Motorists face “bumper-to-bumper” queues and “unprecedented” levels of traffic this summer as families take millions of extra trips around the UK.
The RAC is predicting a spike in congestion and breakdowns as holidaymakers head off on a predicted 29 million “staycations” this summer, including 16m during the school holidays.
With pupils in Scotland and Northern Ireland already on holiday and schools in England and Wales due to break up soon, the breakdown service is reporting a surge in staycation bookings, with the potential for a further jump if families are forced to cancel foreign trips.
It has also identified several areas expected to see surges in traffic levels as holidaymakers venture further from home. According to its research, more than a third of drivers who took a UK holiday in summer 2020 plan to travel further within the UK this year.
The West Country, including Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset, is set to see the biggest jump in visitors, with 30 per cent of people quizzed by the RAC saying they intended to head to the region.
Scotland is also set to see a spike in UK-based tourists, with 14 per cent of holidaymakers planning a break north of Hadrian’s Wall. Yorkshire, the Lake District and East Anglia are also among the key destinations for staycationers this year.
According to the RAC survey, the number of drivers making a staycation booking has surged 20 per since April and a further third of those planning foreign breaks will switch to a UK destination if their overseas trip is stopped by travel restrictions.
While most trips are planned for the school summer break, millions more intend to hit the road in September once all schools are back, meaning roads will remain busier than usual for longer.
The RAC’s Rod Dennis said the figures suggested drivers could face “extremely busy” conditions on the roads in the coming weeks.
He said: “With some pupils already on holiday and the start of the English school summer holidays less than two weeks away, a second ‘staycation summer’ in a row now looks like a certainty and will mean millions of us relying on our cars to get us wherever we want to go.
“Our research shows that while most people have already made their plans, if – as expected – travel restrictions limit the numbers taking foreign holidays, then those booking last-minute trips in the UK will likely soar, adding to what we expect to already be an extremely busy summer on the roads.
“Our research also suggests a possible prolonged summer season this year – the return of children to English schools in September doesn’t look like it will signal a huge drop in summer holidays, with a third of drivers saying they’re planning to take a UK staycation in September.”
Mr Dennis also urged drivers to carry out some basic checks to ensure that they don’t add to the congestion by breaking down on the road.
He said: “Busier roads, especially in the heat, can mean a sudden sharp increase in breakdowns, so we’re calling on every driver to check their car is road ready and isn’t about to let them down. It takes moments to check that tyres are properly inflated, have plenty of tread and aren’t damaged, and just a few minutes more to ensure that oil, coolant and screenwash are all at the right levels.”