Driving Home for Christmas?

By Ben Taylor
News entry dated 21st Dec 2016

“Driving home for Christmas” can sound quite appealing when you hear the seasonal song from the comfort of your own home. However, “top to toe in tailbacks” is the more likely reality for those of you who have to actually do it at the same time as everyone else.

Christmas travel delays are as much part of the UK festive season as mince pies and office parties, and are often unavoidable unless you decide to try to sidestep the jams by travelling at highly unsocial hours. Unfortunately, you may have neither the inclination nor the flexibility in your schedule to do this, meaning that have to “hit the road” at the same time as millions of others.

2016 seems set to be a particularly tough year for people heading off to see friends and family, due to how Christmas falls. If you have to work up until Friday 23rd, the fact the Christmas exodus coincides with the weekend will compound the inevitable delays.

Christmas Driving

What to expect when driving home for Christmas?

Friday 23rd is sure to be a particularly arduous day to travel, and if past years are anything to go by, the hours of 4pm to 6pm will prove the worst. Christmas Eve, the following day, will be extremely busy on the roads too, so if you have any option to avoid hitting the roads at these times it will serve you well. We do hear from more and more people who decide to travel extremely late at night or early in the morning, so this is always an option, provided you have the energy at these times to drive safely.

In terms of traffic hotspots, we can expect the usual suspects to appear on the news reports – the M25, M6, M1 and M4 being almost inevitably among them. However, as in past years, Highways England have suspended or completed many roadworks to give traffic the best chance of flowing properly. You’ll find details of this here.

One key project that should improve matters, in theory, is the completion of works to increase capacity around the M25/A13 junction near Lakeside retail park. Unfortunately, as part of this project, a stretch of the M25 between Dartford Crossing and Stifford Road has had to remain restricted to 50mph into next year.

Despite the efforts of Highways England, delays will be unavoidable, with around half of all UK drivers reportedly expecting to travel more than 50 miles over the festive season.

Train strikes in the south of England

Train strikes

The train strikes that have been affecting Southern Rail for months now also seem set to have a knock-on effect on traffic over Christmas, and right up until the New Year. As these strikes now involve multiple unions and dates, you’re best advised to check before trying to use this public transport option – this situation can change rapidly based on negotiations.

Sadly, after months of frustration, many people have simply lost faith in relying on Southern Trains. These people will likely choose to drive instead, further adding to the levels of traffic. The fact a strike is scheduled over New Year as well (at the time of writing) will add to this, with some people needing to drive to give themselves a way to return home.


It’s simply not feasible to advise people not to drive over Christmas, but there are some basic tips everyone can take advantage of:

  • Try to time your journeys to avoid the hours when everyone else will be hitting the roads.
  • Allow extra time and expect to need to use it to avoid frustration.
  • Carry food, drink, blankets and safety items in case of unexpected holdups.
  • Ensure your breakdown cover is valid.
  • Make use of online services (such as the excellent Waze) to check for delays and listen to travel news on the radio.

If you’re travelling over Christmas, we wish you a safe and smooth journey. Please feel free to share any tales of woe, or strategies to beat the Christmas rush, in the comments below.

On behalf of the team here at PetrolPrices.com we would like to wish all of our members a very Happy Christmas!

IMAGE CREDITS: YouTube, Wikimedia Commons


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