Christmas 2016 travel advice

Christmas getaway

Friday 23 December busiest day for traffic

22 December 2016

Friday 23 December will be the busiest on the roads this festive season as Christmas journeys combine with regular commuter traffic, according to the AA.

A recent AA-Populus poll of 19,317 AA members found that 41 per cent expect to drive over 20 miles on that day – equating to around 12 million cars. 

Northern Ireland is set to have the busiest roads with 55% of AA members there saying they will do significant festive mileage on Friday 23 December. Wales follows with 47% and Scotland and the North East are closely behind, with 46% of AA members in these areas taking to the road. London is least likely to suffer from an early Christmas traffic surge on Friday, as only a third will do 20 miles or more.

Getaway advice

John Snowling, AA patrol of the year, says: “With Christmas falling on a weekend, many people will start their break from Friday (23 December), but almost a third of our members will be making their journey on Saturday and more than a fifth will be travelling on Christmas day to visit friends and family.

“On Friday, it’s likely to be very busy at peak times on the major routes as the Christmas getaway coincides with commuter traffic. Check the traffic reports before you leave and try to travel when it’s quieter or, if you have no choice, consider an alternative route to beat the jams. 

On Friday, it’s likely to be very busy at peak times on the major routes as the Christmas getaway coincides with commuter traffic
John Snowling, AA patrol of the year


Anything can happen

“Anything can happen, so don’t forget to do the basic checks on your car before heading off to avoid a breakdown interrupting your Christmas plans. This includes topping up the windscreen wash and anti-freeze, checking your lights and adjusting tyre pressures for a full load if necessary. 

“Along with the Christmas presents, make sure you pack the essentials for your trip including extra warm and waterproof layers, food, water, a torch, fully-charged mobile (with the AA app pre-loaded) and an atlas or sat-nav in case of any unexpected diversions. If you’re travelling with children, take plenty of things to keep them entertained and try to break up any journey more than three hours long.”

Christmas shopping

Shopping traffic will peak on Friday (23 December) with 16 per cent of respondents driving over 20 miles; and last-minute shoppers on Christmas Eve will rack up the miles with 11 per cent covering that distance. The AA advises drivers to leave early to beat the queues and use park and ride facilities where possible. The AA app can also help you find available car park spaces.

John Snowling adds: “If you’re doing some last-minute Christmas shopping, many retailers will be happy to let you leave your items to collect later, rather than make repeated trips back to your car – thieves love Christmas and thefts of items from cars also rises in December.

Thieves love Christmas and thefts of items from cars also rises in December.
John Snowling, AA patrol of the year


Don't leave your shopping on show

“Before leaving your car, remember to take any valuables with you and never leave shopping bags on show. It’s a good idea to keep receipts separate so that, if the worst should happen, you have a record of what is missing. Always check that the car is locked before walking away.”

The roads won’t be completely deserted on Christmas Day, with more than a fifth (21%) of respondents likely to drive over 20 miles. Around a fifth (19%) will cover at least that distance seeing family or friends on Boxing Day compared to braving the sales (6%).

Travel advice

  • Plan your route in advance and allow plenty of time for the journey
  • Check local traffic and weather reports – call AA Roadwatch by dialling 84322 (‘the AA’ on your mobile keypad) or 0906 88 84322 from your landline
  • Travel when the roads are quieter
  • If tired, stop and drink one or two cups of coffee or other caffeinated drink and take a short nap of no more than 15-20 minutes
  • As one of their AA Rewards, personal AA members get up to 20% off food and drink at Moto service areas when they show their membership card
  • Check oil, antifreeze and windscreen wash levels, lights and tyre pressure (check when tyres are cold and increase pressure for heavy loads if necessary) and tread depth – not forgetting the spare– before hitting the road
  • Pack the car safely being careful not to overload or obstruct vision
  • Carry the essentials in case of a delay or breakdown, including personal medication, warm/ waterproof layers, food and water, a torch, a fully charged mobile phone and an atlas or sat-nav
  • Plan car games to keep children comfortable and happy throughout the journey.


Christmas Day breakdowns

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

In 2015, they came to the aid of over 2,800 members on Christmas Day; and this year, hundreds of patrols and call handlers will work on Christmas Day. Further patrols will be on standby ready to forgo Christmas festivities if required.

Populus interviewed 19,317 adults aged 18+ on The AA-Populus online panel between 15-22 November 2016. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.


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