Christmas Getaway

Travel plans and advice

Snow & Ice - latest breakdown updates

Monday 20 December was the busiest day in the AA's history with snow, ice and widespread freezing daytime temperatures causing severe problems in many areas.

Snow and Ice - latest breakdown updates »

Plan ahead and be prepared to adapt Christmas travel plans at short notice as widespread freezing temperatures, snow and ice disrupt the start of the festive getaway.

  • Christmas getaway to start early as schools break up from Friday 17 December
  • Busiest day expected to be Thursday 23 December
  • 18 million cars expected on roads during Christmas getaway
  • Two-thirds of AA members will travel up to 100 miles
  • A third plan to cover more than 100 miles

Overall, the AA is expecting around 18 million cars to be on the roads during the Christmas getaway and Trafficmaster, traffic information provider to AA Roadwatch, is predicting that Thursday 23 December will be the busiest day with journey times likely to double on main routes.


Kane Menicou's third prize winning design for the AA's Christmas ecard Paul Leather, AA Breakdown patrol of the year, says: "The 64 million dollar question is just how widespread and severe the weather will be between now and Christmas. The Christmas getaway is the busiest time of the year on the roads, so if the weather's as bad as it has been over the last three weeks, it could prove a very challenging time for drivers.

"With a third of drivers* looking to travel more than 100 miles, it really would pay for people to keep abreast of the weather and travel reports, be flexible and adapt their travel plans accordingly. If the weather is set to be bad later next week, people may be advised to bring forward their departure.

"What seems certain, though, is that we'll have more very cold weather, so even in areas without snow, there will be an ongoing risk of ice. Drivers should keep their speed down, stick to the gritted main roads where possible, and allow plenty of extra time for their journey, even if they're staying closer to home.

"While we can't stop the bad weather, we can at least prepare for travelling in it, so do the basic checks on your car and pack the essential winter kit including plenty of warm clothing, blankets, food and drink, torch, road atlas and fully-charged mobile."

more winter driving advice from the AA »


As next week is a full working week, most people will head off towards the end of the week with around three quarters (76%) of respondents to an AA/Populus survey of 15,927 AA members planning to drive on Thursday 23 December and 70% out and about on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Day, the majority of respondents expect to stay put (58%) or only drive up to 19 miles (28%) while on Boxing Day, just over half (51%) plan to venture out.

Rachel Miller's second prize winning design for the AA's Christmas ecard

How far?

Of those respondents spending Christmas away from home, just over half (51%) intend to travel up to 49 miles to see family or friends; 15% will cover 50 to 99 miles; a third (34%) more than 100 miles, including 6% clocking up more than 500 miles.

Those in the North-east (66%) and Northern Ireland (74%) are most likely to be travelling closer to home with journeys up to 49 miles, while Londoners (22%) and the Scots (21%) are most likely to cover at least 200 miles.

Traffic hotspots

This Friday and over the weekend (17-19 December), people heading off early for Christmas will generate heavier traffic on the following routes according to Trafficmaster:

  • M25 – All sections, especially around junctions 14 and 15 near Heathrow Airport
  • M1 – Between London, East Midlands and South Yorkshire
  • M4 – Between London, Bristol and South Wales
  • M6 – Through West Midlands, Staffordshire, Cheshire and South Lancashire
  • M11 – Between M25 and Stansted Airport
  • M60 – Around Manchester
  • M62 – Through West Yorkshire and to and from Manchester
  • A1 – Between London and Yorkshire

Elle Turner's winning entry in this year's AA Corporate ecard competition Next week (20-24 December), Trafficmaster expects routine commuter traffic to reduce as the week progresses with getaway traffic spread over these days, peaking on Thursday 23 December.

By Christmas Eve, many will have completed their journeys but many people will take a half-day with traffic very busy from lunchtime till 3pm.

Between now and Christmas, there will also be abnormally busy traffic around retail outlets, according to Trafficmaster, following the disruption caused by the recent bad weather; and those working between Christmas and New Year will benefit from quieter commuter traffic.

In an effort to make Christmas travel as smooth as possible, it is expected that the Highways Agency will lift or suspend many roadworks across the country over the Christmas period.

Christmas Day working

Although it's the quietest day of the year by far for traffic and breakdowns, AA patrols across the country volunteer to work on Christmas Day to rescue those in trouble.

Last year, they came to the aid of more than 3,400 members on Christmas Day; and this year, around 450 patrols and 215 call handlers (including 35 home-workers) and operational employees will work in shifts on Christmas Day. The AA will also have further patrols and its 'storm-chasing' Land Rovers on standby ready to forgo Christmas festivities if required.

Patrols who work on Christmas Day are paid a premium rate and their colleagues at the AA's operational centre at Oldbury, West Midlands, get provided with a Christmas buffet.

Join the discussion in the AA zone


21 December 2010