Britain is being braced for ‘Frantic Friday’ today as thousands take to the roads to embark on getaways as schools across the country break up for the holidays.
Nine million journeys are expected to be completed over the coming days during one of the busiest periods for the UK’s motorways.
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And drivers are being warned to expect delays of up to an hour – and to carry water with them as this weekend is set to be a scorcher. Today, temperatures will reach around 30 degrees.
Saturday is likely to be the next busiest day on the roads, with the RAC estimating 3.2m leisure journeys by car, followed by 2.2m on Sunday as families head on holiday.
They say the worst times to travel this weekend include between 2pm and 5.30pm on Friday, 11.30am to 1pm on Saturday and 12pm to 1pm on Sunday.
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Rod Dennis, of the RAC, said: “The mix of families looking forward to a well-earned break and commuters… is bound to lead to jams on Frantic Friday.
“We recommend drivers try to stagger their journeys, avoiding the busiest routes and times as far as possible.
“This weekend tends to be one of the busiest on the roads for leisure journeys, second only to Easter and Christmas.
“On some popular routes this may well mean gridlock, especially through the second half of Friday, when commuters and holidaymakers will be sharing space on the same stretches of the UK’s roads.
“As a result, it will almost certainly feel like a frantic Friday for some.”
Meanwhile forecasters have warned of a combination of flooding, torrential downpours, spectacular lightning strikes and sizzling hot temperatures.
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Heavy rainfall could wreck travel plans, particularly in the north of the country.
The Met Office has issued a weather warning across the region as humid air makes its way from the continent, ushering in booming thunderstorms and sporadic lightning strikes.
Met Office spokeswoman Nicola Maxely said the East Midlands; eastern England; London and south-east England and south-west England are most at risk.
This weekend ports and airports are also set to be exceptionally busy.
Meanwhile, The AA urged drivers to carry out maintenance checks on their vehicles and take basic supplies, with high temperatures putting extra strain on cooling systems and tyres.
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The organisation’s president, Edmund King, said: “If your car breaks down your air conditioning might not work either, so make sure you have plenty of drinking water in the car, especially if you have young or elderly family members with you.”
Transport data firm Inrix warned that some routes, particularly those popular with holidaymakers, will experience lengthy delays compared with a normal Friday.
Those heading south on the M5 between Gloucester and Devon should expect hold-ups of about an hour and a quarter, while westbound journeys on the A303 between the M3 in Hampshire and A37 in Somerset could take an extra hour.
And those travelling towards Cornwall should aim to hit the roads between 7pm and 9pm – and avoid between 2pm and 5.30pm.
Some 2.5 million British holidaymakers will head overseas this weekend with Mediterranean hotspots proving popular, travel trade organisation Abta reported.
Spain is the most in demand location while bookings are up for trips to Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Bulgaria and Croatia.
Airports in the South East are expecting a busy weekend with over half a million passengers departing from Heathrow, 250,000 from Gatwick, 148,000 from Stansted and 88,000 from Luton.
Elsewhere, there will be 160,000 people flying from Manchester and 67,500 from Birmingham.
Although the Scottish schools are well into their summer holidays, close to 200,000 people will be leaving from Scottish airports this weekend with 104,000 from Glasgow and 70,000 from Edinburgh.
Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “Many families will be flying out to guaranteed sunshine and the opportunity to experience and learn from different people and cultures.
“Popular destinations in the UK are also expected to welcome holidaymakers and enjoy the ongoing nice weather.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of passengers were left stranded at the wrong airports this morning after eight flights into Gatwick were diverted.
It was after a BA flight was forced to make an emergency landing due to a hydraulic fluid leak and a runway was closed.