As schools in England and Wales break up for summer drivers are set to make an estimated 12.6m getaway trips by car this coming weekend, a figure that exceeds the average annual exodus before the pandemic, data from the RAC suggests.
Saturday is expected to see the largest volume of leisure travellers on the road, with the RAC’s research of 2,249 UK drivers indicating as many as 3.1m separate trips could be taken – around 600,000 more than the next busiest day, Sunday (2.5m trips).1
Friday will see up to 2.3m leisure trips made by drivers, with around 1.6m planning to get away ahead of the rush on Thursday. An estimated additional 4.8m journeys will be taken at some point between Friday and the end of Sunday.
While the overall trips are down compared to last year, the total anticipated number of getaway journeys over the whole weekend, including Friday, is above the pre-pandemic average which suggests many families are holidaying in the UK rather than venturing abroad.2/3
And as drivers are likely to be covering longer distances the RAC is concerned this will lead to an inevitable increase in breakdowns, so is warning drivers not to set off without checking their vehicles are up to the job.
Transport experts INRIX are warning of longer-than-normal delays on some key routes, with extra jams of up to 45 minutes expected on Friday on the M5 heading south between J15 near Bristol and J23 for Bridgwater – one of the most important holiday routes in the country – and M25 anticlockwise between J10 for the A3 Kingston and J6 for the A22 East Grinstead.
On this day, end-of-the-week commuter traffic will mix with getaway traffic, which explains the expected congestion.
The M25 is also expected to be particularly busy on Thursday anticlockwise between J4 for Bromley and the Dartford Crossing (35-minute delays) and on Sunday clockwise between J23 for A1(M) Hatfield and J28 for A12 Chelmsford (25-minute delays).
INRIX advises drivers to avoid using major roads between late morning and early evening between Thursday and Sunday, with the best times to travel on these days generally being before 8 am in the morning or after 7 pm.
Separate research by the RAC suggests that July and August will see 26% of the total driving population using their cars to go on holiday in the UK, with the West Country by far the most popular destination with 28% of this group planning on staying in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset or Somerset.4
The Hampshire, Sussex and Kent coasts are the next most popular (13% of drivers) destinations followed by Scotland (12%) and North Wales (10%).
RAC Breakdown spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “There’s no doubting the UK remains an ever-popular holiday destination with millions of drivers expected to take to the roads at the end of this week as schools in England and Wales close for summer.
“With the West Country leading the pack when it comes to the most popular part of the country to visit, it means routes heading south and west are likely to encounter some of the longest queues. Anyone using the M5 southbound from Bristol should anticipate bumper-to-bumper traffic, with those travelling outside peak periods most likely to have a better journey.
“We’re seeing an enormous increase in breakdowns this year as drivers dependent on their vehicles for leisure and work contend with cripplingly high prices, leading to some scrimping on car maintenance as a result. It’s for this reason we’re urging drivers to take action to avoid a summer surge of breakdowns.
“No driver set off before a long journey without carrying out a few basic checks to ensure their cars have got the right levels of oil and coolant, as well as making sure all tyres have plenty of tread and are properly inflated.
“And despite what some drivers might think, there’s still time to get their vehicles serviced before the holidays begin, particularly if they book an RAC Mobile Mechanic to come to their home or workplace. We’ve still got next-day appointments available in some parts of the country, meaning drivers can still get the peace of mind that comes from having their vehicle professionally serviced before they set off.
“Thankfully, this summer is a little cheaper when it comes to one vital expense – fuel. While pump prices aren’t as low as we think they should be given wholesale prices, it remains the case that this July the cost of filling an average family-sized car with petrol is around £25 less than a year ago, and £30 less for a car than runs on diesel. All drivers can find the cheapest fuel close to them by using the free myRAC app.”
Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, added: “With millions of trips expected on the roads this getaway period, drivers should be prepared for above-average delays to their favourite destinations. Planning ahead, using traffic apps, and keeping tuned in to local traffic broadcasts are key to minimising frustrations this getaway period.”
Met Office spokesperson Stephen Dixon said: “The weather outlook for the weekend is for an unsettled period of weather to continue, with the UK under the influence of low pressure. Friday will likely see sunshine and showers for many, with some longer periods of rain possible on Saturday, especially in western areas.”
The RAC website carries advice to drivers on how to reduce the chances of a vehicle breakdown.
The cost to fill a family car this summer
|Average cost of a litre of unleaded||Cost to fill a 55-litre family car||Average cost of a litre of diesel||Cost to fill a 55-litre family car|
1 A nationally-representative survey of 2,249 drivers commissioned by the RAC. The research was conducted between 7 and 10 July 2023
2 See https://media.rac.co.uk/pressreleases/busiest-summer-school-holiday-getaway-for-years-expected-this-weekend-3195298
3 Pre-pandemic average trips of this type between the Friday around schools breaking up and the end of the following Sunday was 10.2m (average of 2014 to 2019)
4 A nationally-representative survey of 1,186 drivers commissioned by the RAC. Research conducted between 1 and 9 July 2023