Top tips for surviving the Easter bank holiday weekend traffic rush

Around 21.5 million drivers are expected to take to the roads over the coming Easter bank holiday weekend. Follow our top tips to avoid the worst jams...

Traffic jam on the M1

This coming Easter bank holiday weekend, millions of drivers will take to the roads, and that could mean lots of traffic and potential delays to thousands of journeys. 

In fact, breakdown provider the RAC says this Easter bank holiday weekend will be the busiest since 2014, with 21.5 million drivers expected to hit the roads for the first bank holiday weekend since Covid restrictions were lifted. 

Good Friday is set to be the highest day for levels of traffic congestion, with 4.6 million leisure car journeys planned. Bank holiday Monday is expected to bring 3.96 million trips, with Saturday and Sunday seeing around 3.63 million journeys. This is despite record-breaking fuel prices and shortages in some areas of the UK. Railway network closures along with major engineering work between Birmingham and London are also likely to make the traffic rush worse.

If you want to beat the traffic, follow the tips below to help minimise the pain of travelling at this busy time. 

1. Plan your route, and plan your time

The most important step is preparation. First, ask yourself if it’s necessary to travel at peak times. If you can travel either early in the morning or late at night, you’ll miss the worst of the traffic.

There are plenty of useful websites out there to help plan your route, with dedicated sites for Traffic England, Traffic Wales, Traffic Scotland and Traffic Northern Ireland all listing current events and incidents that might affect your route.

Most modern sat-nav systems will also be able to detect if there's traffic on your route and offer detours, but it’s also worth having a physical map in the car just in case the technology fails you.

2. Avoid the busiest roads where possible

Transport Analytics Experts INRIX have predicted the M6 between Liverpool and Lake District, south towards Stoke-on-Trent, the M25 between Surrey and the M40 exit, and the A303 near Stonehenge are likely to bear the brunt of  the traffic this bank holiday weekend. 

So if possible, leave early. You're likely to miss the worst of the rush – especially if you're travelling a longer distance.

Traffic jam on the M25

3. Use your radio’s traffic announcement function or an app

If you don’t have a sat-nav system that can warn you of delays, you can still keep abreast of traffic on your route by using the TA/TP or Traffic function of your car radio. This will automatically switch the station whenever a traffic announcement is being played.

Alternatively, there are several smartphone apps you can download to alert you to traffic in your local area, including Inrix Traffic, Waze, Google Maps and The AA. Just make sure your phone is secured in a holder or cradle if you're planning to use these, since the law on using your phone while driving was recently tightened up.

4. Take a break

The Highway Code recommends that you take a break from driving for at least 15 minutes every two hours. There are plenty of motorway service stations that offer respite areas and refuelling spots, but you can also search online for less expensive restaurants and petrol stations away from the motorway. 

English Heritage's website contains a list of scenic stop-off locations close to major transport routes, which you can find here.

5. Keep passengers entertained

If have children on board, make sure you have enough drinks, snacks and games to keep them happy in case you get stuck in a traffic jam. A portable DVD player, tablet or laptop can help keep children occupied watching films and TV programmes, and you can also get miniature versions of board games specially designed for the car.

Children’s website Minitime also has a list of free games you can play with your children in the car, which you can find here, but classics like I Spy, 20 Questions and Hangman are always a safe bet.

6. Prepare your car

The last thing anyone wants is to break down in the middle of a holiday car journey, so take the time before you leave to carry out these basic vehicle checks:

  • Make sure your car's oil and coolant are topped up to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended levels
  • Check your tyre pressures and pump up the tyres – including the spare – if necessary, and check tyre tread depth
  • Clean your car's wiper blades and check them for wear; replace them if necessary
  • Turn on your car's headlights, indicators and brake lights and check that they all work

7. Don't panic buy fuel

Although some pumps have run dry in recent days, this is largely isolated to the South East, where climate change activists have been disrupting access to several oil depots, limiting the supplies going to forecourts. However, there is no need to panic buy, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has said it is working with the industry to ensure a good supply of fuel, and that people should continue to purchase fuel as normal.

Although prices are high at the moment, even following a 5p reduction in the VAT applied to petrol and diesel, there are things you can do to maximise the range you get out of every tankful, such as anticipating the road ahead and removing any excess weight from your car.

Car broken down at the side of the road

7. And if the worst happens…

If you do end up at the side of the road with a broken-down car, you’ll want to call out a breakdown rescue service. You can eliminate a lot of the time (and cost) by signing up for breakdown cover before you travel.

You can buy breakdown cover from as little as £19 per year, but more expensive policies will also cover your onward travel costs and cover you in Europe as well.

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Read more: Our guide to getting your car ready for holiday motoring >>