Driving Home For Christmas #OneStepAhead

“I’m driving home for Christmas…” – well, technically, I’m not. I’m penning my thoughts on the topic, but “I’m writing a blog post about driving home for Christmas” doesn’t really fit into Chris Rea’s famous festive tune. Either way, I’ll get to the point…for once.

I’ve recently teamed up with AXA Insurance on their #OneStepAhead campaign. This aim being to provide hints and tips to help families stay – you’ve guessed it – one step ahead this Christmas and New Years. Each week, they’re looking at different festive topics and have asked me to share some advice about driving home for Christmas. So, let’s just straight to it – check out my vlog below to see my hints and tips:

Driving home is a subject I know a lot about having racked up thousands of miles on the road over the festive period. I left home when I went to Uni at 18, and up until a few years ago, continued to go back to my folks’ place for Christmas day. The last few years have seen the missus, Toddler L and I have Christmas at our own house, however we try to have a ‘fake Christmas’ with both mine and Hay’s parents during the holidays.

With my folks being in the North East, Hay’s being North West and us being in the South East, that’s a 450 mile round trip just to see our close family over the festive period. Multiply that by the fact that we’ve been together for 10 years and used to live even further South in London, then we’re probably talking the best part of 5,000 miles travelled. Even Santa would struggle to clock up that distance!

On the whole, the drive up isn’t usually that bad. However, increased traffic and the bad weather can have a huge impact. When living in London, I remember that it took nine hours to do a three-and-a-half hour journey on Christmas Eve. I kid you not, it was the worst drive I’ve ever had the misfortune to undertake. Unexpected snow hit us as we were setting off, meaning that it took three hours to do four miles to get out of London, then we experienced stoppage after stoppage on the motorway. I nearly sacked off Christmas that year.

With the prospect of another journey up North in a few weeks time, I thought I’d remind myself – and share with you – some of the stuff I do to ensure an uneventful journey when driving home for Christmas.

Tip 1: Check Your Car Is Safe

We should all do this when we’re heading out on a long journey, but I’m betting that you don’t. When was the last time you pumped up your tires, topped up your screen wash or checked your oil? Exactly! In winter though, it’s even more important to ensure your car is in tip-top condition. The cold weather, icy roads and increased hours of darkness are all dangers to consider. As such, before heading home for Christmas this year, give your car a once over to check that it’s safe for the family. If you need some more car safety tips or general driving advice, check out the AXA My Car resource.

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Tip 2: Plan Your Journey

If, like us, your trip home at Christmas involves a lot of miles, it’s important to ensure that you know where you’re going. This might be an obvious thing to say, but your usual route might be impacted by things like roadworks or bad weather, plus you might not know the roads too well if you don’t go there that often. You’ll also want to set off in plenty of time – the last thing you want is to be rushing, getting stressed and potentially putting yourself in danger…or missing out on the turkey.

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Tip 3: Ensure Your Kids Have Entertainment

If doing a long trip is boring for you, imagine how your kids feel. With the added excitement and magic of Christmas, the last thing they want to do is be stuck in the car for a few hours. As such, you need to make sure your kid(s) are adequately entertained – for both yours and there benefit. How you do this is entirely up to you – I have many a weird and wonderful method of distracting Toddler L in the car, so I pass no judgement. The usual stuff though – such as games, books, music, TV shows, food etc – is always going to be a winner.

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Tip 4: Double Check Everything Has Been Packed

At Christmas, you’re likely to be taking a lot of stuff with you on the road. A usual trip to see the folks for us involves a packed car – suitcases, travel cot, toys etc. However, the festive period also means that you’re likely to be filling any leftover space with presents, mulled wine and mince pies. You may even find that you’re a glorified taxi as you pick up other family members for the trip home – I’ve been doing that for my brother for far too long! As such, make sure everything has been packed and don’t leave it until the last minute. You’re mum won’t be too happy if you’ve left her present at home.

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Tip 5: Prepare For The Worst

Even if you’ve followed the tips above, something unexpected could still happen. Your car could break down, you could become engulfed in a snow storm or you could be abducted by aliens. As such, you’ll want to make sure you have a kit with you just in case it’s needed. If we ignore the little green men for a minute – that’s the aliens, not Santa’s elves – it’s wise to have some stuff in the car in case of an emergency. Things like a first aid kit, a warm blanket, snacks, a hot drink, De-icer, battery jumper cables etc would all come in handy should you need them. It’s also important to have breakdown cover and the number to ring to hand.

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So those are my five tips to help you stay one step ahead when driving home for Christmas. Do you do any of these prior to a long journey? Are there any other tips you have? Let me know below! Also, remember to follow @AXAInsurance on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with the latest tips and competitions, or visit www.axa.co.uk/christmas.

N.B. This is a collaborative post written with AXA Insurance.