It's said that success happens when preparation meets opportunity. Nowhere is this better illustrated than trying to navigate the busy roads at this time of year. So plan to beat the traffic and stress with these invaluable tips, apps, sites and more.
"Whether you take public transport or drive, outsmarting traffic will take some forethought."
First up; here are the three golden rules for Christmas time road travel:
1) Avoid early morning and late afternoons – these are going to be chock-a-block.
2) It is better to travel on Christmas day than on Christmas Eve.
3) Plan ahead (more on this below)
It might not just be shoppers lying in wait to slow you down, so be prepared for roadworks. Check your route for possible accidents, construction and/or road closures at www.roadworks.org. You can also scan www.highways.gov.uk/traffic for updates on the latest conditions. Highways England also has a mobile app that you may want to download.
If the road ahead is a nightmare, don’t worry, there’s an app for that. Let an app strategise an alternate route to beat the jam. INRIX is well-rated and recommended. Enter your destination, and if it's not your usual route that's because INRIX has optimised the journey based on its analytics, displaying clogged roads in avoid-at-all-costs red. Beautifully managing expectations, it will also calculate a trip-time taking into account the level of traffic.
Waze is another popular navigation app which adapts routes on-the-spot when it anticipates traffic. Its graphics look like dancefloor lasers and may take getting used to but fans love its features like in-app updates on fuel prices and its customized voices.
If you’re looking for navigational know-how regularly, consider buying a handy Sat Nav (aka satellite navigation) for your car. These electronic receivers use geo-spatial positioning to pinpoint your exact location and create accurate travel times from real-time traffic data. Garmin and TomTom are the go-to brands and range in price from around £50 to around £300 for bells and whistles such as dash cams, lane change notifications, backseat cameras or hands-free calling when paired with a smartphone companion app.
And because we often rely too heavily on technology, it's a great idea to pop a UK map in the glove box for back up. You never know when you hit a wireless dead zone. In the boot, it’s smart to keep an emergency kit for winter breakdowns. Pop in a blanket, torch, bottle of water, spare headlight bulbs, spare mobile battery and some snacks.
The CityMapper app gets you home around major cities with detailed bus, train, tram, underground and taxi information. It also integrates Uber with pricing (including surge updates) and wait times built in and the option of your journey time by human cannon, if you’re so inclined.
Download the Trainline app for UK train times, prices and whether the train is on-time or delayed. You can also purchase digital tickets for certain journeys in app. Word to the wise: National Rail is said to be planning 200 projects to be delivered this Christmas and New Year so expect travel disruption during the festive period.
In London, each Tube line now has a Twitter account. Follow your line for updates on scheduling and delays. On Christmas Eve, keep in mind services are limited for the rail, Tube, tram and DRL. In London, buses will run regular on Christmas Eve, but it all shuts for Christmas Day itself.
Fun fact: there hasn't been a London Tube service on Christmas Day since 1979. And it's been even longer for UK rail services – the last Christmas day service was in 1964!1
Whether you take public transport or drive, outsmarting traffic will take some forethought. Ironically, the more time taken to prepare and plan, the more time saved on the way home. Use these tips to help take control and master the roads – at least until driverless cars take over. When we expect there will still be traffic jams during the holidays. Sorry.