/ Travel & Leisure

Should I stay or should I go?


It’s the last bank holiday until Christmas and I have a serious decision to make. Do I brave travel chaos in an attempt to squeeze the most out of my three-day-weekend? I can see long seaside walks, log fires and… traffic.

Or do I prepare for a rainy weekend in London? I could hide away with good food, wine and company.

I’m not alone in my expectations of bank holiday travel misery. We’ve found that out of the 10 million people planning a getaway this weekend, almost half anticipate delays.

With 62% of holidaymakers hitting the road this weekend, my Pembrokeshire coast daydreams are coming to a standstill.

Plane and rail passengers won’t escape delays either – fliers are more likely to be delayed in August than any other month. And since we launched our flight delay compensation tool earlier this month, over 3,000 people have used it to claim for a lengthy delay.

A number of major engineering works are also expected to cause delays on the railways this weekend. But I’m not planning to travel by train or fly to Pembrokeshire, I’d have to drive and I’m not sure if I can face it.

Going away for bank holiday weekend

Am I being overly travel weary? Perhaps. Working on travel campaigns can do that to you. I could, of course, take a leaf out of my father’s book and avoid delays by driving through the night. In fact, three quarters of the people who expect delays told us they’re adapting their travel plans as a result.

Although I know the risks, I think I’m going to brave it. After all, getting lost, being stuck in traffic and complaining about the weather are all excellent British holiday pastimes.

Do you think I’m crazy for traveling at one of the busiest times of the year? Or will you be joining me?


In terms of road travel, I think people whose journeys must start in Greater London or the south east commuting zone are at a distinct disadvantage because to get to the coast or holiday area they have the biggest choice of destinations using the radial routes, but once a destination has been selected are at the mercy of the capacity or congestion factor of that route which they might have to follow for one or two hundred miles. Those of us living further afield might have a smaller choice of accessible destinations for a bank holiday getaway but are already probably half way there or content to travel in our own region and visit the coast and national parks that we know using cross-country routes instead of the radial routes from the metropolis.

Other than marshalling a greater overall number of passengers than usual by putting on more flights, I am not sure why air travel is so problematic at bank holidays [when there is less business travel and freight]. The airlines and airports know exactly how many flights and passengers are booked and how many bags will need to be handled. Perhaps they are trying to squeeze too many people and planes through inadequate infrastructure. Unlike road travel where potential demand is infinite, air travel volumes can be strictly controlled.

Being pernickety for a minute, I would question the line that “major engineering works are also expected to cause delays on the railways” that is regularly put out by the media. What major engineering works on the railways will certainly do is cause normal journey times to be extended [due to diversions and replacement bus services] and for fewer trains to be operated. However, the service alterations are all planned in advance and timetabled and generally perform accordingly. A scheduled longer journey is not the same thing as a delay. A delay is an unpredictable thing that happens every day and ruins your journey to work or mucks up your leisure trip; at bank holidays the railways run like clockwork and provide additional enjoyment through a change of route or a longer train ride or a spell of coach travel. None of these benefits are available on the motorways or in the air.

There’s not much point travelling on a Bank Holiday since the rest of the U.K seems to want to do the same. I would have thought that the inevitable traffic jams -hours of them – would deter people from making the effort. Of course a Bank Holiday may be the only time possible to escape and that is the dilemma. In that situation, I’d far rather plan something special close to home than try my luck at Indian Queens or the M25. What’s the point of arriving frazzled and losing half the holiday looking at number plates? It’s bad enough travelling locally. There seems to have been an inordinate number of accidents recently. On one fifty mile journey I was diverted twice on the way there and once on the way back. I nearly missed a hospital appointment because the main dual carriageway was blocked for two hours. Rat runs saved the day – 20 mph and speed humps everywhere. I don’t get holidays these days, but nothing would tempt me out on a Bank Holiday even if it was offered as an escape.

I am trying not to remember yesterdays bank holidays stuck in mile long traffic jams with 4 children constantly whining “Are we nearly there yet?” When you think you spend the best part of one day travelling to your destination and another day on the return journey, leaving just one day to `enjoy the break”. We seem to develop a lemming mentality at Bank Holidays in this country to want to escape far from the madding crowd, only to end up stuck in the middle of a static madding crowd with overheating engines, frayed tempers and blood pressure increasing to dangerous levels.

Now those days are behind me I can curl up with a good book with a nice cuppa and my favourite chocs, listen to my favourite music and enjoy the peace and tranquillity that has descended because the neighbours with their noisy kids have gone away, (bliss!) probably stuck somewhere amongst the rest of the herd with overheating engines, frayed tempers etc.etc., and so to answer your question Zoe, yes I think you are crazy to even contemplate it. Happy Holidays 🙂

Don’t worry about it. Stay at home and potter about locally. Take a day’s leave some other time if you want a long weekend away!

I prefer to use Bank Holidays as a way of getting an extra day off work when I book leave, so a whole week off only uses up 4 days leave.

My experience is also that sensibly planned journeys, making good use of minor A roads and B roads do not suffer much traffic congestion.

I accept that my observations may apply only to journeys to and from some locations, e.g. between the Midlands and North Wales and not to all possible routes.

So Zoe – Did you go, or did you stay? And if you went away – how was your journey?