The Great British Christmas getaway: 4m to head abroad for holidays – while the rest of us face a travel and weather nightmare

An estimated 13 million people set to take to UK's roads from 24-26 December

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The Independent Online

Around four million people are set to head abroad for a Christmas break this year, according to new figures, while those who stay face transport chaos and miserable stormy weather.

The peak days when the most people will fly are this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (20-22 December), with the most popular sunny destinations being the Canary Islands, Tunisia, Morocco and the Cape Verde islands off western Africa.

For those of us who are left behind, experts warned of congestion on the roads, reduced rail services and windy, rainy conditions.

The RAC estimated that around 13 million people would be driving to visit friends and family from 24-26 December.

Traffic information company Inrix said the busiest time on the roads was likely to be from noon to 5pm this Friday, with the M25 the single most congested spot.

Inrix warned that journey times could triple at the busiest festive time, with shopping areas being particularly busy this weekend and again on Friday 27 December.

Car company Kia predicted that the average family car will be driven 413 miles over Christmas, with a survey of 2,000 motorists showing that 10 per cent make more than 11 trips to stock up on festive food.

With Network Rail taking the opportunity over the festive period to carry out major engineering projects up and down the country, passengers trying to avoid the roads face line closures, reduced services and replacement buses.

In addition, the arrival of a stormy and unsettled weather system has seen the Met Office issue a variety of ice, snow, wind and rain warnings to cover the festive period, all advising road users to expect some disruption in affected areas.

Related story: Snow warnings and gusts of up to 90mph expected

Meanwhile, cost-comparison site TripAdvisor said those thinking about booking a ski break for the new year should consider looking to Eastern Europe for a good deal.

It found that the best-priced trips were to Bansko, Bulgaria, where an average day’s skiing, board and lodging would set you back £104. That compared to £432 for an equivalent 24 hours at the most expensive resort in Courchevel, France, the site said.

In all, Ryanair said it would be carrying a record three million passengers from 20 December to 6 January, while Gatwick Airport will handle an estimated two million travellers between 13 December and 5 January.

British Airways said just under two million people will fly with them between 16 December and 5 January, with this Friday the busiest day as more than 115,000 travellers make their escape.

Across the country, an estimated £2 billion will be spent on travel to friends and families this Christmas.

Additional reporting by PA