Can’t wait to see those faces? Driving home for Christmas to see our family and friends is a yearly ritual for thousands of us nationwide. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. The Christmas commute can be long and frustrating with multiple obstacles to overcome along the way—particularly if you’ve moved far away from the rest of your family. To help you on your way, here are our top tips on how to prepare.
Figure out the best mode of transport
Between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, public transport is hugely unreliable. There’s a reason the song’s not called “Getting the Train Home for Christmas”. Still, it might be worth checking if there does happen to be a train, bus or coach that can get you home faster than a car before you make your mind up. Trains, for example, are much less likely to end up in traffic jams—though it’s not completely unheard of.
Unsurprisingly, the internet is your best resource for finding out which mode of transport is best for your festive pilgrimage. The National Rail’s Christmas timetables page can help you figure out if you can take your route by train.
Use temporary car insurance
Car ownership is on the decline, particularly among the younger generations who rely more heavily on public transport to get around. If their public transport routes are interrupted over the Christmas period, borrowing or renting a car might be the only way to get back home in time for turkey.
If you’re planning to rent or borrow a car, make sure you take out insurance to cover your journey. Companies like Cuvva offer temporary car insurance for periods as brief as one hour, meaning you can save money by covering your journey alone. But it might be best to take out insurance for a whole day, or at least overestimate the length of your drive. As we’ll see, driving home for Christmas is rarely a case of dashing through the snow.
Check your route in advance
It’s not just train stations that will close before the big day. Roads are closing too. Road closures have been a staple of Yuletide transport for years—and while all local authorities have not finalised their Christmas closure plans so far this year, you will be able to thoroughly research your route further into the festive period. And you should.
As well as road closures, there are traffic issues to keep in mind. Unsurprisingly, Christmas is one of the busiest times of year to drive, so traffic can build up quickly. Traditionally, the roads are busiest around 4pm on the last Friday before Christmas. Journeys on major roads around London, particularly the M25 which passes Heathrow, could take up to six times as long at peak times.
Avoiding predicted slow spots and planning ahead to account for any diversions should keep your journey closer to its minimum length—but expect delays anyway, just in case! It’s definitely worth using a route finder app that can give you live traffic updates and suggest alternative routes. Sometimes a little shortcut is all you need to get home faster.
Plan your route back before you leave
Depending on when you leave your family home and head back to your regular home, you may well be in for more delays, holdups and traffic jams. Again, check road closures and busy spots online to avoid any issues. It’s best to look into your return journey before you even start your outward journey, as staying with your family a little longer could help you avoid a painful drive back.