Bumper to bumper in tailbacks might be frustrating, but driving home for Christmas is still a pretty exciting time of the year. Whether you’re a student, travel a lot for work or just live a long way from friends and family, there’s something nice about hitting the road at Christmastime – provided you’re well prepared for the journey, that is.

Depending on when you travel and how far you’ve got to go, driving home for Christmas can be a real headache. Traffic jams, bad weather and dark nights can make seasonal driving stressful, so it’s worth taking some time to prepare for your journey so it goes as smoothly as possible.

Here, we bring you our ultimate checklist for driving home for Christmas, including tips on what to pack, how to keep the kids entertained, and DIY car checks you should do before a long journey.

Car Checks and Maintenance

If you’ve got a long drive planned over Christmas, the first thing to do is make sure your car is in a roadworthy condition. Here are a few checks and maintenance tips to get your car ready for a long drive. We’d also recommend having a read of our handy winter driving guide.

Check the Tyres

You should check the condition and pressure of your tyres every two weeks in winter, as you need them to perform at their best on wet and icy roads. Look out for signs of damage and check the pressure and tread depth regularly to make sure they’re in good condition for the Christmas commute.

Tip: For total peace of mind this Christmas, pop a can of Tyreweld in your boot. Our emergency puncture repair kit is designed for those wintry nights when you just want to get home and see the family – not be stuck at the roadside trying to fit a spare wheel!

Check the Fluids

As with the tyres, you should get in the habit of checking your car’s fluid levels more regularly in the winter, at least once a fortnight. Before you head out on a long drive, check the coolant/antifreeze, oil and screen wash, and top up if they’re a little low.

Clean the Headlights, Taillights and Windows

Even if you don’t have time to clean the entire car, you should at least clean the headlights, taillights and windows if you’re taking a long journey. Windows are especially important, as the light from other cars or a low sun can cause a lot of dangerous glare if the windscreen is dirty.

Give Your Car a Quick Clean

No one wants to turn up at their mum’s house with a messy car, but if you’re pressed for time, there are ways you can get your car looking presentable in under half an hour. From the outside in, this express shine guide from Simoniz can help you get your car Christmas-ready in about 15 minutes.

Know What to Do in a Breakdown

Breakdowns are more common in winter, so you should always prepare for the worst no matter how old or new your car is. Our guide about what to do if you break down on the road is full of useful info, so why not download it on to your smartphone so you can refer back to it in an emergency?

Packing and Essentials

Aside from a boot-load of gifts for friends and family, there are a few other things to keep in your car that will make the big festive drive more bearable. Here, we take a look at the essentials you should keep in your car, and offer some tips on packing for the big Christmas commute.

Don’t Forget the Essentials

Amid all the excitement of loading up the car for Christmas, it can be easy to forget the essentials that you should have on a long car journey. From a map book to jump leads, breakdown information to a demister pad, our guide to essential items to keep in your car will help you have a stress-free drive this December.

Pack Smart when Loading Up the Car

We know what it’s like when you’ve got a big drive ahead; you want to get on the road as quickly as possible, so often rush the last-minute jobs like loading up the car with luggage. But, if you spend a bit more time on packing the car, you’ll not only be able to get more in, but will also make sure you have good all-round visibility and efficient weight distribution. For tips on loading up the car this Christmas, take a look at some of the clever hacks we cover in this driving guide.

Food, Drink and Supplies

Keeping thirst and hunger at bay is key on a long car journey, and you never know when you might get stuck in a bad traffic jam. Pack enough snacks, water and preferably a flask of something hot for every passenger in the car, so you can at least stay fed and watered if the weather takes a turn for the worse or you end up in a huge tailback.

Emergency Kit

While it is covered in our essentials guide above, we thought it was a good idea to stress again the importance of having an emergency kit in your car in case something happens on the road. On dark wintry nights, driving conditions can change quickly, so you should carry high-vis clothing, the phone number for your breakdown provider, a map book or sat nav, warm clothing and a torch, in case you’re left stranded at the roadside.

Journey Planning and Entertainment

Like the Chris Rea song, driving home for Christmas should be a nice festive affair, so you can help things go smoothly by planning ahead and packing a few things to keep you and the kids entertained.

Look at the Weather and Traffic Report Before Setting Off

To reduce the risk of getting stuck in traffic, be sure to check local traffic reports and disruptive weather before setting off, so you can change your route or set off earlier if there’s going to be problems.

Keep the Kids Entertained

Even at Christmas, long journeys can be boring and tiring for little travellers, so you need a plan to keep them entertained. Our guide to 25 fun activities for your Christmas road trip is perfect to keep you and your passengers entertained during the big festive commute. You can also get some entertainment with our guide to the best in car karaoke songs!

Drive Relaxed and with a Clear Head

Long journeys are stressful, and it doesn’t take much to send the blood pressure soaring when you’re faced problems. But you can reduce the stress by accepting before you set off that there will be more traffic, giving yourself more time than you need, and listening to some relaxing music or a podcast to take your mind off what’s going on in the road ahead.

Click here for more helpful tips on how to stay calm while driving

Schedule Regular Breaks

Many people cross the length and breadth of the country to be with friends and family at Christmas, and all that driving can lead to total fatigue at the wheel. Schedule pit-stops every couple of hours so you can stretch your legs, get some fresh air and maybe even fuel-up on some much-needed caffeine.

This is also a great chance to switch drivers if you’re travelling with a partner or family member who is insured on your car. Sharing the responsibility ensures you’ll arrive at your festive destination a bit more alert and ready for that first mince pie of the season.

Whatever you’ve got planned over the Christmas break, Holts has you covered with a brilliant range of DIY car maintenance products designed to keep you running. For more information, visit the homepage today.