Beating the Jubilee jams, the camper van way.

Heading off this weekend? Of course you are. Well, here’s my quickly-adapted-for-the-Jubilee guide to surviving the summer traffic from my book, The Camper Van Coast. The bad news is that there will be jams, the good news is that, if you are in a camper, it may be just that little bit easier.

Here we go again. It’s the summer time, there’s some royal action going down and suddenly we’ve got a whole bunch of bank holidays all at once. Everyone is going to make a dash for it. Quick! Pack up the camper van and head for the coast!
I have lived in the Westcountry for many years now and have gone backwards and forwards to here, there and everywhere a few times now. For five years I commuted backwards and forwards to London in a camper van (and other faster vehicles) almost every week. So I am an old hand at traffic jams, especially Friday night ones, bank holiday ones and the keeping you from making last orders at the Bradworthy Inn ones. Fortunately though, in that time I got quite good at dodging them. That’s because I am impatient and would much rather be moving than not, even if I’m going off on some random track that’s not even pointing in the right direction.

Sometimes you can’t help but sit in a jam. Sometimes there is no way out. You’re just going to have to take it on the chin. Happily though, this is another one of those times when you’ll be jolly glad you’re in a camper and not in a car. Stick the kettle on and settle down in the back. Heck, why not invite the neighbours around for a brew? You might as well make use of the facilities available to you (although this will only work if you are well and truly stuck and NOT ACTUALLY MOVING). One thing to remember is that you must not, under any circumstances, let anyone know that you have a porta-potti in your van or everyone will want a go.

Surviving the Jubilee jams.

Put the kettle on. But only if you’re not moving. Did you pack milk? Or enough cups for everyone? You won’t forget it twice.

• Turn the ignition off. If you’ve stopped, turn it off. Yes, so there’s a risk it won’t start again but it’s better than boiling your engine isn’t it? You’ll save gas too.

Put the stereo on and kick back. There’s nothing you can do so go with it. No use getting all road-ragey and upset. It isn’t going to help.

• Make sure you have food and water on board. Well fed campers are happy campers. We all know that. Pack supplies.

• Tell bad jokes. A joke book that’s jam packed full of rubbish jokes can amuse children for unspeakably long times in traffic jams. Corny, but useful.

• DON’T use the hard shoulder. It might be tempting to pull over if the queue is moving very slowly and settle down for a bit. And don’t even think about nipping down the hard shoulder either. The rozzers don’t like that. It’s not worth the fine.

Avoiding the Jubilee jams.

Get up early, leave late. The trouble with traffic jams is that they nearly always happen at busy times. How inconvenient. I know. What are they thinking? But that’s the way we are. We are a mob. The simple solution of course is to stop thinking like the mob and drive at the most unsociable times. This means driving during the night or very early in the morning. So you have to get up early? So what?

Don’t go with the flow. In many places Saturday will be changeover day for holiday cottages, apartments and caravans. That means that there will be one lot leaving in the morning and another lot arriving in the afternoon. So lots of traffic. Avoid it. You aren’t governed by the time your cottage will be ready anyway. Start your holiday on a Tuesday instead (although not much use on the Jubilee weekend I know).

Use your smartphone. They do have uses beyond tweeting and, er, tweeting. Go online and check out the situation on any number of websites that offer live traffic updates. Very useful, although not great if you’re already stuck. Also look at the website of your favourite roadside assistance provider.

Read the map and find alternatives. Maps are great. Get a good one (not one of those rubbish touring ones that only have the big roads) that has lots of details and you’ll soon realise that there are a world of possibilities out there. Go cross country, stop at a village pub, take your time. You might make the journey last twice the time but at least you’ll be moving.

Consider (for a moment) getting a sat nav. I have very little tolerance for sat nav. They are the instruments of the devil as far as I am concerned because they make us lazy and incapable of thinking for ourselves. And if they go wrong or read your location incorrectly they can leave you properly up the creek. Anyway, I am told you can take out subscriptions that will enable you to avoid traffic hotspots as they happen. Whatever.

Drive defensively. In slow moving traffic you can help the ebb and flow by driving defensively. This means that you keep a fair distance between you and the car in front and do your best to keep moving, even if all you’re doing is creeping. The gap allows you to keep moving, even if they have stopped. That way you, and all the traffic behind you, will keep crawling along and you won’t get into that awful stop-start-stop that buggers up your clutch and helps no-one. Doesn’t always work as other drivers may confuse your attempts at good sense as an opportunity and may nip into your space. That’s when it’s ok to get very, very cross.


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