The first bank holiday in May is expected to see around 16 million drivers take to the roads, the RAC has warned.

It comes as a study by the motoring experts and transport analytics specialists, INRIX has suggested traffic is set to be “well above” pre-COVID levels.

Getaway traffic will start building from Friday, May 3 before “peaking” on Saturday, May 4 with an expected 3.3 million journeys, research shows.

But they are not the only days when roads are expected to be busy as 2.3 million trips are planned on Sunday, May 5 and a further 2.6 million are planned on Monday, May 6 respectively.

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Additionally, 5.6 million journeys are expected to be made at “some point” over the weekend, with some drivers still deciding which day to travel, reports RAC.

Best days and times to travel on roads over early May bank holiday weekend

Drivers should avoid setting off between 1pm and 7pm on Thursday, May 2, advises INRIX.

The same advice applies to 11am and 6pm on Friday, 9am and 2pm on Saturday, and 10am and 3pm on both Sunday and Monday. 

If you’re wondering when the best times to travel across the early May bank holiday weekend will be, it’s thought drivers should be on the roads before 9am and after 5pm.

However, Friday is thought to be the “worst” day for traffic queues, with delays on major routes expected to take 13% longer than usual, explained RAC.

Worcester News: Have you got a getaway planned this early May bank holiday?Have you got a getaway planned this early May bank holiday? (Image: Aaron Chown/PA)

Busiest UK roads over early May bank holiday weekend

RAC said: “INRIX data also indicates that the long weekend may start as early as Thursday morning in some parts of the UK, with the M53 southbound from Liverpool to Chester hit by mid-morning delays of up to 45 minutes.

“The busiest route will be the M5 southbound between Bristol and Taunton on Friday afternoon where travel is expected to take nearly two hours longer than usual due to getaway and commuter traffic combining. 

“Most major routes across the south and south west are likely to take an average of 50% longer than usual to drive on Friday afternoon, while on bank holiday Monday itself, parts of the north west, East Anglia and south west will be hardest hit by returning traffic.

“Jams are predicted on the M55 eastbound between Blackpool and Preston from 11am, Cornwall to Exeter eastbound on the A30 and A38 from 11.30am and Norwich to Thetford on the A11 southbound from 12.15pm.”


RAC Breakdown spokesperson Alice Simpson commented: “With COVID travel restrictions a thing of the past, catching up with friends and family is still the first priority for nearly half of drivers making leisure trips over the bank holiday. 

“Since 2022 – the first full year since mobility restrictions lifted – drivers appear to be much more eager to make the most of the May Day weekend, with the total number of getaway trips this year far exceeding the average since 2017.”

She added: “We’re anticipating a ‘crescendo of cars’ on the road over the weekend with as many as 3m motorists making leisure trips on Saturday alone.

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"In addition to the majority of motorists planning day trips and short breaks, our data shows local routes to city and out-of-town shopping centres could see heavy traffic, so it’s best to head out early morning or evening if possible. 

“For those extending their long weekend breaks into next week, it’s important to plan return journeys in advance as the train strikes between Tuesday 7 and Saturday 11 May will inevitably lead to roads being busier.

"Industrial action can throw best-laid travel plans into chaos and many commuters who normally rely on the trains instead take to the roads, so our advice is to avoid driving at peak times of day if you can.”