Estimated 11m leisure trips by car planned as bank holiday finally heralds some settled weather

Estimated 11m leisure trips by car planned as bank holiday finally heralds some settled weather
The forthcoming bank holiday weekend will see an estimated 10.8m leisure trips taken by car, new RAC Breakdown research of drivers’ plans suggests,1 but if the sun shines there’s likely to be even more trips which will inevitably cause jams.

While the figures indicate drivers have firm plans to take around 7.2m trips to see friends and family between Friday and bank holiday Monday – with Saturday and the bank holiday itself busiest at 2m separate journeys each day – an extra 3.6m are due to be taken at some point over the weekend by motorists who have not yet decided on which days they will be on the roads.

This suggests the weather is set to play a pivotal role in deciding just how much traffic congestion there is.

The research also shows the effect the reduction in Covid cases is having on motorists’ increasing confidence to drive longer distances to see friends and family.

Only one-in-10 drivers (11%) aren’t planning leisure trips next weekend due to the pandemic, compared to 18% over the early May bank holiday and 25% over Easter.

The RAC and Highways England are urging all drivers to make sure their cars – and anything they might be towing – are ready for the road this bank holiday by completing some easy pre-departure checks.

Ensuring all tyres are in good condition and properly inflated, and that oil, coolant and screenwash are all at the right levels, can go a long way to ensuring a stress and trouble-free journey.

Drivers will be pleased to know that 98% of Highways England roads – motorways and major A-roads – will be free of roadworks over the bank holiday to provide extra capacity. A total of 899 carriageway miles of roadworks will be completed (775) or suspended (124) ahead of the holiday.

RAC patrol of the year Ben Aldous said:

“With Covid restrictions gradually lifting and some better weather on the horizon at last, we’re anticipating large numbers of drivers to be venturing out and about over the bank holiday weekend. The fact only one-in-10 said they weren’t planning a trip because of the virus, down from a quarter over Easter, shows people now have more confidence to drive to see friends and family safely.

“Our research points to Saturday and Monday being the busiest days, but in reality, there’s a good chance the weather will have the final say as to how busy the roads get. A return to more typical late May temperatures and an end to the recent wind and rain could spark a sudden surge in journeys and mean some routes – especially those to the coasts and hills – start to clog up.

“Drivers can help my colleagues and I have a better bank holiday weekend by making sure their vehicles are in good working order, something that’s particularly important for anyone driving longer distances. Taking a few minutes to check tyres and fluid levels before setting out could very easily make the difference between a plain-sailing journey and one beset by a breakdown.”

The RAC is recommending all motorists complete the usual ‘pre-drive checks’ before setting out, something that takes just a few minutes but could avoid hours of hassle as a result of a breakdown.

Ensuring all tyres are in good condition and properly inflated – including those on caravans or trailers for those towing – along with checking oil and coolant levels should be top of the list.

Highways England traffic officer Dave Harford said:

“If you haven’t driven for a while due to lockdown, you might feel a bit strange getting back behind the wheel. Checking your tyres, oil, screenwash, lights and fuel doesn’t take long – but it will help keep you and your loved ones safe.”

Highways England advises that drivers should plan ahead this weekend and aim to travel at quieter times if at all possible, which are likely to be the afternoon and evening of Friday 28 May, and mid-morning to mid-afternoon on the remaining days of the bank holiday.

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Guide to travelling by car this bank holiday weekend

How can I prepare my car for travel?

If you’ve been using your vehicle less than you would do normally, it is even more important for you to do necessary car checks. This can reduce the likelihood of a breakdown over the May bank holiday period. The RAC recommends you follow our FORCES guidance:

F is for FUEL - Ensure you have enough fuel for your journey. Cars use more fuel in heavy traffic and start/stop conditions which can be regular occurrences.

O is for OIL - To avoid engine damage and a potential breakdown, remember to check your oil level and top up when necessary

R is for RUBBER - Your tyres can tell you a lot about how your car is performing. If they aren’t wearing evenly, then tyre pressures may be mismatched or there could be a fault with the steering.

Check that all four tyres have at least 3mm of tread and are inflated to the correct pressure - this is vital to maintaining good grip in wet and even icy conditions.
For everything you need to know about how to check your tyres you can read our how to check your tyres advice complete with short video.
Also take a look at your wiper blades to ensure they're clearing the screen effectively and that the rubber has not perished

C is for COOLANT - Make sure it's topped up to your vehicle manufacturer's recommended levels and it contains the right amount of anti-freeze

E is for ELECTRICS - Check all of your lights are working correctly including your indicators, brake lights and fog lights - and replace any faulty bulbs or blown fuses

S is for SCREENWASH - Top-up your windscreen washer fluid by using a good quality screenwash which is effective at all temperatures.

What should I take in my vehicle if I am doing a long journey?

The most important thing is to be prepared for anything, including a breakdown so you should ensure you have:

  • A fully charged mobile phone – charge your phone up while you drive if you can, or consider taking a portable ‘power bank’ charger in case your battery runs low
  • Water or other hydrating drinks
  • A blanket or a coat that keeps you warm
  • Some food or snacks
  • A face covering for when you might need to stop and go into an indoor public space, or in case you break down
  • It’s worth taking items with you that will keep young passengers in the back seat entertained
  • Details of your breakdown provider

What key things should I do before I travel?

Planning your trip is just as important as the trip itself. We recommend the following:

  • Plan your journey with a map, a sat-nav or route planner to ensure you do not have any navigation problems on your journey. Did you know that RAC research shows that directions are often one of the biggest causes of arguments in the vehicle? If possible, plan your journey for when roads are likely to be quieter and remember that it’s important for your safety to take breaks on longer journeys
  • Check the weather forecast. Cold weather will make your journey much more hazardous, so be prepared for all types of weather and be flexible to avoid travelling when the weather may be at its worst
  • Let your hosts know when you’re setting out. It’s always worth letting those you’re visiting know when you’re leaving, and when you expect to arrive


1 Research conducted among 1,100 UK drivers, between 17 and 24 May 2021

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