Traffic jam

May Day Bank Holiday driving guide 2014

Bank Holidays are great… until you step from your door, jump in your car and grind to a halt twenty yards down the road. Don’t despair though, the Crawley Down Group has all the info you need to swerve a motoring mayday in the getaway gridlock.

Traffic jam

Be prepared this May Bank Holiday

Before you go…

Ensuring your trusty jalopy doesn’t end up at the side of the road in a steaming mess is a great way to make sure your trip comes with a suitably happy ending – and with Bank Holiday escapades signalling the end of winter hibernation for many cars, this garage-ridden sojourn could leave you motor in need of some serious tlc.

Here’s our pre-journey check list for anyone heading out for a weekend away this May Bank Holiday.

Simply hover your cursor over the Fiat 500 below to reveal the maintenance hotspots you can’t afford to ignore.

Top tips to beat Bank Holiday gridlock

1) Plan your journey in advance, allowing plenty of time for breaks and unexpected toilet stops.

2) Always assume that traffic will be heavy, so adjust your ETA accordingly.

3) Complete pre-journey vehicle checks (see above) at least a day before you travel.

4) Pack driving-related documentation such as licence, insurance certificate and breakdown cover.

5) Charge your mobile phone.

6) Pack luggage in advance of your departure time – allowing time for bags to be repacked or culled if they don’t fit.

7) Pack a coolbox with plenty of snacks and water.

8) Plan breaks – the driver should rest for at least 20 minutes every 2.5 hours.

Where to go…

From weekends away, to day trips in the South East, here are a few of our favourite things to do on a ‘summer’ Bank Holiday weekend…

Beside the seaside

Brighton Pier

Brighton Pier – just one of the Sussex city’s many attractions
Image credit:

Brighton: A must-go destination whatever the weather, with plenty of attractions, shopping and eating opportunities for all.
Where to go: Grab the official Visit Brighton App with sections covering Things to See & Do, Food & Drink, What’s On, Where to Stay and Shopping. The app contains listings for hundreds of businesses, opening times, admission prices, locations and contact details. Also included are ‘Live’ event listings, mini-guides to the ‘City Villages’ of Brighton & Hove, and links to themed walking tour podcasts
Donwload the Visit Brighton app: for iPhone  and Android.

East Grinstead May Fair, Monday, May 5: Head to East Grinstead for its traditional May Fair held in the town’s famous High Street, which contains one of the longest continuous runs of 14th-century timber-framed buildings in England. Enjoy the fun of a traditional May Fair combined with a contemporary funfair atmosphere.

Weekend away:
Go West: The May Day Bank Holiday is a great time to drive west and head to Wiltshire, Dorset Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. Unlike the Easter Bank Holidays, May Day isn’t bolted on to a full school holiday, so the roads are likely to be far less congested – leaving you more time to enjoy the drive.
Where to go: Log on to the Vist South West website to find your perfect destination.

No way motorway…
For those who take our advice and head west this Bank Holiday, why not ignore your sat-nav’s soulless addiction to motorway travel and take the drivers’ choice for a change…

Avoid the clogged arteries of the M25 and M3, by experiencing the anomaly that is the A272… running lazily from Cross In Hand in East Sussex, to beyond Winchester, it winds serenely between the stunning scenery of the North and South Downs. The lack of dual carriageway sections and its virtually entirely rural route is said to give drivers an experience which is reminiscent of English country roads as they were 50 or more years ago. To some it’s the only way to traverse the South, while to others it’s the worst b****y road in the region. Try it and let us know where you sit on this one.


The A272… the South East’s alternative gateway to the West
Image credit: Peter Jordan

Once you reach the westerly head of the A272, you’ll be able join that ‘highway to the sun’ – the iconic A303. From here you’ll be able to enjoy one of the quintessential UK routes that remind motorists of a time when driving was something to relished and not merely a series of uninspiring stop-start slogs between anonymous motorway junctions.

Can’t wait to get out on the road? Then take a ride along the A303 from Basingstoke to Honiton with the 95.6-mile section covered in 5.44 minutes – at an average speed of 1000mph.

Read the stories behind these iconic roads by ordering their very own books…
A272 Ode to a Road
The A303 Highway to the Sun

Motorway savings

If you chose to travel on a motorway over the Bank Holiday weekend, then don’t get ‘taken advantage of’ by service stations. Motorway services will add around 10p per litre of fuel compared with local stations and double the price of food and drinks. A basic cheese sandwich was found to cost £3.99 at some motorway service stations, while a similar sarnie could be bought for around £1.00 on nearby high streets, according to the Institute of Advanced Motorists.

Avoid this assault  on your wallet by downloading an app such as What Gas Petrol Prices, which will help locate petrol stations close to the motorway where the cost of fuel and snacks will be far more palatable.

Keeping the kids happy

Why not leave the iPad behind and introduce your kids to some old-skool car games from your childhood? Go pre-pixel with some of these classics…

Rock, scissors, paper

Rock, scissors, paper… how to play

Rock Paper Scissors: An age-old fave that requires no preparation – apart from getting the rules and instructions here.

Link Words: Players choose a category, such as cars, then the first player picks a related word, such as Skoda. The next player has to think of a car make that starts with the last letter of the previous one – so Aston Martin would suffice for this example. Anyone who falters is out!

I Spy: The ‘daddy’ of all old-skool car games. A player chooses an object they can see and says… ‘I spy with my little eye something beginning with …’, the others then have to guess the object.  Make sure their choice isn’t likely to be 25 miles back down the road by the time everyone gives up, as the ensuing rear-seat massacre might taint the otherwise happy holiday atmosphere.

When I went to the Car Boot Sale: A car-related variation on the ‘I went to market’ game. The first player says ‘when I went to the car boot sale I bought a VHS copy of Jane Fonda’s fitness workout (other obsolete items also available)’, the second player then repeats this and adds another item and so on. Anyone who forgets a ‘purchase’ – probably an age-addled adult – is ridiculed and booted out of the game.

Silence of the Lambs: A great example of reverse psychology that’s useful when you need a break from the incessant clatter of back-seat chatter. Simply offer a sweet for the person who can be quietest for the longest period… sit back and enjoy the ensuing 4.5 seconds of unadulterated peace and quiet.

When stress strikes…

If the worst happens and you find yourself as the filling of a 10-mile automotive sandwich, then follow these stress-busting tips from automotive psychologist Conrad King.

1)      Avoid the smell of fast foods, fresh bread and pastry. This will make you hungry and increase your need to drive fast to find sustenance. If you’re unable to do this, stress and irritability will increase.

2)      However, some smells are said to improve your mood and driving ability. These include peppermint and cinnamon. Lemon and coffee also help to clear the red mist, so pack plenty of Polos and coffee for a stress-free and fresh-breathed trip this May Day Bank Holiday.

Weather forecast

The weekend’s set to be sunny and settled, but cool temperatures with highs of around 15-17 degrees should ensure the roads aren’t too clogged with sun seekers flocking to coastal havens.

Your perfect Bank Holiday drives

A303 Stonehenge

Is the A303 past Stonehenge one of your favourite drives? Let us know
Image credit: Pam Brophy

We’d love to know your all-time top Bank Holiday road trips. Send yours here and we’ll post them for all to enjoy.

Have fun out there…

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