Although the United Kingdom has an excellent reliable public transport system, sometimes it’s just better to have your own car so you can find that beautiful beach, hidden castle, or find your way through one of the awe-inspiring national parks. In that case, a road trip sounds like the perfect option for you! In this article, we’ll take a look at how to plan a road trip in the United Kingdom – looking at the best ways to save you any stress and most importantly – money!
Decide where you want to go
The first may seem obvious – but it really is true. If you only want to see cities, then a road trip may not even be the best thing for you as you can easily get a train or a bus. However, if you want to experience the UK’s countryside, then your own transport is definitely the way to go.
Choose a route
Now that you know where you want to go, it’s time to pick how to get there. Does the road have tolls? Is there stuff to do along the way? Can I find a great country pub on this road? These are all questions that hopefully you’ll have answered before you pick up the keys for your car! If you’re not a confident driver, or more likely aren’t used to driving on the left – then also check the safety figures for the roads you’re going to travel on. If you have a choice of two, pick the safest!
Once you’ve picked your route, you’ll probably think that it seems short. And luckily, since the UK is a relatively small country on an island, there aren’t a lot of journeys that take too long. However, it may feel like the kilometres are taking a VERY long time to pass. And that’s because their miles – the UK has an unusual mix of using imperial and metric. On the roads, it’s always imperial. 1 mile is equal to around 1.6km – this is also extremely important to know when it comes to speed limits!
Pick the right car
Road trips can immediately lose a lot of their fun and magic if you’ve got the wrong car. Make sure you get something a suitable size – if there are 4 people, then a little hatchback is going to feel cramped and uncomfortable after a while. Also, the UK’s roads are narrow (especially when you’re in the countryside), so pick something that you can comfortably drive without feeling that it’s too big!
Also, remember that if you’re going to be doing a lot of motorway driving, the cheapest option doesn’t always work out that way. A small engine burns more petrol or diesel, so it’s better to give yourself an upgrade to something more suitable for motorway cruising!
Book accommodation along the way
Booking accommodation in advance is a good idea for several reasons. Most importantly, of course, it’ll mean that when you arrive somewhere and it’s fully booked, you won’t be turned away! It also helps to give some structure to your journey. Make sure that when you’re deciding on somewhere to stay that it isn’t too far off your route. Although that five-star hotel with the hot tub and swimming pool and Michelin star restaurant looks perfect, it might add two hours onto your route and give you less sightseeing time at your next stop.
Learn about the speed limits and driving laws
This is a big one. UK roads have a lot of laws that British drivers don’t even know about (and some that they definitely do). For example, a driver using their phone while driving to answer a text or reset their maps can face a hefty fine. It’s not just phones though – changing a CD or applying make-up can be penalised too. If in doubt when it comes to driving laws, check out the Highway Code on the British Government website.
Speed limits are normally clearly defined. However, what happens if you miss the sign and don’t know how fast you can go? Well, there are a few ways to work out what speed you should be doing. A streetlamp lit road is a 30mph zone, as is a village or most urban areas (although some go down to 20). On a single carriageway, the speed is generally 60 mph while a dual carriageway or a motorway is 70. If you see a circular white sign with a diagonal black stripe, this means national speed limit. Don’t discard these rules as the UK has a lot of speed cameras which will slap a heavy fine on you!
Look for things outside of the city centre
Driving around the ring road or a one-way system of a British city centre can be one of the most stressful situations you’ll face in your entire life! Most city centre attractions are surrounded by a maze of pedestrianised streets, awkward roads, or expensive parking. Instead, park out of the centre and take public transport to keep your anxiety levels down! Most cities have park and ride systems which mean you’ll save valuable time and stress while still getting to see the major tourist attractions.
Save on visiting historical attractions
If you’re planning on visiting a lot of attractions – especially when it comes to castles, historical houses, and the like, it’s easy to save yourself some cash. A lot of sites are free or have a small entry fee – however, if you’re visiting a lot of National Trust properties you can save yourself even more! Check out a National Trust touring pass or a Scottish Heritage pass.
Make a playlist
Last but not least – on a long journey you need to have a cracking playlist! Keeping the driver awake, a motivational song on a windy road, or simply a load of songs that everyone can enjoy singing along to might make up some of the most vivid memories of your road trip. Podcasts are also great to listen to if you want to learn about where you’re travelling, keep up with your favourite sport, or listen to a grisly true crime story! For more destination guides and tips, check out Trip101.