Christmas is the time of year for families coming together and spreading the Christmas cheer.

The problem with this time of year is if you work away from home, getting home on Christmas Eve can be a nightmare. Public transport is crowded with harassed and stressed out shoppers making the last minute dash for the forgotten presents and the roads are often choked with motorists.

Planning your drive home is the only way to get there safely and stress free.

The first step to planning a journey at this time of year is to find out what the weather is going to be doing. I know there hasn’t been any significant snowfall around Christmas for quite a while, but with the Great British weather the way it is, snow is always a possibility.

If there is any chance of snow, you need to be prepared. Scouts may not be as popular as they once were, but sometimes they were right. Being prepared for snow includes planning your route with an alternative in case of accidents and blocked roads. Having a blanket and some food in the car is another good idea, as is a shovel. This is sound advice for the whole of the winter period, not just on Christmas Eve.

Remember that a lot of people are likely to be going the same way as you are, this is likely to increase your travelling time significantly. Leaving in plenty of time will allow you to sit out any tailbacks without worrying too much. If you possibly can, begin your journey before the usual ‘rush hour’ of 5pm, why not book the afternoon off of work? Leaving early will not guarantee that you arrive earlier but should make the journey a little more pleasant.

Take regular breaks. This is advice which should be followed on every long journey, but particularly around the busy Christmas time. Driving while tired does kill people and driving in the late afternoon darkness makes tiredness worse. Although regular stops will make your journey longer, it is far better than sitting in traffic and getting fustrated. The 10 minutes at the services with a coffee could mean the traffic ahead has had time to clear, leaving you free to continue on your journey.

Use a SatNav. When you are faced with a queue of traffic on the motorway, getting off at the next junction could be the best option. If this is a decision you make, you might need that annoying voice guiding you in the right direction. Having your audio system set to deliver the latest traffic reports is also a good idea, this could be the difference between avoiding traffic and getting stuck for hours.

On the subject of audio systems, I am a big fan of music when driving. The effect that music can have on your mood is well known and it is a great way of keeping stress at bay. Christmas songs are not for everybody but whatever music makes you feel good is well worth listening to.

However you plan your journey home this Christmas, try and keep as calm as you can. Being stressed leads to rash decisions and these are not always the best decisions you can make. Enjoy the journey and always drive safely.