The best and worst times to travel on bank holiday weekend

Long delays are predicted on major roads this weekend

Vehicles wait in a traffic jam in central London, England on October 23, 2017. 
Drivers of the most polluting vehicles will face an extra daily charge for driving into central London on weekdays from Monday in a bid to improve air quality in one of Europe's most polluted cities. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS        (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Heavy delays and traffic jams are predicted for the upcoming bank holiday weekend. (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

The early May bank holiday weekend is expected to be the busiest since 2016, with up to 17.2 million individual trips expected - along with big delays.

For those planning an early getaway on Friday, timing will be everything. The RAC has predicted that the early bank holiday rush combined with the standard Friday commuter traffic will make Friday early evening one of the busiest times on the roads over the weekend.

Experts advise either getting ahead of the Friday rush by leaving for trips at around 11am or setting out later than rush hour on Friday evening. Those unable to do so are best advised to leave the weekend getaway until Saturday morning to avoid the worst of the traffic.

Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, said: “Although delays won’t be as severe as Easter, drivers should expect long delays on major roads in and around greater London this weekend.

"Travel times will likely peak on Friday afternoon with some areas seeing double the travel times as holiday travellers mix with commuters, but drivers should be prepared for added congestion throughout the holiday weekend.”

Souvenirs are displayed for sale in a gift shop ahead of King Charles III's Coronation in London, Monday, April 24, 2023. The May 6 coronation is luring royal fans and far-flung visitors fascinated by the ceremonial spectacle — and drama — of the monarchy and eager to experience a piece of British history. Tour companies, shops and restaurants are rolling out the red carpet, whether it's a decked-out bus tour of London's top sights boasting high tea or merchandise running from regal to kitschy. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
There will likely be slightly less traffic on coronation weekend, with many people expected to stay at home to watch the spectacle. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Drivers are expected to account for 2.3 million trips on Friday and 2.7 million on Saturday - with an extra 7.6 million car journeys expected in total over the weekend.

Read more: Bank holiday weather: What's the forecast for coronation weekend?

Traffic hotspots over the weekend to watch for anticipated heavy congestion include the M5 south (J15 Bristol to J23 Bridgwater); M6 north (J18 Chester to J24 Liverpool) on Friday, with advice on those routes to travel before 11am, and the M25 clockwise from J7 (for the M23) to J16 (the M40) and clockwise from J15 (for the M4) to J19 - advice is to travel after 3pm on those routes.

And with two bank holiday weekends sandwiched next to one another, the coronation weekend is expected to see additional trips - although not as many as the early May bank holiday, with many people expected to stay at home and watch the festivities from the comfort of their armchairs.

While the numbers for both weekends are already busy, the appearance of better weather could see more people use the long weekends for impromptu getaways, further increasing congestion - particularly on seaside routes.

“The weather might still be unseasonably chilly but this won’t stop drivers getting out and about over the double bank holiday weekends to make the most of some extra days off," said RAC Breakdown spokesman Rod Dennis.

"The big variable, as always, is what happens with the 'Great British weather'. If temperatures finally increase and the sun makes more of an appearance, we could well see many more people jumping in the car for a quick trip."