There are two things us Brits can guarantee come a bank holiday weekend – rain and traffic jams.
Well, you’ll be pleased to know the weather this weekend should be a very pleasant 20-odd degrees in the south of England (although forecasters have predicted some showers, ok, rain is on its way, tick that box then)!
You’ll be less pleased to know around 15 million of us will take to the roads over the weekend – a million more than last year – making it the busiest bank holiday for travel in three years (that’s the traffic jam box ticked too!).
So if you are planning a little get-away, be prepared for delays.
According to figures from the RAC, Saturday 28 May will be the busiest day when 4.5 million cars hit the road.
If you’re thinking of leaving tomorrow to avoid the traffic, you’ll be disappointed as 3.9 million motorists will be joining you as Friday 27 May will be the second busiest day to travel whilst those of you who plan to delay heading off until Sunday 29 May, 3.6 million drivers will have the same idea.
If you’re returning on Monday for work on Tuesday, pull a sickie! Oops, only joking, it will be a less arduous journey with just 3.3 million cars on the road.
The RAC warns Friday evening and Saturday from late morning to mid-afternoon will be the most congested times whilst Sunday from 11.00am to 4.00pm and Monday from 1.00pm to 6.00pm will also be particularly busy.
With the bank holiday Monday on 30 May, you can pretty much guarantee every school in England and Wales has the same week off (unlike the half terms in February and October when we usually see a bit of a variance). Still a peak week for holidays, the warmer month of May and slightly cheaper holidays than the summer means many families opt to enjoy their annual break at this time.
Thus, roads to the airports and ports will inevitably be even more congested than normal and routes to the coast, particularly Devon and Cornwall, but also Wales and Blackpool and the Lake District will be clogged with get-away traffic.
So what can you do about it? Other than stay home that is!
Take a leaf out of my step-dad’s book, that’s what!
Hit the road early, very early. Yes, it will be shit getting up in the early hours, but you’ll thank me when you’re at your destination before the sun is barely up and everyone else is sat sweating in hot cars on the M5!
Every year my extended family consisting of a mix of step sisters and their kids and one or both of my brothers and my nieces and nephews would head off on holiday to the Pembrokeshire coast with my mum and my step-dad.
We would all have strict instructions to rendezvous in Tenby (we always stayed in nearby Saundersfoot although we stayed in Manorbier one year) at around 8.00am for breakfast.
My stepdad and my mum didn’t really like taking the motorways which meant the M4 was out for them. They preferred the ‘pretty’ route and would follow the A40 (I believe they allowed themselves the quick jaunt up the M40 to Oxford from our hometown of High Wycombe) all the way to Wales. For my parents, the journey was very much a part of the holiday and by God, they were going to savour every minute!
Seriously, I’m not kidding. I would marvel at their motoring endurance each time we would pick up the A40 somewhere around Carmarthen thinking this is the road my parents have been travelling on for, like, ever! They would get up at around 2am and head off soon after! My step sister would also travel the same scenic route although I think she would set off slightly later, perhaps around 3am! My kids used to get texts from their cousins saying ‘we’re in Wales’ where are you?’ They would ask excitedly: ‘Whereabouts are we?’ ‘Marlow Hill,’ I would respond since we’d set off about 20 minutes earlier and hadn’t even made it from our village north of High Wycombe to the M4!
For me, the journey was a means to an end – to get us to the Pembrokeshire coast in the least amount of time possible and in time for breakfast. It was a challenge, but I always made it!
We would get everything in the hallway the night before, stay off the bottle before bedtime, set the alarm for 4am, get the kids dressed, load the car and hit the road somewhere around 4.30am. Most of the time I could make Tenby by 8.00am-8.30am except one year when my son decided to throw up before we even made it out of High Wycombe and I had to pull off the Marlow by-pass to clear him up. We were still there by 9.00am even if the car did stink of vomit!
Leaving early and eating a few snacks on the way and watching the sun climbing in the sky over the Severn Bridge at around 6.30am were the highlights of the journey.
With three or four cars from my family heading to Wales in the early hours of the Saturday morning of the bank holiday weekend, my kids asked every year (for about five years, possibly even more), ‘do you think we’ll be the first ones there this year?’ Err, no kids, that’s never gonna happen! And sure enough, we would roll into Tenby’s main car park some four hours after setting off to see the rest of the family leaning against the wall looking out for us so we could all go and get breakfast! Jeez, they were probably cursing me!
But, folks, the moral of this story is sound and you would do well to heed its lesson. Set off at stupid o’clock and lo and behold, you’re eating breakfast at your destination whilst everyone else is sat on the motorway in jams! Not so stupid after all!
The best, the very best thing of all is I guarantee you won’t be caught in any congestion.
The great thing is the motorways are not deserted, you won’t be alone out there, other people do it too! Just not enough for it to be a problem!
Have a fabulous bank holiday weekend and if you are heading off for a break, set your
alarm for 4.00am and hit the road, you won’t regret it!
Cheers, Grampy! And if you follow his advice, give him a wave en route; he’s up there on some cloud watching the world drift by or if you decide not to follow in his tyre tracks, he’ll be laughing his head off at the silly fools sat in their cars going nowhere fast!