On a Bank Holiday weekend there are a couple of things that are almost guaranteed — disappointing weather and traffic jams.
Traffic on UK roads often peaks at 35% higher than its usual amount on a Bank Holiday weekend, as drivers make their escape from cities to countryside, airports and coastal towns.
Avoid the traffic and make sure you’re prepared for a long journey with our Bank Holiday driving checklist:
To avoid the worst Bank Holiday traffic jams, check the status of traffic and roadworks before you leave. The Highways Agency usually suspends roadworks to help reduce Bank Holiday traffic, but check their website for up to date traffic news and plan an alternative route if necessary.
Bank Holiday traffic tends to peak on the preceding Friday evening, as drivers hit the roads after work. Try to avoid heading off for your weekend break at peak times like this, and plan to leave earlier or later if possible.
If you can’t avoid the traffic, make sure you're prepared for a long stint in the car. Pack plenty of water and snacks, and if you’re travelling with children bring some entertainment or distractions as well as all the usual essentials.
Also be sure to pack an emergency kit, including warning triangle, first aid kit, jump leads, and blankets in case you're stranded in poor weather. It's also sensible to pack an in-car phone charger in case your battery runs out and you need to call for help.
Before you embark on a long journey, it's important to ensure your vehicle is prepared too. Carry out standard oil, water and tyre pressure checks, and ensure your windscreen wipers and lights are all working correctly. Be sure to fill up on fuel before you leave so you don’t end up relying on expensive petrol stations at motorway services.
Breakdown cover is vital, particularly if your car is older or isn’t often used for long journeys. Some types of breakdown cover will even transport you to your destination if your car can’t be fixed by the road, so you won’t have to abandon your weekend break. Once you have breakdown cover, make sure you save the emergency number in your phone and note down your membership details (or carry your membership card where applicable).
Driving tired can be as dangerous as driving drunk, so it’s important you’re well rested and plan several breaks if you have a long journey ahead of you. You can get some rest and make your journey seem less arduous if you take scheduled breaks at scenic spots — it’s often nicer to rest in a country park than in the car park of a motorway service station.
Sharing the driving is another great way to ensure all drivers get adequate rest on long journeys. If you plan to share the driving, make sure all drivers are properly insured. If the other driver has their own comprehensive insurance policy on another car, it may cover them for third party insurance in your car — but it’s important to check the policy as not all insurers offer ‘driving other cars’ (DOC) cover. To be safe, the extra driver can be added to the main driver’s insurance policy or take out their own temporary car insurance policy on the car, which will usually cover them for more damage than DOC cover.
If you’re taking your car overseas for the long weekend, it’s even more important to be prepared. Make yourself familiar with the driving customs and laws in your destination, and make sure that your insurance will cover you for your trip. Most comprehensive policies will extend their cover for a set amount of time for driving in Europe, whereas some will only provide third party cover overseas. In some countries you may need an insurance ‘green card’ to prove you’re covered in the case of an accident. Read more in our driving abroad guide.