How can I make longer journeys more relaxing this summer?

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The summer holidays are on the horizon, commencing a period when many people love to pack up the car and head out on to the open road. With kids – and maybe dogs – in tow, it’s a period which as well as being great fun, can be a little stressful at times.

That’s definitely when it comes to driving head-first into traffic, or getting stuck in a long queue. Here, we’re going to take a look at some of the ways you can help to make those longer journeys a little less stressful.

Plan ahead

Bank holiday traffic warning
File photo 15/08/08 of traffic backing up on the M25 near Heathrow Airport, London. Road congestion is expected to be worse during the upcoming early May bank holiday weekend than for the coronation. Issue date: Tuesday April 25, 2023.

A little bit of forward-planning can go a long way. If you’re traveling at a popular time – such as a bank holiday or at the start of a school holiday period – then it could be worth having a look at whether or not your intended route takes in particularly busy UK stretches of road, such as the M5 running south from Bristol or the notoriously crowded A303 past Stonehenge.

Likewise, if you’re planning to travel along a route you’re particularly well-versed in, then double-check to see if there’s another way that could take in less popular roads.

Think about travelling at a quieter time

M1 motorway nears 50th birthday
Traffic flows on the M1 motorway near Watford Gap Services, south of junction 17.

If you really want to dodge the traffic, then it might be a good idea to set off at a slightly different time to usual. Peak times are usually just before 9am and prior to 6pm on weekdays, just as commuters join the roads.

So if you have the time, perhaps you could leave a little earlier in the morning or later at night. It’s often quite rewarding to be able to scythe through routes that are traditionally congested at peak times.

Listen to the radio

Car radio

Sometimes the traditional ways are the best and that’s definitely the case when it comes to radio. Many stations feature their own dedicated traffic section and, with callers up and down the country, they’re often ahead of the game when it comes to reporting slow downs.

But bear in mind that many people might be listening along too – so you might all have the same idea when it comes to a new route!

Don’t panic!

As with all things, panicking is not a great way of helping out a situation. If you’re in a hurry and you’re stuck in traffic, it’s best to remember that it’s situation which is out of your control – try to keep calm and sit it out.

Panicking can often lead to rash decisions, too, so keeping a level head is a great way to keep safe and secure, too.

Leave yourself more time

Bentley timer

If you’re worried about making your destination on time then leaving yourself a little bit of breathing space is never a bad idea. Even an extra 10 minutes can help you to ride out any potential slow downs or stoppages and it also gives you a bit of space to take a break and still arrive on time.

Rushing only makes things more stressful, too, as anyone who has been late for a flight will admit!

Pack snacks and drinks

If there is traffic or a stoppage on your route, then it’s always nice to have some water and snacks packed already. You don’t need to go crazy, but even some cereal bars and a few bottles of water can help to make a tricky situation a bit easier.

Better still, take a reusable bottle and you can keep it topped up wherever you go.

Take a break

As with driving in general, if you’re feeling tired or a little overwhelmed then it’s always best to stop and take a break. Make sure you do this in a dedicated place such as a lay-by or service station – and not the hard shoulder, for instance – and get out for a much-needed stretch of the legs.

There’s no reason why you can’t turn a break into a small snippet of holiday, too, by pausing at an attraction or local historic site.

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