10 ways to avoid a bank holiday nightmare

Tomorrow, millions will be up for fun, sun and relaxation. But danger is lurking everywhere. Emily Dugan reports
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The Independent Online

It is an all too familiar scene. Weeping into the dashboard as the hours slip away, you wonder why it seemed like a good idea to take three cranky children, a dog, and half your possessions on a bumper-to-bumper crawl up the motorway, only to turn around 24 hours later and do it all again. Yes, it's bank holiday, and we all know what that means: chaos.

Whether it is travel nightmares, Brits going mad in the midday sun, or the Big Family Row, the extra day off seems to generate as much disaster as delight. But before you retreat under the covers till it's all over, here is our guide on how to avoid bank holiday horrors.

Don't get burnt

Yes, the unthinkable has happened: bank holiday sunshine. But before you strip off, think about the tomato-faced people turning up to work on Tuesday. According to Boots, 59 per cent of Britons won't put suncream on at all in May, regardless of the soaring temperatures.

Avoid torching yourself on the BBQ

Flames and over-enthusiastic males are a lethal combination; they made up the bulk of the 1,400 at A&E last year after barbecue accidents. Wear flame-retardant gloves and resist the temptation to douse your glowing embers in petrol.

Prevent a DIY disaster

You have two left thumbs – but that shouldn't stop you trying a little credit-crunch DIY, right? Wrong. Last year's toll of A&E visits is grim: 20,000 for knives and scalpels, 15,000 for saws and 6,000 for hammers. Even screwdrivers caused 3,500 emergencies.

Escape traffic hell

The AA predicts 12 million motorists will be taking to the roads. Why not take the idea of "holidaying at home" literally and explore the sights within walking distance of your own house?

Don't let seaside silliness go too far

Millions are expected at the coast this weekend for seaside frolics. But the sea can be dangerous. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency says: "The number of incidents in the water goes through the roof on Bank Holidays... you need to enjoy it safely." In the past two weeks two people have died from tombstoning – the practice of jumping from cliffs into water – and with 40,000 visitors expected in Brighton alone, the number of novices taking to the water is likely to be high.

Be merry but avoid a booze binge

No work on Monday! Surely the perfect opportunity to indulge in a bit of drunken debauchery? Perhaps, but only if you don't care about your liver, your wallet or your self-esteem. According to the think-tank Policy Exchange, binge drinking over the bank holiday will cost the NHS £25m, as A&E departments across the country expect to be swamped by those who have boozed too much.

Delay your shopping

Half a million souls descended yesterday on Oxford Street in London, which was closed to traffic. Total shop sales last week were down 1.5 per cent on a year ago, so shopkeepers will be hoping to catch up over the weekend. But anyone who has experienced the sharpened-elbowed hell of the sales will think twice.

Emerge with your home intact

You've avoided the hordes, but by Monday the kids are going stir crazy, and that's when they start destroying things. A spokesman for Endsleigh Insurance says: "During bank holiday weekends accidents tend to happen." Try to keep hyperactive children and breakables away from each other. Or use chloroform.

Curb camping chaos

Sales of tents at Tesco are up 234 per cent on this time last year. But just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean you will enjoy being woken by the sun at 6am, with half an hour's walk to the nearest loo.

Try to prevent a bust-up

Finally, the long weekend is perfect for spending quality time with loved ones. But unless you're the Waltons, that extra day can set off World War Three. Mo Kurimbokus, a Relate counsellor, says: "Not having a routine can highlight cracks in a relationship. If you don't want to argue, agree to disagree."

Additional reporting by Emmeline Saunders

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