment can provide some distraction and may make the buckle less tempting too.

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First aid kitStop the sickness

If you or your children are unfortunate enough to suffer travel sickness, try our hints and tips for a nausea-free journey. These tips are for passengers only and should not be attempted by the driver of the vehicle.

Relax, and stay as still as possible in a reclined position – close your eyes if you can.

If you must have your eyes open – focus on the horizon. For young children, sitting higher up in a car will help, so install a secure booster.

Fresh air
Keep a flow of fresh air moving through the car at all times.

Aroma in the car can heighten feelings of sickness, so don't have any strong smelling food or air freshener.

Avoid funny food
Try to eat light, healthy meals when you're travelling – fatty, heavy meals and dairy-based products are hard to digest.

If you start to feel sick, use a relaxation technique, such as controlling your breathing.

Take a break
Try to plan your route to include regular stops at parks and outdoor picnic areas, rather than busy service stations.

Look up
Reading and playing hand-held video games will take your focus off the horizon so you're more likely to start feeling sick.

Don't get caught out
If all else fails, make sure you've got a sick bag handy!

Got your own tips for avoiding car sickness? Why not share them in the AA Zone?

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Porsche BoxsterCar review
Porsche Boxster

Having established itself as a worthy member of the Porsche model line-up, the Boxster goes from strength to strength with the latest raft of changes. Exterior, interior and drive-train tweaks mean it's faster and more agile than ever before, but also benefits from better fuel consumption and refinement.

The 3.4-litre engine in the Boxter S increases output to 310bhp and employs direct fuel injection for the first time. The result is decreased emissions and increased fuel economy as the Boxster S using the PDK transmission can achieve more that 30mpg, an improvement of 16% over the old Tiptronic S system.

The PDK box is useful for more than just improved fuel consumption, however. Sharper changes and a greater degree of flexibility means the Boxster can be a relaxed, fully automatic boulevard cruiser one moment and offer a razor-sharp racing experience the next.

Elsewhere, revisions are less obvious. The exterior design has been subtly revised with new wings at the front and changes to the headlamp assembly, with relocated indicators and fashionable LED daytime driving lights. At the rear, LEDs are employed again to offer a more striking design, while the exhausts are centralised and new wheel designs are employed.

Our ratings
Overall rating Porsche Boxter overall rating - 8/10
Value for money Porsche Boxter Value for money - 7/10
Costs Porsche Boxter Costs - 7/10
Space and practicality Porsche BoxterSpace and practicality - 7/10
Controls and display Porsche Boxter Controls and display - 6/10
Comfort Porsche Boxter Comfort - 8/10
Car security Porsche Boxter Car security - 7/10
Car safety Porsche Boxter Car safety - 8/10

Our verdict

The exterior changes to the Porsche Boxster are subtle but effective, making just enough of a difference to keep the model fresh. More obvious are the power-train enhancements and the trickle down of the PDK system is a real bonus for drivers as it is superior to the previous Tiptronic system. It's a shame the paddle operation spoils the recipe, but even that can't detract from the Boxster S all-round package.

Read the full review

More recent car reviews

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President's logAA President Edmund King

February kicked off with lots of snow and not enough salt. The AA's Public Relations team and patrols were busy giving advice on how to drive in snow. And London ground to a halt with few trains, no buses, impassable roads and a reduced tube service.

While accepting that the amount of snow caused exceptional problems, particularly for the Highway Authorities, the AA believes that the UK needs an action plan for extreme weather.

As the snow continued we started getting serious stories about certain local authorities running dangerously low on salt for gritting the roads. At the same time our own staff and Patrols were telling us about treacherous untreated roads. We realised the situation was becoming a crisis. At first the Highway Authorities said there was no problem, but we decided that more action and leadership was needed.

I contacted the government and highlighted our concerns, and within two minutes a senior Highways Agency official was on the phone. I pointed out that we felt the Highways Agency had done a good job on the motorways and trunk roads, but we were concerned about dangerous, local roads.

We then cranked up our concerns with the media and once we suggested the state of the roads could 'endanger lives' the phones really started ringing and interview requests poured in. The PM programme on Radio 4, BBC 10 O'Clock News, Radio 1, Radio 2 and about 30 other interviews. Every news interview talked about the AA warning of 'death trap roads'. And we all became experts on salt over night.

Our campaign using contacts with the government, plus a media onslaught pushed the government into action. Soon co-ordination of scarce supplies was put in place and urgent efforts were made to seek alternative sources of salt. So the AA really can make a difference.

Edmund King
AA President

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Fuelling the CO2 debate

A third of UK drivers have been led on an environmental guilt trip, because they think their cars emit at least twice as much CO2 than they actually do, the AA has found.

Exhaust fumes

More than half of drivers over-estimate their vehicles' contribution to global-warming, according to an AA Populus survey of 15,806 drivers, and the AA believes that this may have made them an easy target for punitive council 'green' schemes, which cannot even measure how much CO2 they are supposed to be saving.

The reality is that passenger cars are producing less CO2 than a decade ago with a third more of them on the road. Passenger cars in the UK produce 12.4% of CO2 emissions in the UK.

In our survey the average emissions to come from cars was estimated by the respondents to be 23.5%, which is almost twice the actual level.

