Christmas getaway 2022

Christmas getaway 2022: Almost 17million to hit the roads as rail strikes hit travel plans

23 December and Christmas Eve the busiest days for travel

12 December 2022

The AA is predicting high levels of traffic over the Christmas period with almost 17 million cars1 expected to travel on 23 December and Christmas Eve, causing lengthy jams at traffic hotspots.

A survey of more than 12,000 drivers reveals which days could freeze plans over the festive period with bumper-to-bumper traffic. Planned Network Rail strikes may add to the getaway mayhem as staff plan to walkout on Christmas Eve2.

All play with some work

Almost a quarter plan to travel for work on Thursday 15 December (25%3) and Friday 16 December (24%), after which business-based travel drops off until the New Year.

A fifth (20%) say they are driving to do their Christmas shopping on Saturday 17 December with one in ten (12%) opting to use Christmas Eve as their final shopping day. It is likely that many High Streets, retail outlets and shopping centres will be hopeful of a late festive selling spree just before the big day.

This year the main days for celebrating with friends and family will be Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. While 25th December will be one of the quietest days on the road, of those driving almost two in five (39%) will be meeting up with their loved ones.

AA Christmas travel predictions, 2022

Date Thu 15 December Fri 16 December Sat 17 December Sun 18 December Mon 19 December Tue 20 December Wed 21 December
% Travelling 49% 48% 46% 39% 43% 45% 45%
Est. cars on the road 16,219,931 15,888,912 15,226,874 12,909,741 14,233,817 14,895,855 14,895,855

Date Thu 22 December Fri 23 December Sat 24 December Sun 25 December Mon 26 December Tue 27 December Wed 28 December
% Travelling 48% 51% 50% 44% 46% 32% 47%
Est. cars on the road 15,888,912 16,881,969 16,550,950 14,564,836 15,226,874 13,902,798 12,247,703

Date Thu 29 December Fri 30 December Sat 31 December Sun 01 January Mon 02 January Tue 03 January
% Travelling 35% 36% 36% 26% 27% 35%
Est. cars on the road 11,585,665 11,916,684 11,916,684 8,606,494 8,937,513 11,585,665

‘Top to toe in tailbacks, Oh I got red lights all around’

Delays to journey times on some stretches of motorway including the M25, the M5 between Bristol and Weston-Super-Mare and the M6 around Birmingham. In addition, stretches of the M1 ‘smart’ motorway from Luton northwards can often suffer congestion from incidents or breakdowns, as can the M62 and M60 in the North West. Both the M4 and the M27 are also set to suffer from significant delays.

While the 23 December and Christmas Eve look set to be the busiest travelling days, planned industrial action by rail service staff may lead to increased levels of cars on our roads
Edmund King, AA president

The possibility of industrial action by rail staff4 continues to hamper confidence in public transport use –, this, coupled with possible engineering works on many lines across the country4, may lure more drivers onto the road.

Edmund King, AA president, said: “Many breakdowns are preventable, so checking your vehicle before you set off is very important. Tyres (including the spare, if you have one), fuel, EV range, oil levels, coolant and screen wash checks should be made as a minimum. Likewise keeping water, high protein food or chocolate, warm clothes, coats and a hi-viz jacket will help keep you going should the worst happen5.

“While the 23 December and Christmas Eve look set to be the busiest travelling days, planned industrial action by rail service staff may lead to increased levels of cars on our roads. If you do plan to use the rail network, keep updated by checking train company websites to prevent your trip home for Christmas from hitting the buffers.

“Our Which? recommended expert patrols6 will be working throughout the holidays to help fix cars that suffer, while providing assistance to drivers, regardless of their insurer, should they be involved in a crash6. As well as providing up-to-the-minute traffic information, our free app allows people to book and track a patrol7, a bit like the Santa Tracker8 children use on Christmas Eve.

“New Year’s Day will be the quietest day on the roads which is probably a good thing especially if drivers have been partying the previous evening. Drivers can still be breathalysed and lose their licence for driving over the limit the morning after. So, remember if you are going to drive, don’t drink, and if you are going to drink, don’t drive.”

1. VEH0101 stats show 33,101,900 licenced cars on the road in Q2 2022.

2. RMT turns down pay offer and announces extra strike over Christmas | ITV News

3. AA Yonder Driver Poll, between 12th – 22nd November 2022. 12,337 respondents