Who doesn’t love the idea of hopping into the car and taking to the open road to kick-off our holiday, or for a carefree, weekend trip away. However, with schools about to break-up for the summer and August bank holiday weekend just around the corner, you’re unlikely to be the only person planning at least one weekend of driving over the coming weeks, so thinking ahead is a must.
Last year it was estimated that the final long-weekend of the year saw Brits take around 17 million leisure trips by car, with the Friday bearing the brunt of the traffic. But of course the roads will be busy every weekend in July and August, so assuming you simply can’t make your journey any other day of the week, Richard Gladman, IAM RoadSmart’s Head of Driving & Riding Standards, offers his top tips for a safe and as stress free as possible summer weekend trip.
Check and check again
“Preparation is key,” says Richard. “In the days before plan, plan, plan. Look at a map to decide your route, where you might take a break and if you’re heading for a busy destination, where you will park once you arrive.
“Also, consider making your journey part of your break. Plan your route to take in interesting sights or places to visit; taking a few hours to do something enjoyable half-way through your journey will make it more enjoyable and less stressful,” he says.
And he adds: “Do all your usual car checks the day before your journey, so you’re not leaving anything to the last minute. Make sure all your lights and indicators are working, check your tyre pressures and oil. And fill up with fuel and screen wash too – there’s nothing worse than setting out on a long journey only to have to queue for fuel, charge your car, or seeing a warning light come on before you’ve barely left home. And don’t forget to check your spare tyre; if you have an emergency inflation kit, check that the canister is full. Also stash screen wipes – you only notice the glare once you’ve left the house!”
Beat the rush
On the day of your trip, Richard suggests leaving home early to miss the traffic and packing your car with everything you and your passengers – including family pets, might need for a comfortable journey, such as plenty of water and snacks.
“Younger passengers are easily bored on a long journey, so think about games you might play to keep them occupied – car cricket and i-spy remain family favourites,” says Richard, adding: “And ask your passengers to keep an eye on travel updates for you – it’s better to divert onto slightly longer routes than be sat on a closed motorway!”
And he warns to remember that thieves do operate at busy motorway service stations. “Keep valuables hidden if you must leave them in the car, and park where you can keep an eye on it.”
Of course, depending on where you are going, there are plenty of other things that might come in handy. A cold bag or ice-box with lunch for a picnic stop is more pleasant and less expensive than services, wet wipes and a first-aid kit will often come in handy too.
If you’re on a long journey, try to take a break every couple of hours and preferably switch drivers. If you do feel tired, stop, and take a nap.
Richard concludes: “Taking a small amount of time to plan your trip could be the difference between a weekend of relaxed, enjoyable driving and one full of hassle and stress.”