Christmas Travel Advice

It's 'snow' joke on the roads this christmas

17 December 2009

More than 12 million drivers are expected to travel to visit family or friends this christmas

  • More people expected to travel this Christmas to beat credit crunch gloom
  • A million motorists plan to cover more than 500 miles
  • Only 12 per cent said recession has affected their travel plans
  • Friday (18/12) and Wednesday (23/12) predicted to be busiest days

More than 12 million drivers are expected to put recessionary blues behind them and travel to spend Christmas with family or friends this year, according to new research from the AA.

34 per cent of those polled1 in an AA/Populus survey of 12,231 AA members intend to travel to family or friends in the UK or abroad with more than a quarter (26%) travelling up to 24 miles from home; close to one in five (18%) planning a journey of more than 100 miles; and around a million drivers (3%) clocking up more than 500 miles.

Don't stop me now

Only 12 per cent of those polled said the recession had affected their Christmas travel plans (4% not travelling at all; 8% not travelling as far) with 45-54yr-olds feeling the pinch the most – especially those in London, the North-west and Scotland – with the resilient Welsh least likely to let the credit crunch hold them back.

Driving home for Christmas

With Christmas Day falling at the end of the week this year, people are travelling later with more than a quarter (28%) expecting to drive more than 20 miles on Christmas Eve (up from 22% last year) and almost a third (32%) hitting the roads the day before (23 December). Christmas Day will be quiet on the roads with only 15 per cent planning to drive more than 20 miles.

Another sign of the nation's growing optimism is that increasing numbers of people expect to travel at New Year this year with one fifth (21% up from 16% last year) planning to travel more than 20 miles on New Year's Eve with, unsurprisingly, the Scots (25%) most likely to be travelling for Hogmanay and Yorkshire and Humberside having the most party poopers.

Glad tidings we bring

The results also show that the season of goodwill is upon us with more people happy to stay overnight with the in-laws this Christmas compared to last year (53% vs 42%). The Christmas bah-humbugs are the 35-44yr-olds with around a quarter (24%) preferring to drive home than spend the night with the in-laws or parents.

More women than men (24% vs 18%) consider it worth driving distances up to 49 miles but more men would be prepared to drive greater distances to avoid an overnight stay with 5 per cent saying they would drive more than 200 miles, particularly those in Eastern England.

Proper preparation prevents problems

Stewart Topp, AA patrol of the year, says: "It's great to see that more people are choosing to travel to see family and friends this Christmas but it does mean that we'll be in for a busy time on the roads, made more challenging by the wintry weather.

"People shouldn't underestimate the conditions and just jump in their car and head off. With cars heavily laden for Christmas, it's important to spend a few minutes doing the basic checks and carry all the essentials in case of breakdown or accident – a little preparation goes a long way."

The AA will have around a fifth more patrols out on the road and on standby this Christmas and has put its specialist Land Rovers on alert to help in the snow.

Christmas getaway traffic hotspots

AA Roadwatch predicts this Friday (18 December) to be the busiest day on the roads this Christmas with the winter weather contributing to a doubling in journey times on main routes as schools break up, people head out for the last few shopping days before Christmas and the general holiday getaway begins.

Next Wednesday (23 December) is also expected to be very busy as commuters leave work early and families travel to their Christmas destinations.

According to AA Roadwatch, provided by Trafficmaster, the congestion hotspots for the Christmas getaway are expected to be:

M25 – Eastern sectors

M25 – Western sector

M6 – Through the West Midlands and up to the North West

M1 – J10-J14 around Luton and Milton Keynes

M1 – J23-J32 through the East Midlands

M60 – Around Manchester

M1 and M621 – Around Sheffield and Leeds

A1M – Out of Gateshead and Newcastle

M32 – From Bristol

M4 – Between London and Bristol and between the Severn Bridge and Cardiff

Stewart Topp says: "We know from previous years that it can take just one small incident to cause gridlock on the roads, so forewarned is forearmed – avoid the worst of it and save time by checking local traffic and weather conditions before departing."

Winter motoring checklist

  • Warm winter coat and jumper
  • Blanket or rug
  • Water – it's vital to keep hydrated while on any car journey
  • Flask of hot drink
  • Snacks – chocolate or cereal bars are ideal
  • Shovel – advisable, in case you need to dig yourself out of a snowy situation
  • Ice-scraper and de-icer
  • Waterproofs
  • Torch
  • Warning triangle
  • Tow rope
  • Sat-nav or printed route
  • Map – in case of unexpected diversions
  • Fully-charged mobile phone

More winter driving advice »

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.

Join the discussion in the AA zone


17 December 2009

1an AA/Populus online poll of 12,231 AA members conducted between 7-14 December 2009. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.