Driving Home for Christmas this Winter
We all love Chris Rea’s Christmas song Driving Home for Christmas. It tells the story of a journey home to be with family for Christmas. A frustrating journey with problems along the way, such as being “top to toe in tailbacks” with “red lights on the run”. We can all identify with this!
Even in the song the driver notices the other people around who are stuck in the same traffic jams but also longing to get home:
“Driving home for Christmas
With a thousand memories
I take look at the driver next to me
He’s just the same”
But can we avoid getting into this situation? If you are driving home this Christmas after having been working away, or if you are returning to your family home or heading off to see family or friends what can you do to try and avoid a difficult journey?
Well, nearer the time motoring organisations such as The AA and RAC will start issuing travel advice. Whilst this is useful, it doesn’t help you now if you are trying to make advance plans for when you will travel. So here are five factors to take into account that may help you to do just that.
As always, school holidays vary enormously between different local authorities, and also between private and state schools. As a general guide, most schools in the UK close on Friday 21st December 2018. In England and Scotland they reopen on Monday 7th January 2019, and in Wales and Northern Ireland most reopen on Tuesday 2nd January 2019.
So travel is likely to be extremely busy on Friday 21st December and Saturday 22nd December. Traditionally, the Friday before Christmas tends to be one of the busiest days of the year for traffic anyway, with drivers resigned to long delays. So if you are planning to be away for a good few days over Christmas, you would be better to leave if possible on Thursday 20th December. If time is more restricted then Sunday 23rd December may be your best option.
Christmas Day this year is on a Tuesday. This means that the Tuesday and also Boxing Day on the Wednesday are Bank Holidays. As is New Year’s Day – Tuesday 1st January. Bank Holidays over the festive season tend to be busy with shorter journeys, as people visit family and friends on a more local basis. So even though there are likely to be fewer people making long journeys on the Christmas and New Year Bank Holidays the roads could still be busy and are best avoided if possible.
It always seems that as soon as any holiday season starts then so do the road closures! Some of these are inevitable – for example in cases of accident and emergency. This can’t be avoided. But it is definitely worth checking out your route in advance to see if there are any planned road closures that will affect it. The Highways England website provides information on planned roadworks for you to check in advance and also on the latest traffic conditions/ road closures.
Toll and congestion charges
There are one or two changes to charges for roads during the festive season.
The London Congestion Charge does not apply on any of the festive Bank Holidays or the days in between Christmas and New Year. So it’s an ideal time to enjoy visiting London and to be able to drive in when there is less traffic to contend with.
Another key development this year is that the toll on the two Severn Bridge crossings (M4 and M48) will be scrapped permanently as from Monday 17th December – just in time for Christmas.
However, there are no current plans to waive tolls on any of the other major toll roads in the UK, such as the M6 toll road, Queen Elizabeth Bridge at Dartford, or Tamar Bridge near Plymouth. Similarly with the Dartford Tunnel, Tyne Tunnel near Newcastle and the Mersey Tunnels (despite much petitioning).
So if your journey covers any of these areas, be aware that you will still need to pay and check in advance whether they accept payment at a booth or whether it needs to be done some other way. All this will save you time and hassle on your journey.
It may seem very fairy tale and romantic to have a white Christmas, but it plays havoc with travel plans! At the moment, long term weather forecasts are not predicting a white Christmas, but it is important to keep up to date with weather websites and prepare accordingly.
It’s also important to remember that snow is not the only driving hazard in winter. Heavy rain, fog and strong winds can also make driving difficult. Also bear in mind the reduced daylight in winter. Ideally you should aim to travel in the morning as soon as it is reasonably light and you have established that the weather is safe for travel.
But the key thing is to be flexible and use common sense. It is better to adjust your travel plans at short notice rather than attempt a risky journey unless it is absolutely essential. Family and friends would much rather you keep safe and reschedule your visit than try to drive in hazardous conditions and risk an accident.
We hope that the above information helps you to plan your journeys effectively this Christmas, and to stay safe. To ensure that your car is in tip top condition this winter, why not take a browse through our helpful articles with advice about car care and driving techniques.
If you need a bit of financial assistance to sort out any car issues before setting off on your Christmas journeys then do get in touch to see how we might be able to help you raise some quick cash.