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Easter getaways: these are the best (and worst) times to travel over Easter weekend

Everything you need to know to make your Easter travels as smooth as possible, from airport disruption to busiest traffic times

Annie McNamee
Written by
Annie McNamee

After a long, hard, 40 day trek through the desert and his own death, Jesus is coming back this Sunday, as he tends to this time of year. After a similarly difficult 14 hour crawl up the M1, you are also likely coming home this weekend, for a couple of days of gorging on chocolate, arguing with your extended family about Kate Middleton, and deflecting questions about why you haven’t bought a house yet – a cause just as noble as saving mankind from sin. 

Delays are expected on pretty much every form of transport, with rail, ferry, and air travel providers all saying this is set to be their busiest Easter weekend in a long time. If you’re planning your travels, here’s everything you need to know to avoid the worst of the traffic and overall misery on your way back home.

What is the busiest day for travel over Easter weekend?

As you might expect, Good Friday is expected to be the busiest day for drivers. According to a survey conducted by research group Find Out Now, an estimated 2.6 million journeys will be made by car this Friday (March 29), with a further 2.3 million to be made on Saturday and Sunday. Adding in people who plan to travel but don’t know exactly when, there’s going to be roughly 14 million journeys made by Brits in cars over the next few days. That’s one trip for every four people in the UK. In short: it’s going to be busy.

Traffic wise, travel software company Inrix predict that this afternoon (March 28 between 2pm and 7pm) will see motorways at their most congested, with some journey times being doubled. The M25 between the M23 Gatwick and M1 Hertfordshire junctions are expected to be the busiest in the country, and the M5 Southbound between Bristol and Taunton is also likely going to be pretty tightly packed, so avoid those if you can.

This rush is thanks to Easter falling closer than usual to schools breaking off, so we're all trying to get where we're going at the exact same times. 

What’s the best time to travel?

Ultimately, travel this weekend is going to be a bit grim. An analyst from Inrix explained that drivers ‘should be prepared for longer journeys than normal throughout the entire weekend’, so it’s really swings and roundabouts. 

Some times are better than others, such as early in the mornings or very late at night. Alice Simpson, a spokesperson for RAC, says, ‘Anyone who can delay leaving on March 28 until much later in the evening or set off as early as possible on Good Friday is likely to have a better journey than those who travel during the peak periods of the day.’ 

‘Lengthy queues can be expected along routes to the usual hotspots like the West Country, the Lake District and the south coast, especially during the middle of the day when most people make trips.’

What about airports?

If you’re getting away from the rain and subzero temperatures this weekend, you’re not alone. Bristol, Newcastle, and Edinburgh airport all told the Independent that they are seeing record passengers this Easter. With so many Brits heading to warmer pastures like Barcelona, Dubai, and Alicante, it’s probably wise to factor in some delays to your plans if you’re travelling between Thursday and Monday. 

What’s happening with trains over Easter weekend?

As for travellers braving the railways, your souls are not to be spared from this wretched weekend’s disruptions. Network Rail is, very cleverly, shutting down part of the main route connecting London to the north and Scotland over the Bank Holiday weekend, so expect to see delays if you’re going between the capital and anywhere above Birmingham. 

Strikes will also affect journeys into April, and you can keep up to date on all the latest strike information here

Are ferries running as normal?

Ferries running internally within the UK should all run as normal, so those crossing the Irish sea or heading to domestic islands should be fine. Getting across the channel is a little more complex, as post-Brexit regulations add some time to processing and customs. 

Those crossing from the port of Dover should expect some delays, as security has been tightened even further following the recent Moscow concert attack. 

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