With the festive season fast-approaching, you may be starting to think about where you’re planning on spending Christmas and, if you’re planning on spending time with friends and family, you may have to travel long distances in order to be reunited. Travelling over the Christmas period is often met with excitement, with the promise of good food and good company on the horizon. However, before departing for your journey home, there are a few things that you need to consider.
Ensure that your car is prepared for the journey
Throughout the year, checking that your car is safe and ready to drive before embarking on journeys is vital. However, this is especially important during the festive season, as the drop in temperature, often to below freezing, puts you more at risk of dealing with adverse weather. It can be helpful to use a service, such as from a Mercedes service plan, to provide you with peace of mind before travelling home in winter, knowing that your vehicle has been checked by an expert and that oil top-ups and courtesy cars are provided in the scheme.
iHASCO, the health and safety experts, shared with us their top tips for driving over Christmas and let us know the things that you should be paying close attention to when travelling: “Check your tyre tread. If your tyre tread is worn you are far more likely to skid in winter conditions. Wet leaves, rainwater and ice can all be a problem this time of the year. Additionally, make sure you have more than enough fuel and coolant. Fuel efficiency drops by around 10% when the temperature falls to -5 °C, so you’ll be using more fuel in the cold. Check your coolant levels when the engine is cold and look in your handbook for the correct coolant and mix to use, should you need to top it up.”
Insurance provider Endsleigh agrees that “your car needs a little bit of TLC during the winter months”, adding that the correct tyre pressure and oil levels are essential. However, “why not check your brake lights are working with a friend, housemate or family member? It will only take a few minutes and can save you from a potential fine.”
If you don’t frequently travel by car and are undertaking a long journey to visit family or friends, there are other crucial things that you’ll need to check are in order before leaving home. “When was the last time you checked your car insurance?” asks Endsleigh. “It’s worth spending ten minutes to make sure you are happy with the level of cover you have. A lot of insurance companies also offer breakdown cover as an add-on – so if anything does happen to your vehicle on your journey or at home, you’ll have someone to the rescue you in no time.”
Getting in the Christmas spirit
Whether had been on a strict “no Christmas music until December” ban or have been swapping out your favourite playlists in favour for something a little more festive over the past couple of weeks, Christmas music is one of the best ways to get in the Christmas spirit! Spotify and Apple music are fantastic resources for this, as there will be a playlist for all the family. Music streaming apps can also be incredibly helpful as they allow you to pick and choose something to suit everyone. If the little ones are tired of listening to your old festive favourites, they can look for something containing their favourite artists. Keeping everyone happy whilst spending time in the car is important over Christmas and helps keep the Christmas spirit at its optimum level!
The top 10 Christmas songs to enjoy on your journey
- Fairytale of New York – The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl
- I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Wizzard
- Driving Home for Christmas – Chris Rea
- Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens
- All I Want for Christmas is You – Mariah Carey
- It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – Michael Buble
- Santa Claus Is Coming to Town – The Supremes
- It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williams
- Last Christmas – Wham!
- Step into Christmas – Elton John
For longer journeys, a couple of playlists might not suffice in keeping the children entertained. Bringing items such as iPads loaded with games and films will keep them busy whilst stuck in traffic. Netflix has a library of Christmas films which are perfect in situations such as this, so download a couple to keep them occupied.
Be prepared in case of a breakdown
Although breaking down isn’t desirable at any time of the year, the cold breeze and chilly temperature make it slightly harder to cope with. “We hope it never happens, but the sad truth is that cars can break down. If you end up on the side of the motorway waiting for roadside assistance, it might be very cold and very dark. Be prepared and pop a few extra bits into the boot of your car if the unexpected happens”, Endsleigh shares.
iHASCO also believes that it is important to think about the sort of things that you’ll need to keep warm and stay comfortable in case something goes wrong. “Make sure you have warm clothes, a torch, water, food and even a sleeping bag in the car. You’re much more likely to break down in the winter and having these essentials could come in very handy, particularly in freezing temperatures”, with Endsleigh reminding you to not “forget your phone charger in case you need to make an emergency call – make sure you pull over to do so though.”
Packing the car
If you and the family are spending Christmas away from home, you will no doubt be filling the car up with presents! Spending the festive period away also means that you will have to factor in space for suitcases, as well as bulky coats to keep you wrapped up warm in! The best way to tackle packing is to be methodical about it. Putting heavier and larger bags and boxes towards the back of the car means that you can fill any gaps in with smaller items. One vital thing to consider, however, is if your children’s gifts will be travelling with you, as these will need to be kept out of the way of prying eyes. Tactically placing coats over gift bags, as well as ensuring that everything is wrapped and ready for December 25th before heading on your journey will help prevent any wandering eyes from seeing something that they perhaps shouldn’t have!
If you’re planning a longer drive that includes rest stops, make sure that no presents are on show when leaving the car unattended. For longer journeys, stopping regularly is imperative, giving yourself time to grab a drink and stretch your legs. Wherever possible, however, you should keep the car in your sight, with any gifts covered over by blankets.
Check the weather forecast
“If the weather is going to make your drive a struggle, maybe rethink your time of travel or method of transportation”, advises iHASCO. “The Highway Code stipulates that if driving in adverse weather conditions you must, by law, be able to see out of every glass panel in your vehicle. Driving with snow on your vehicle can be incredibly dangerous, it can break off in sheets and fly into the path of another car and you can be penalised for this.”
One of the main things that you need to think about when travelling near Christmas time is that the weather conditions are different to what you might be used to, so it is advised for you to slow down and take your time. “Slow down and check the weather conditions before setting off in your car. If it’s been raining, you’ll need to allow more time when braking. Whether it’s windy, dark, or snowing outside, chances are you’ll need to drive a little bit slower to ensure you have a safe journey”, Endsleigh recommends.
Checking journey times
When travelling home for Christmas, it is important to remember that the roads will be especially busy. Not only can bad weather conditions add time to your journey, but with people travelling to meet up with friends and family, it is more than likely that there will be more cars on the road than usual. Before leaving, check journey times, as well as looking if there are any road works or other things that could hold you up. Additionally, finding an alternative route could be really helpful and opens up another option should you run into a spot of traffic. With this in mind, you should keep family members up-to-date with your estimated time of arrival.