ABTA – The Travel Association estimates that four million passengers will be heading overseas this Christmas and New Year period [December 19 – January 3], with the peak travel days predicted to be December 20, 21 and 28 on the weekends either side of Christmas.
Holidaymakers are either heading off for some much needed winter sun or to colder climes for snow, spa experiences and mountain activities. Winter sun lovers are heading to the Canary Islands, Tunisia, Morocco and the Cape Verde Islands and for those flying long-haul Dubai, Mexico, Cuba and Egypt.
Winter sports lovers are heading off to the continent with Switzerland, France, Austria and Italy the most popular destinations for those looking for a traditional festive experience in a snowy destination.
Popular for New Year’s Eve breaks are the cities of Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin and Dublin, and domestically Edinburgh and London lead the way.
Millions of people will be leaving the country through the major airports, including Heathrow where 1.7 million people are estimated to be leaving, Gatwick 800,000, Stansted 430,000, in addition around 380,000 will leave from Manchester and 160,000 from Birmingham and 50,000 from Leeds Bradford International. Thousands of passengers will also be leaving the UK through Glasgow and Edinburgh airports as well as large numbers through other regional airports throughout the country.
Hundreds of thousands of people will also travel across the English Channel by ferry or through the Channel Tunnel with 250,000 heading off on the Eurostar, with Paris, Disneyland Paris and the French Alps being the favourite destinations.
Many are also taking the opportunity to take a break in the UK staying in a country cottage or a seaside resorts with Llandudno, Torquay and Brighton proving popular – and city breaks in London and York have also sold well.
The association's chief executive, Mark Tanzer, said: “The Christmas and New Year period is one of the busiest times of year for the travel industry with millions heading off to spend time with friends and family or taking advantage of bank holidays for a well-earned winter break. This year is no exception with holidaymakers looking for winter sun or a traditional Christmas experience. As always the roads and railways will be very busy so travellers should leave plenty of time to make their connections and check for engineering work before leaving home – as well as ensuring they take out an adequate insurance policy.”