Christmas getaway gears up as travellers prepare for home and away trips

Ahead of ‘Frantic Friday’, the UK’s busiest travel day, tourism firms and motoring organisations are advising Christmas and New Year’s travellers to leave extra time for their journeys. The great Christmas getaway is in full swing, with more than 4.5 million people expected to travel abroad from the UK over the festive period and more than 11 million trips to be taken by car before Christmas Day.

Friday 22 December is predicted to be the peak travel day, according to the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta), and has been dubbed “Frantic Friday” by the RAC, which predicts congested roads across the country as an estimated 1.25m vehicles on leisure trips mix with commuter traffic.

Abta is advising customers heading to airports to leave extra time for their journey and to check for any travel restrictions on public transport. From this week until early January, 1.6 million passengers will depart from Heathrow, over a million from Gatwick, 525,000 from Stansted, 330,000 from Luton, 480,000 from Manchester and 226,000 from Edinburgh.

According to Abta, most holidaymakers are heading for winter sun, flying short-haul to the Canary Islands, Antalya in Turkey and Hurghada in Egypt, or long-haul to Mexico and the Dominican Republic. For those heading for a snowy escape, France, Italy and Austria are the top destinations, with Lapland and Iceland also proving popular this year.

Eurostar is also expecting its busiest December ever, with more than 370,000 passengers booked to travel during the Christmas period. On Friday 22 December, 34,000 people are expected to travel on Eurostar across the Channel, with 35,000 making the journey on 29 December for New Year’s Eve celebrations. In the UK, the RAC is expecting 1.4m getaway journeys each day between 21 and 30 December, with 1.56m journeys on 23 December, rising to 1.87m journeys on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

A huge 17.5m leisure trips are expected to take place on the roads between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, as drivers make visits to friends and family, although the absence of commuter and commercial traffic during this period means the roads will be relatively quiet.

Mark Tanzer, Abta chief executive, said: “Christmas and New Year are always a very busy time for the travel industry with people heading off for winter sun or guaranteed snow. The weather in the UK looks set to be mild over the holiday period, which should help avoid travel disruption, but the roads will be exceptionally busy so customers should allow extra time to get to their departure port and check for line closures and engineering work if using public transport.”

The RAC offered similar advice. Traffic spokesman Rod Dennis said: “As always, the message to drivers is to plan ahead and try to avoid peak times if you can.”

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