More than four million Brits are expected to travel overseas this festive season (18 December to 2 January).
According to a new report from ABTA, the peak travel days will be 18, 23 and 30 December, on the weekends either side of Christmas. ABTA is advising travellers to leave extra time to get to the airport and to check in advance for any public transport delays or restrictions.
And most British travellers will be heading to warmer climes this Christmas, with the Canary Islands, Morocco, the Cape Verde Islands, Dubai, Mexico and Cuba among the most popular destinations.
Winter sports lovers are mainly heading off to Switzerland, France, Austria and Italy, while those taking a New Year’s Eve break are likely to head to Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, New York and Dublin.
The UK’s major airports are all reporting increases in passenger numbers this festive season, compared to 2014. Gatwick will handle an estimated 900,000 departing passengers, while 500,000 will fly from Stansted, 400,000 from Manchester, 255,000 from Luton and 205,000 from Birmingham. Heathrow will handle 600,000 departing passengers from 19-25 December alone, and tens of thousands of passengers will also be leaving the UK through Glasgow and Edinburgh airports.
In addition, hundreds of thousands of people will travel across the English Channel by ferry or through the Channel Tunnel, with Eurostar reporting that 18 December will be its busiest day.
But British tourism operators can also expected to capitalise on the festive travel surge, with ABTA revealing that bookings for country cottages, seaside resorts and city breaks in London and York “have sold well”.
“Christmas and New Year is one of the busiest times of the year for travelling and holiday-taking and we will see large numbers heading off in the next few days. Hundreds of thousands will be flying off to visit friends and families but millions will also be heading overseas for winter sun or snow. Many will also be looking to welcome in the New Year in cities around the world which really know how to throw a party,” said Mark Tanzer ABTA’s chief executive.