This is how you prevent travel chaos during Easter (in five simple steps)

Avoid long traffic jams and motorways that look like car parks with our essential advice – Gareth Fuller/PA

More than 14 million holiday journeys will be made this Easter weekend, with the worst traffic congestion forecast on Good Friday and the Lake District, south coast and West Country to receive the worst traffic.

The RAC predicts that more than 2.6 million journeys will be made on Friday alone. That is 600,000 more than the day before, Thursday, when many schools separated.

The wet conditions could lead to further delays, with the AA warning: “As well as standing water and slippery streets, drivers should remember that braking distances increase when it rains and when vehicles are carrying more weight.”

Anyone traveling by car should be prepared for some traffic this weekend, but sensible decisions can be made to avoid the worst. Here are the best times to go, the gas stations to avoid, and the little engine checks that can help you avoid disaster.

When is the best time to leave home?

It depends on how long your ride is and where you are going. But in general, the worst time to be on the road is in the middle of the day (between 10am and 2pm) and the best time to be on the road is after 5pm.

The RAC breaks it down into a little more molecular detail (see table below). Their analysis shows that anyone hoping to beat the weekend traffic by traveling on a Thursday should leave early in the morning or later in the evening and avoid between 2pm and 7pm if possible. This is because the early flight traffic on Thursday is expected to clash with the usual commuter traffic.

On Fridays, the worst traffic jams are expected at 11am, so it’s wise to work backwards and calculate your departure time accordingly. The RAC says: “Drivers are advised to start their journey as early in the morning as possible or postpone it until later in the afternoon.”

Frank Bird, senior network planner at National Highways, explains why this commitment can pay off: “When I travel to see the people of Scotland, I’m on the road at 4.45am – so travel from Brum to the border at 8am. Than [I take a] A 20 minute break and then back on the road – then in Arbroath at 11.30am and a fish supper in the harbor at 12 noon.”

Which highways are the worst for traffic?

On Thursday afternoon (around 5pm) the busiest route is the western section of the M25 between the M23 (for Gatwick) and the M1 (for Hertfordshire). Traffic time is expected to be more than two hours, which is more than double the usual time. Cars traveling north to south along this western half of the M25 will experience similar delays.

On Friday, the roads to avoid are the M5 (Bristol to Taunton) at around 12.30pm, when journey times will take around twice as long as expected. The M3, from the M25 to the south coast, will also experience poor traffic from 11.45am, with journeys expected to take at least an hour longer than normal.

On Saturday, the A590 and A591 from the M6 ​​to the Lake District will be the roads most congested, with delays averaging half an hour along the route.

For the return journey, on Easter Monday, the road with the worst traffic forecast is the A303 from Ilminster to Andover from 4.45pm, when journey time will double to around 2 hours 30 minutes. On changeover day at the end of the week on April 5, the M5 from Taunton to Bristol will be among the worst in delays, as will the M55 from Blackpool to Breston.

National Highways adds that roads near ports and airports can expect delays. “If you are traveling to Dover or Eurotunnel, we have been working with the ports and customs authorities, but expect some delays and possible pile-ups at the locations,” a spokesperson said.

Which is the best mapping app?

The two main navigation apps, Google Maps and Waze, are both owned by Google, but they are different products and work differently. Waze uses smart rerouting tactics to help you reach your destination as quickly as possible. However, this can sometimes result in you having to make extensive detours to shave just a minute or two off your journey. Google Maps also reroutes a route to avoid heavy traffic, but puts the decision in your hands.

The main difference between the two is that Waze relies on active users at the time to visualize traffic conditions, while Google looks at historical data and uses traffic sensors to predict the fastest route. Both Google Maps and Waze alert you to local traffic updates and road hazards, but Waze generally has more warnings for speed cameras along major roads. The only downside for Waze users is that it is less effective in remote areas with little traffic, but that shouldn’t be a problem in Britain this weekend.

Apple Maps, available only to iPhone users, is a product very similar to Google Maps, but because of the differences in how the two companies process user data, Google has a greater capacity to provide real-time updates in a way that Apple can not.

Frank Bird of National Highways points out that when using satellite navigation in the car, it is worth making sure it is up to date. He also recommends listening to traffic and travel updates on the radio along the way.

What is the average petrol surcharge?

The average price of unleaded petrol in Britain is 145.50p; the average price at a motorway service station is 168.54p per litre. This means that filling an average 50 liter fuel tank at your local petrol station costs €72.75, while filling up on the highway costs €84.27 – a difference of €11.50. The difference for diesel cars is similar: 153.19p across Britain, compared to 177.23p at motorway service stations.

According to data from the AA this week, two of the country’s most expensive pumps are in Cobham on the M25 (172.9p for petrol) and Tibshelf between junctions 28 and 29 on the M1 (172.9p).

National Highways recommends always filling up when you reach a quarter tank. “It’s just not worth the risk or cost if you run out and ruin the holiday,” it advises.

Three essential engine checks

Chris Wood, who was named Patrolman of the Year by the AA for his roadside repair work, says: “Take 10 minutes to check your oil, coolant and washer fluid levels. It is also important to make sure you have sufficient fuel and/or electrical charge and check that all your lights are working.” The RAC has a useful page with videos explaining how to carry out these checks.

“Check the tire pressure – do this when the tires are cold and don’t forget to check the tread – including the spare wheel if your car has one,” adds Chris Wood.

“If driving in wet weather, try to avoid standing water where it is safe to do so, as this can cover potholes in the road or displaced inspection hatches that may be below the surface.”

The AA also recommends members download the What3Words app before traveling as it is the easiest way to describe a precise location – identifying your whereabouts within three metres.

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