More and more councils are now referring to worsening air-quality measurements as a justification for targeting cars based on their CO2 emissions, even though the councils do not measure CO2 in the air.

Our research shows that motorists do care about the environment and do consider fuel efficiency when buying a car. However, there seems to be a 'green' band wagon that more councils are jumping on to penalise drivers based on their cars' CO2 emissions.

In reality this is a green smokescreen to raise revenue that will do little to help the environment. The AA Charitable Trust is encouraging eco driving by offering free driver training and perhaps councils should be promoting such initiatives rather than penalising families who own larger vehicles.

Add your voice to ours and have your say in the AA Zone

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  Mobile phoneMobile phones in cars

An estimated 100,000 drivers are breaking the mobile phone law at any one time, according to AA research.

This revelation comes despite the fact that February saw the second anniversary of the introduction of three penalty points for using a hand-held mobile phone.

While police forces are cracking down on motorists who risk lives by using hand-held mobile phones, insurance companies are also cracking down by increasing the premiums quoted for offenders – or even refusing cover.

Read the full story

The law about mobile phones

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  AA Essentials - ParisFree Paris extract

Here's your four-page guide to the capital of France, taken from our 'Essential Paris' guide – exclusive to 'Hotspots' subscribers.

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ShoppingBag a bargain

If you want to shop without splashing the cash then a trip to a discount outlet centre could be a great excuse for a day trip or a weekend break. The UK may be in a recession but you can still enjoy some guilt-free retail therapy if you shop around.

Save up to 60% on high-street prices for famous brands. Get hold of designer clothing, shoes, homewares, luggage, sports equipment, cosmetics and toiletries, gifts, power tools, books, health food, confectionery, toys, music and more – all at rock bottom prices.

Many family-friendly shopping centres boast eateries and wheelchairs as well as great facilities for children, including indoor and outdoor play areas, shopping cars and baby-changing facilities.

Most offer extensive free parking and some adjoin museums and gardens so there's something to keep everyone happy.

Check out the main shopping outlets around the UK and Ireland

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  York MinsterDay tripper

Search our free online Events & Attractions database for 'days out' ideas this Easter holiday.

Then work out how to get there with our free, new and improved Route Planner featuring clearer mapping.

Surrey's Thorpe Park reopens on 14 March with the launch of a brand new ride – SAW.

This ride is strictly for thrillseekers, who should also check out our theme park guide.

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  RowersWalk the walk

Explore the award-winning London Wetland Centre and join the course of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race

Barnes has long been associated with the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, which takes place this year on Sunday 29 March. Indeed, the footbridge, added in 1895, was specifically designed to hold the crowds watching the last stage of the 4-mile (7km) race to Mortlake.

Join the crowds on race day or pick a quieter day for a more relaxing walk.

The riverside functions rather like a wildlife highway, providing a natural habitat for birds. There are plenty of them to see without having to put a foot inside the London Wetland Centre (LWC) – but to omit it would be to miss out on a very rewarding experience. So why not extend the walk and visit the LWC? There are more than 2 miles (3.2km) of paths and 650yds (594m) of boardwalk to explore once you have paid the admission charge.

The Walk

Distance 3.7 miles (6km)
Minimum time 1hr 30min
Ascent/gradient Negligible
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Riverside tow path, muddy after rain
Landscape Views across Thames
Suggested map Aqua3 OS Explorer 161 London South
Start/finish TQ 227767; Barnes Bridge rail ¾ mile (1.2km) or bus 283 (known as 'the Duck Bus') from Hammersmith tube
Dog friendliness London Wetland Centre (LWC) is no-go area for dogs
Parking At LWC (pay if not visiting)
Public toilets Public toilets at London Wetland Centre

Map of walk
© The Automobile Association 2009. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1. Turn left out of the London Wetland Centre and follow the path, initially to the left of the Barnes Sports Centre and then beside some sports fields. At a T-junction turn left along the well-signposted Thames Path, alongside the river in the direction of Hammersmith Bridge.

2. About 100yds (91m) along the path on the left is a stone post, denoting the 1 mile (1.6km) marker of the Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race. Steve Fairbairn, who was born in 1862, founded the Head of the River Race and this was the start of the world-famous, annual boat race that traditionally takes place in March.

3. The landscaped area of smart flats on the left is called Waterside and, a few paces further, a red brick building bears the name Harrods Village. Once past this, as if replicating the trademark Harrods colours of green and gold, is Hammersmith Bridge. Follow the path past St Paul's School, where 'Planets' composer Gustav Holst was a music teacher. On the opposite side of the river, Chiswick Church's green roof is visible.

4. Turn left through a wooden gate into the Leg of Mutton Nature Reserve. Continue along the path to the right of this stretch of water, which was once a reservoir. When the path swerves to the left, leave by a wooden gate to the right. Turn left and follow the riverside path towards Barnes Bridge.

5. Just past the Bull's Head pub turn left into Barnes High Road. At the next junction, by the little pond, bear left into Church Road. Past the Sun Inn is a row of village shops and 100yds (91m) further on, the lychgate to St Mary's Church. At the traffic lights continue ahead to return to the London Wetland Centre and the start of the walk

Further details, including background to the walk and places to eat and drink along the way.

Find a range of great hikes and bike rides on

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