Bank holiday woes: the breakdown of bank holiday travel

2nd May 2018

Bank Holiday Trends Header

Bank holidays are just excellent. That extra day off in the working week makes all the difference. From enjoying an extra lie-in to spending more time with the family, what’s not to love about a three-day weekend? To get the most out of our time off, many of us take to the roads to explore and discover new destinations. But travelling on a bank holiday isn’t all fun and games. As soon as you hit the motorway it feels like everyone else in the UK has had the same idea and that bank holiday excitement can soon wear off.

To understand what it’s all about, MBNA have surveyed 2,000 Brits and completed transaction analysis to find out more about our bank holiday habits, annoyances and spending tendencies.

A fifth (21%) of us say we dread travelling and 45% don’t look forward to it - but don’t mind too much. We want to know: what are the UK’s biggest bank holiday bugbears? Check out our results and you might find a few elements you can relate to.

Bank Holiday Tyre Pressure

Before we set off

In anticipation of your bank holiday journey, there are bags to pack, family members to organise and some essential car checks to make.

Despite the importance of car checks to ensure a safe journey, we found over half (58%) of respondents who went on a car journey of an hour or longer didn't check their tyre pressure before they set off. 65% didn't check their engine oil levels and 42% failed to look at their fuel meter before they hit the road. 

On these busier weekends, it’s also a good idea to plan for delays and traffic, and keep food and water on hand. Although being prepared for this eventuality is essential (and probably necessary), 64% didn’t make sure they had a supply of water before starting out.

Before you head out on your bank holiday trip, check under the hood of your car, top up your oil and test your tyres. With a big bottle of water for everyone, toilet stops may be more frequent, but you’ll be prepared for anything.

Bank Holiday Traffic

On the road

Once the journey is in full swing, it’s all about staying entertained. Half those surveyed turned to music when on a car journey lasting one hour or more, while a third choose to sing along to their radio, CD or MP3 player. 24% played car games to keep spirits up.

Listening to your favourite jams, whether you’re singing along or not, is the most common way to pass the time. But the question on everyone’s lips is: who gets to make the playlist? A very democratic 27% said picking the music was a joint decision, 13% claimed their significant other chose and 8% admitted that the kids had the final say.

When it comes to genre, we’re not a nation to turn our noses up at the most popular tunes. More than a quarter of respondents put current hits in the top spot, 19% livened up the journey with rock and 8% went for classical.

Although we’ve found plenty of methods to fend off boredom, it’s not always plain sailing on a bank holiday journey. No matter how much we love our fellow travellers, when stuck in traffic arguments can break out. Of the respondents who argued with a significant other or family member when caught in a jam, 45% said that directions were the most common cause for disagreement. Almost a third (32%) squabbled over bad driving habits, a quarter (25%) clashed over the length of the journey and 19% said music choice came under fire. We can’t all be happy travellers.

Bank Holiday Journey

Where are we going and what are we spending?

Now the journey is done and dusted, it’s time to relax and enjoy your destination. So where do Brits like to spend our precious bank holiday weekends? After extensive analysis of MBNA card transactions, we found that the majority of Brits love a city break to the Big Smoke, with London taking the top spot. Staycation perennials Cornwall, Cumbria and Gloucestershire also held their own in the top four favourite destinations for a much-deserved break.

With a closer look at our spending habits, we found that London’s popularity for a bank holiday away transcends age, with all age brackets choosing the capital city as their first tourist destination. Manchester appears to be on the trendy end of the spectrum, making its only appearance in the under 30’s bracket. Cornwall, Gloucestershire and Cumbria held strong in the 30-44 and 45-59 bands, whereas the over 60’s swapped Gloucestershire for Suffolk.

On bank holidays, we’re not afraid to splash out and the sunshine appears to have an impact on our spending habits. More of us get into the holiday spirit on the August bank holiday (there was a higher volume of tourist transactions during this weekend than any of the others) closely followed by the late May holiday. But when it comes to how much we spend, on average, the most costly weekend is Easter (£105), possibly down to the amazing four day weekend. The cheapest long weekend is in summer (£95), because, let’s face it, ice creams and lounging in the sunshine isn’t too expensive.

Making the most of the bank holiday

If you’re venturing further afield to discover pastures new and make the most of your bank holiday weekend, don’t dread the journey. Follow these simple tips:

  • Perform your car checks, pack extra food and water and remember to charge up your sat nav in advance.
  • Bring plenty of entertainment options for the journey to prepare for delays.
  • Try to travel at quieter times, like first thing in the morning when there are fewer people on the road.
  • Most importantly it seems, get all travellers to approve a playlist before you set off.

Sources: survey of 2000 UK adults and MBNA transaction data.

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