BRACE yourself – the great summer getaway is starting.

That is the message from traffic experts as millions are expected to cram on to roads across the country as they head off on their holidays.

They say that in the worst areas, journeys could take 50 per cent longer, and with the mercury topping 27C (80.6F) in Hampshire today it will be miserable on the roads.

Health chiefs are urging people not to leave children or pets unattended in cars, to stock up on plenty of water for the entire journey to prevent dehydration, use air-conditioning if available and to be prepared for travel delays and breakdowns.

Traffic experts have predicted the M3, M27, A31 and A303 are expected to be among the busiest in the country, with 25-minute delays on the M3 between Basingstoke and Southampton.

The busiest times will be from lunchtime today and between 10am and 4pm tomorrow and Sunday.

Meanwhile Southampton Airport is expecting one of its busiest weekends of the year, with nearly 20,000 people travelling – 9,378 arriving and 9,902 departing.

Thousands more will bring gridlock to Southampton city centre roads as they meet the nine cruise ships which are visiting the port this weekend.

Aurora, Oriana and Arcadia will all be at the docks today, passengers will embark on the Emerald Princess, Oceana, Azura and Independence of the Seas tomorrow and Balmoral and Queen Victoria will be in port on Sunday.

Southampton City Council has said they will be diverting passengers disembarking from Red Funnel ferries through Mayflower Park to help ease city centre congestion.

Dr Steve Townsend, Bitterne GP and chairman of NHS Southampton City Clinical Commissioning Group said: “With many of us off on our summer holidays this weekend, and temperatures expected to soar, making a simple checklist of travelling essentials before you set off will help ensure you have a healthy journey.

“Remember, cars can get very hot, so look out for others and never leave children unattended in hot cars. Keeping hydrated is key and you should make sure you and your family have plenty of water to keep you going for the whole journey.

“Be prepared for travel delays or breakdowns by making sure you have enough water, food and suncream. If your car has air-conditioning, keep windows closed to maximise its effectiveness.”

Mark Spowage from the AA said: “If you can, try to avoid travelling at peak times. Take a satnav and road atlas in case of any unexpected diversions or delays and make sure your car has plenty of fuel, so if you do get stuck, you can at least keep the air-conditioning on.

“If you’re travelling with children, take plenty of things to keep them entertained.

“These warm conditions are quite draining, so carry plenty of water for everyone – not forgetting pets – and stop regularly, at least every three hours.”

Cruise ship sailing times:

Daily Echo: Guests had all sailed on Independence of the Seas.Independence of the Seas

July 25:
Aurora – arrives 6.45am, leaves 4.30pm
Oriana – arrives 7am, leaves 4.30pm
Arcadia – arrives 7.30am, leaves 4.30pm

July 26:
Independence of the Seas – arrives 5.15am, leaves 4.30pm
Azura – arrives 6.15am, leaves 4.30pm
Oceana – arrives 6.45am, leaves 4.30pm
Emerald Princes – arrives 6.30am, leaves 4pm

July 27:
Balmoral – arrives 6.30am, leaves 4.30pm
Queen Victoria – arrives 7am, leaves 4.30pm