The wait is over: from today lockdown is more or less lifted and we can get out and about properly. While international travel is still not fully back to normal, we are all free once again to jump in the car and explore this beautiful country and the great driving roads it has to offer.
And, crucially, stay in hotels.
A UK road trip is a great way to shake off the lockdown blues and escape the four walls between which we have been forced to shelter between for the last year, but there are some important things to consider before loading the luggage and turning the key.
Perhaps the best news is the fact that from today (17 May) hotels, B&Bs and other tourist accommodation can finally reopen to the public. Not only that, but you can meet friends and family at these locations because indoor mixing is allowed.
However, until 21 June only two households can stay together at a hotel with unlimited numbers. If more than two households are meeting indoors then the rule of six still has to be obeyed. So don’t be planning a reunion with 10 schoolfriends or anything like that.
Your car may have hardly moved in the last three and half months, so before you do anything else you must make sure it is in safe working order. One of the first things to fail will be the battery, so check that your car has power. Next, make sure your tyres haven’t warped or gone flat while being stationary for so long.
You should also check they have enough life in them for a long drive, so measure the tread. The legal minimum is 1.6mm but ideally you want more than that, as they will wear down over the journey. Finally, check you have plenty of oil and coolant, because if you don’t you will quickly find yourself by the side of the road waiting for a tow truck.
We’re not talking about making sure you have enough pairs of pants and socks here, this is the essential stuff you need in your car when on a long road trip. First off, don’t forget your driving license, you never know when you will need to produce it to police.
Next, make sure you have a working spare tyre and the equipment to fit it. You should also have a high-vis jacket for this scenario, and ideally a safety triangle. It’s also worth packing a torch, in case you need to check the car in the dark.
Next make sure you have a phone charger and adaptor on board the car. You may need to use your phone as a sat nav and you don’t want to run out of juice while lost somewhere. A first aid kit is also recommended, just in case.
Pack plenty of water in the car, as dehydration can make you sleepy at the wheel, and stock up on any other drinks or snacks you might fancy. Lastly, it’s worth having some spare change on board for parking meters, coffee stops at places which don’t take card, and toll roads.
It’s nearly summer, so sunglasses are a good idea to beat the glare, and sun cream should be kept in the car itself so you can use it when you stop without having to unpack your bags. But, being the UK, an easily available rain jacket in the car is just as useful.
As COVID is still a threat we strongly recommend you pack hand sanitiser, gloves and a facemask. Public toilets are particularly risky in terms of picking up and passing germs. Get in the habit of using hand sanitiser every time you get out of the car and every time you get back in.
If you’ve got little ones along for the ride, make sure they have plenty of snacks and drinks – there’s nothing more distracting than a hungry kid. Also make sure they have things to keep them entertained: charge iPads and gaming devices fully before leaving but also make sure you have any USB-style charging cables to keep them topped up.
Dogs should be secure and safe, either in the boot or strapped in with a dog harness, and they will need water and a bowl to drink from regularly. Remember, children and pets need feeding and toilet stops more regularly than adults, so factor in plenty of comfort breaks.
Some people might like to jump in the car and ‘see where the road takes them’, but that’s a great way to get lost. Planning is key to a successful road trip, especially one on a time frame. Work out where you want to go and be realistic about how long it will take to drive there. Do not over-face yourself with mileage, that will take the fun out of the drive and could cause you to feel tired.
Also, you want plenty of time to explore the places you are going, you don’t want to arrive somewhere after dark and not be able to take in the scenery. Always book accommodation before leaving, as hotels, B&Bs and campsites could still be running at reduced capacity. You should let them know when you expect to arrive too.
You might want to check if there are any roadworks on your route, or reports of masses of people heading to the same spot now lockdown has lifted, as there’s nothing worse than sitting in a traffic jam for hours on end. You should also check the weather reports, as you might not want to travel in driving rain. Pack a map too, because you can’t always rely on technology to work or remain charged.
Finally, you might want to consider getting your co-pilot temporarily insured, if they are not already insured on your car. It’s far safer to split the driving, plus you might want to relax and take in the scenery on some stretches.