For most families the summer holiday will start and end with a car journey. And they won’t be the only ones on the road. It can seem like everyone is heading in the same direction at the same time. The main holiday routes get busy and jams can be difficult to avoid.
According to a recent internet survey by Highways England almost 60 per cent of holidaymakers said they would be travelling on a Friday or Saturday. At peak getaway times there can be 4,000 vehicles an hour heading down the M5 through Somerset, over 5,000 an hour leaving London via the M3, 4,000 an hour making their way up the M6 towards the Lake District and a steady 2,500 on the M20 towards the Channel Tunnel and Dover ferries. These aren’t the only busy routes either as people head for the beaches and other tourist destinations every summer.
When is the best time to set off?
As well as planning the route, make sure you know how long the journey will take. Then give yourself plenty of time, allowing for when the roads might be busy and a break every two hours.
For longer journeys (and especially with young kids) plan a bigger break: a lunch stop, somewhere with a playground perhaps, or even a mid-way tourist destination to make the journey feel even more like part of the holiday.
It may be easier said than done, but decide what time you need to set off and do your best to leave on time.
An earlier or later start could help you avoid some of the crowded roads. Think about arriving outside the early evening peak, then work your timings back from that.
A few basic checks before you set off such as tyre pressures, engine oil, radiator coolant and making sure you’ve enough fuel can reduce the risk of breakdown (or worse) spoiling the first day of your holiday.
If you’re using a roof rack or bike rack make sure everything is well and truly secured. If anything falls off it’s inconvenient to you and very dangerous for the traffic behind.
Wherever you travel there will unfortunately always be a risk of traffic incidents causing unexpected delays. Most journeys are problem-free, but it’s not a bad idea to build in a safety margin if you have a critical deadline such as a flight or ferry to catch. Remember too that any incident will have a greater effect on traffic if the roads are already busy.
You can check the live traffic situation for England’s motorways and major A-roads before you set off at www.trafficengland.com. Then keep up to date via the car radio, mobile traffic services (as long as you’re not driving) and digital information screens in motorway service areas.
Check the weather forecast too. A hot car can make the driver more tired (and little passengers more irritable), so pack cold drinks and allow more frequent breaks. Wet and windy weather on the other hand will slow down traffic and increase the risk of incidents.
You can find more journey planning information, traffic and weather forecasts on the website www.metoffice.gov.uk/summerhighways