The UK consists of a collection of small islands off the west coast of mainland Europe, and is home to around 64 million people. During the vacation season, which typically runs from the beginning of July to the beginning of September each year, visitors to the UK and general population movements can cause traffic build-ups along many major routes.
Avoiding the summer traffic jams is not always possible. Sometimes, if you have to get to a specific location then using one of the common slow spots is unavoidable. These are likely to be near popular tourist attractions such as Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain. All roads around coastal towns and cities are likely to see heavier traffic during the summer, as are common inland city destinations such as York, Oxford and of course London.
One of the simplest ways to avoid traffic delays is to get off the roads completely. Taking the train in the UK is a relatively safe and simple exercise. Many principal cities have large stations with connections to a variety of smaller destinations. If you can plan your journey in advance, you can often find cheap one-way tickets.
If you are planning a journey from the south of England or the Midlands to Scotland or Ireland, then flying may be a more sensible option. There are flights from Exeter, Plymouth, Bristol and Birmingham to several locations in Scotland including a daily service by Air Southwest between Plymouth and Glasgow.
For most people however, getting around the UK will mean using a car or a bus. National Express coaches offer many routes across the UK, with summer fares that are cheaper than petrol costs for an average car in many cases. The disadvantage of coach travel is that often there is only one journey option per day, with the in-coming coach arriving after the out-going one.
If you are staying for more than one night at your destination, taking a coach may be less stressful than driving. You have the advantage of being able to relax and enjoy the scenery, even if you are stuck in traffic for a while. There is also an on-board toilet, and coaches are permitted to use bus lanes when in built-up areas which can speed up the journey a little.
Knowing the smaller B-roads in any area is often the best way to avoid summer traffic jams in the UK. Most visitors will stick to the main routes such as motorways and A-roads. This can mean traffic delays just through the sheer volume of traffic.
There are often local short cuts that you can use to by-pass some of the worst traffic black spots. Normally you might avoid these because they can add a few extra minutes to your journey time. In the high summer season however, it may be to your advantage to use them, to avoid even longer delays on the main routes.
If your journey is not an essential one, or you do not have to be at your destination in the middle of the day, you might consider travelling outside normal business hours. Leaving early, even as early as 4am if you have a long journey ahead of you, can mean travelling on clearer roads for the most part. Evening travel is also less likely to be congested during the summer, unless there has been an accident during the day.
Keeping your vehicle in good condition is also important as radiators overheating is a common problem for summer drivers in the UK. Make sure you have your roadside assistance documents handy and your mobile phone fully charged before you set out.
Avoiding traffic build-ups in the UK is often impossible. The size of the country and the number of vehicles trying to use the roads simply means that traffic jams during the summer are inevitable. If you have to travel by road, make sure you are prepared for any delays by carrying some bottled water and snacks with you, and something to read while you wait.