August bank holiday travel

Bank holiday road trips back to pre-pandemic levels

More than 13 million to hit the holiday trail but 18 million say they will drive at some stage

23 August 2021

Bank holiday road trips are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels this weekend but fewer travellers than normal will be going for the long drives, AA research has revealed.

Feedback from 14,759 AA members last week showed that 42% have planned or have in mind a bank holiday getaway. That points to 13.3 million cars on road trips celebrating the end of summer.

That percentage is significantly up on the 37% of bank holiday road trippers last year but back to where the UK was in 2019.

Overall, also taking into account those who will be doing normal weekend travel, UK roads will have to cope with 18.4 million cars on the move at some stage of the three days.

Where pandemic-related life patterns continue to cast a shadow is the much reduced level of long journeys this bank holiday.

In 2019, 23% set out on road trips of 50 miles or more whereas, this year, it’s down to 13%. Last August bank holiday, it was just 9%.

Spot the Green Number Plate

One new feature of bank holiday car trips will be the chance to upgrade the ‘Spot the Number Plate’ game that has entertained children for generations. Unlike last August, green number plates that 200,000 electric cars have been eligible to use since December will now be cropping up out on the open road.

Front plate

As each family has their own rules for the number plate game, we will leave them to decide whether the plates earn bonus points or win a round outright.

Check your cars

The AA will have extra patrols on duty in staycation hotspots, but is urging drivers to check their cars before they leave. Drivers should pay extra attention to the tyres, checking the condition, tread depth and pressures, as well as checking levels for engine oil and washer fluid.

Battery issues, tyre faults and keys locked in the car are some of the most common reasons for drivers to call the AA for help during summer.

“Weather is always a big decider on where people spend their bank holiday. However, AA research suggests that local traffic may be heavier this time,” says Edmund King, the AA’s president.

“There are likely to be big delays on the roads where holiday traffic mixes with sporting or shopping day trippers. Drivers are advised to check their cars before venturing out. We also think that families might want to play ‘spot the green number plate’ as a modern day version of the I-spy number plate game. My green plate will be on the road this Saturday.

“Covid’s disruption to people’s lives is still noticeable in the 10% fewer long-distance trippers this August. The drop in longer trips might be due to the difficulty in booking accommodation away from home due to more families taking their holidays in the UK.

“Journeys have not yet returned to pre-lockdown patterns. Certainly, government statistics show that car travel since the easing of restrictions has been edging towards 95% of pre-pandemic levels – but that is with public transport use still way down on what it was before Covid. September and the expected return of more people to offices will be a huge pointer to how much the coronavirus has changed the way we live, work and travel.”

Finding out traffic news on the aa app

Families on the road this summer can get a heads-up on traffic problems using AA route planner and can find nearby parking spaces, petrol stations and EV charge points using the AA app, which can also be used to report a breakdown and save money on days out.