How to avoid the stress of bank holiday traffic

Traffic delays

If you plan to travel over the bank holiday you're not alone.

The AA says every time there's a national holiday, 14-18 million cars are on the roads headed for a getaway break.

So how do you avoid the traffic nightmares?

1. Traffic forecasting

When planning your trip, take some time to research the journey beforehand.

There are many websites you can use to map your route and get a rough estimate of how long it would take in normal conditions.

Cutting fuel costs

  • Remove unnecessary weight from your car
  • Drive for consumption, not for speed. Avoid sudden braking or acceleration
  • Maintain your car well
  • Plan your journeys

Traffic sites for Traffic England, Traffic Wales, Traffic Scotland and Northern Ireland can give you an idea of road works or other delays you might face along the way.

Keeping an eye on the weather is also a good idea - that's according to Gavin Hill-Smith from the AA:

"If the weather is good there are generally going to be more cars on the road and more congestion."

He also says it's not the extra traffic that tends to cause problems, it's the fact so many cars are converging on the same areas.

"The worst congestion happens towards airports, national parks, ports, the coast and the south west of England. The M25 can also be a problem area," he says.

2. Planning for problems

If you are heading towards a popular bank holiday destination then allow extra time. You should allow even more if the weather's good.

The advice from the AA is to try to avoid the after-work rush as people hit the roads.

"If you can't leave earlier, consider going home after work, taking a break and making the journey later. But absolutely don't go if you're tired. Set off the next morning instead," says Gavin Hill-Smith.

3. Avoiding the chaos

Avoiding breakdowns

Car being pushed

Before you start your trip check:

  • Oil and coolant levels
  • Wiper blades and windscreen washer fluid levels
  • Exterior lights
  • Tyres (including the spare) for correct pressures and legal tread depth.


BBC Local Radio can keep you up to date with any problems on the roads.

By using the 'Traffic' function on your radio (often marked 'TA', 'TI', 'TP' or 'Traffic') you will be switched to traffic and travel updates from your BBC Local Radio station, even if tuned to another BBC radio network.

There are also several smartphone apps which a passenger could use to keep track of what's happening on your route - each of the major motoring organisations has their own version.

It's worth travelling with maps to help you make any detours to avoid heavy traffic.

If you know there's a problem up ahead, satellite navigation can be great to help you find a different route - though the AA recommends you also carry maps just in case.

4. Cut the cost of motorway services

The advice from motoring organisations is to take regular breaks when making long journeys.

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pound coin

To reduce the costs of visits to motorway services you could fill up your fuel tank before you set off and take a packed lunch.

Otherwise you could find a supermarket near the motorway. Keep Moving has a tool which can help you find them. and Nearthemotorway list other places you could eat like pubs or cafes.

For fuel, there are several websites and smartphone apps that can help you find the cheapest place to fill up wherever you are.

5. Take a scenic stop-off

You could turn your breaks into part of the holiday.

National Parks has a list of potential bank holiday stop-offs.

The National Trust for Scotland has an interactive map of places you could visit.

6. Entertain the kids

Tamsin Kelly, a mum and editor of the website parentdish says it's a good idea to pack lots of toys and books.

"Family car games can also be a great way to pass the time," she says.

Tamsin also recommends travelling in the evening when your children are sleepy and might nod off.

Jen Edmondson

Jen Edmondson (pictured above) is a mum of three from Manchester.

"I write and print off 'spotters lists' which the children use to record what they see on the journey," she says.

"These 'spots' could be traffic lights, a white horse or a cloud that looks like an animal. If you can think of some creative ideas, these lists can last the entire holiday."

Jen also recommends story CDs as a good way to keep the children entertained.

7. Breakdowns

If your car isn't well maintained, a long journey can easily end up in a breakdown.

The RAC has a list of checks you should make - particularly for summer journeys.

If your car breaks down, chances are you'll have to stand on a roadside while you wait for help. Prepare accordingly considering the time of year- if it's cold you'll need warm clothes. If it's warm you'll need plenty of water and sunscreen.

Green Flag has advice for what you should carry in your car and what to do if you breakdown.

If you have problems but don't have any cover for road side assistance you can still call one of the big breakdown insurers for help. However, it could end up being expensive.


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