A solid queue of traffic on a UK motorway in Britain on a Bank Holiday

Thinking about a summer holiday road trip? Here are our top tips...

8 minutes

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It's great to get away during bank holidays or school holidays, but when it comes to road trips, how can you prepare for busy roads?

  • How to make your road trip safe and stress-free
  • Checking your car's in good order before a long journey
  • What you should do if your vehicle breaks down
The UK has so much to offer if you're planning a UK road trip. From coastal cottages to countryside retreats, we're spoilt for choice.  

We're less spoilt when it comes to traffic. Because we all seem to hit the road at the same time, Bank Holiday weekends and school holidays often come hand in hand with miles of traffic, making our car journeys more miserable than merry. To make matters worse, cars can often break down at the most inopportune times, making tailbacks even worse. 

If you're thinking about a staycation or road trip, follow our top tips for a trouble-free journey.

Plan ahead for a stress-free holiday road trip

Before you set off, check your car is ready to roll

Take time to run through this quick checklist before you set off.  Your car manual should be your first port of call if you're not used to tinkering under the bonnet.

1. Check your tyre pressure

Although we can be guilty of not monitoring our tyre pressure regularly (you should aim to check yours every two weeks), it's really important that your tyres are checked before you embark on your journey. A packed car for a long distance will put a lot of extra pressure on your tyres and may burn more fuel on your journey.

Check your tyres when they are cold; your handbook will tell you what figures your tyre pressure should be set to. If your car has a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, don’t forget to reset this after changing your pressures.

When you're checking the tyre pressure, don't forget to inspect your tyre tread too - this is vital for a safe journey, especially in wet conditions. It's always best to buy a proper tyre gauge to check your tread - or even better, get a professional to check it for you.

Don't hesitate to get a professional opinion before your journey; not doing so could end in three points on your licence and a large fine!

2. Fill up your water

Your car's engine coolant is a mix of antifreeze and water and the levels should be monitored to make sure the engine doesn't overheat, causing a breakdown at the roadside.

You can check the coolant levels on the reservoir next to your radiator; refer to your handbook if you're ever in doubt where to find it. In most cars, this tank is translucent so you can make sure the coolant sits between the minimum and maximum guide. For your safety, only do this when the engine is cold and the car isn't running.

3. Inspect your windscreen

If you've already got a car load of kids watching their favourite shows on their iPads, the last thing you need is another distraction while you're driving. A chip in the windscreen can be extremely distracting, so it's best to get this fixed as soon as you can; you could potentially save yourself from a small chip turning into something more serious and costly! As well as chips and cracks, check your windscreen wipers are functioning as normal; wipers streaking the windscreen or leaving water untouched could be a sign they need to be changed.

Screen wash is also very important and compulsory to pass your MOT test so get ahead by making sure yours is always topped up and working as it should.

4. Test your Lights

Take time to inspect all of your lights, from brake lights to indicators, making sure they all work as they should. This should be done on a weekly basis; using reflections can help you or you may need help from someone else to watch for blown bulbs. Take this opportunity to give them a wipe with a damp cloth to get rid of any dirt. 

5. Check your oil level

Without the right levels of oil, the engine’s lubrication could be severely reduced; risking damage to your car. Keep them checked (every fortnight) and topped up if needed. Remember not to overfill. To see your engine oil levels, remove the dipstick and wipe it clean with a cloth, insert it back in and pull it out again and check the levels are between the minimum and maximum marks. Only do this when the car's engine has gone cold.

If your car is mainly used for short commutes, there could be sludge from old, used oil and topping up with fresh oil, without a proper oil change, will just mask the problem. This should be done during a service but if you are in any doubt, contact your local garage. 

Pack some essentials for your journey

If you do end up stuck in traffic, make sure you've got everything you need in the car to stay comfortable and safe. Our must-have list includes:

  • Food and water 
  • A fully charged mobile phone and a spare charger. Don't forget to save your insurance provider's number in your phone before you leave. 
  • Road maps, in case the SatNav fails  
  • First aid kit
  • If you're travelling with kids, remember to charge up any tablets or devices, and pack travel games and pillows so they're comfortable in the back.

An empty fuel can

Keeping an empty fuel can in your car can be a great way of planning ahead but it’s important to remember some vital safety tips if you do plan on using one...

So, how can you make sure you use a jerry can safely?

  • Avoid filling cans up to the brim
  • Make sure any caps or metal holders are secured tightly 
  • Remember to keep them away from passengers
  • Take your time when filling them up – slow and steady hand is key!

Also keep in mind that you can only store a maximum of 30 litres of petrol in your vehicle, and you can only use a maximum of two containers for this.

What to do if your vehicle breaks down

Should your car break down en route, don't panic:

  • If you’re on the motorway, try and pull over to the hard shoulder. If you’re not on a motorway and you can’t pull off the road get as far left and away from the road as possible, provided it's safe. Switch on your hazard lights and, if it's dark, keep your sidelights on too.
  • Sometimes you can't get your car clear of the road. In this case, only leave your vehicle if you can do so safely. If you can't exit the vehicle and decide to stay put, keep your seatbelt on and switch on your hazards and sidelights.
  • If you can safely leave your vehicle leave by the passenger door and keep well back from the road on a verge or on the other side of the barrier if there is one. Keep a clear view of the oncoming traffic and don't stand in front of your vehicle.
  • If you do break down and you have breakdown cover, call your provider
  • Don't try to fix the repairs yourself - wait for a rescue vehicle

And our final tip...

Make sure you have enough fuel for your journey – and if you're going further afield, plan your fuel stops before you leave. 

Armed with these helpful hints, your journey should be a breeze...