1.6 million more people to take a European driving holiday this summer

Driving holidays are as popular as those involving air travel, as people look for the safest breaks during the coronavirus pandemic...

motorway toll stop

Around five million people are expected to go on a driving holiday to mainland Europe this summer, with one in three (1.6 million) of them doing so for the first time, according to research by the RAC. 

The breakdown organisation surveyed 2000 people, many of whom expressed a strong desire to take a holiday abroad this summer and viewed their car as the safest means of transport to get them there. 

Of those surveyed, 16% said they hoped to drive to the Continent this summer, the same proportion as those who were planning to travel by plane. The remaining respondents were either not going to take a holiday at all (56%) or were planning a ‘staycation’ in the UK (10%). 

Channel Tunnel mazda 3

Government figures for 2019 showed that 12.6 million drivers used ferry ports and the Channel Tunnel to cross into mainland Europe in 2019, with almost half (6.2 million) choosing a final destination in France. This year the RAC estimates that 40% of the year’s driving forays into Europe will take place in the remaining summer months. 

RAC Europe spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “In many ways, opting to take your car to Europe makes a lot of sense; those who do so have a safe space of their own when travelling, with zero or minimal contact needed with other people when crossing borders, while those staying in a caravan or tent also have the reassurance that they have a holiday base that is as safe an environment as possible. 

“Anyone driving also enjoys the flexibility that comes from having their own form of transport for getting about – and is ideal for seeking out places far from the crowds.”

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Top 10 pre-holiday car checks

Top 10 pre-holiday car checks

Whether you’re going on a driving holiday or just using your car to get to the airport, you won’t want it to let you down. Follow our quick and easy checks to ensure your holiday wheels keep rolling. 

1. Oil and water

Modern cars don’t consume gallons of oil and don’t tend to overheat, but that means you’re unlikely to have checked your car’s oil and radiator water levels recently.

Before you check the levels, make sure the car is parked on a flat surface and that the engine hasn’t been running for at least an hour so it’s cooled down. If you need to add water, it’s a good idea to add antifreeze to it.

2. Brake and windscreen washer fluids

While you’ve got the bonnet open, have a look at the levels of fluid in the brake and washer fluid reservoirs to make sure they are up to the maximum markers.

If you have to top up any of these liquids regularly, there’s likely to be a leak, so you should book the car in for a check-up.

Top 10 pre-holiday car checks

3. Are any light bulbs blown?

Check that all the lights work properly, including full and dipped-beam headlights, rear and side lights, brake and hazard lights, all four indicators and the light above the rear numberplate.

It’s compulsory to carry spare bulbs with you if you’re traveling through France and some other European countries, so check the rules for your destination well in advance.

4. Are lights and numberplates clean?

Wipe the grime off the car’s lights and numberplates. If the headlights are covered in a layer of dirt, they won’t give the best visibility, which is especially important on unlit motorways and rural roads. Car numberplates are used by the automatic vehicle recognition systems on toll roads, so make sure yours are readable.

5. Wiper blades

Driving through a thunderstorm in the Peak District is not the best place to find out your car’s wipers are leaving smeary marks on the windscreen, so check in advance that they’re not frayed or brittle and cracking.

Top 10 pre-holiday car checks

6. Have a clearout

Carrying unnecessary items in your car – inside and in the boot – will impact on fuel economy and eat into the amount of space you have for passengers and luggage, so remove anything that won’t be needed on your trip and store it somewhere secure.

7. Make sure you’ve got cover

Check that your car’s breakdown cover is up to date and that it covers your car adequately enough if you’re travelling abroad. Some policies will only cover you for a set number of days per year abroad or only for certain countries.

8. Wheels and tyres

Check all four wheels and the sidewalls of your car’s tyres for damage; bulges, cracks and gouges out of the tyre walls could result in a puncture.

Next, check the tyre tread depth is above the legal limit of 1.6mm; if your tyres have tread depth indicators, check that the tread hasn’t worn down to the level of the indicator. Alternatively, you can put a 20 pence coin into the area between the tread; if the raised part of the coin is above the tread, the tyre is too worn.

It’s also important to check the tyres are set to the correct pressure; if they’re over or underinflated, they will affect the way the car drives and its fuel economy.

Top 10 pre-holiday car checks

9. Do you have the right equipment?

Many countries require motorists to carry certain equipment in their cars. In France, for example, you’ll need a reflective jacket for each traveler, a warning triangle, headlight beam deflector stickers (if you can’t adjust the headlights manually), two breathalysers (you'll need a spare one if you get stopped and are asked to do a breath test) and a GB sticker or Euro registration plates with GB on them. Rules vary between countries, so it’s well worth checking before you head off.

Top 10 pre-holiday car checks

10. Fill your tank

Finally, fill up with fuel at a local service station; those on motorways often charge a higher price per litre and at peak holiday times they’re likely to be crowded.

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Next: Top tips for driving in Europe >

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