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London traffic Friday in December

We will be leaving london bridge area on friday dec 23. And picking up car rental at hertz at heathrow airport and heading to cotswolds. Any recommendations on getting there while avoiding major traffic or rush hour? Ideas: 1. Take Uber or underground from london bridge area to heathrow around 1:00 (13:00) -will we hit Friday traffic leaving city? 2. Take underground or Uber and leave at 9:00 am- will there be issues with rush hour traffic leaving city at that time? 3. Leave whenever by taking Uber to Piccadilly station and taking Heathrow express in.
Would like the most efficient because traveling with kids and luggage. TIA.

Posted by
1410 posts

I’m not privy to London traffic patterns but I would think the Friday before a holiday weekend would have significant traffic. Just off the top of my head I’d probably just take a taxi or Uber to the Liverpool Street station and the Elizabeth line from there. Currently you have to change at Paddington but might be different come fall. Elizabeth line stations are step free so moving luggage could be fairly easy.

You could spend the last night at Heathrow and get an early start but that involves changing lodging for one night with the kids.

BTW the Heathrow express is at Paddington station.

Posted by
6472 posts

Apologies but your are asking how to avoid traffic in London the 48 hours before Christmas?

I’m also confused about this comment … “ taking Uber to Piccadilly Station and taking Heathrow Express in.”

In to where?

The reality is Yes you will hit traffic. Motorways will be jammed.

Posted by
4718 posts

You're going to hit traffic irrespective of the day or date. If heading to The Cotswolds from Heathrow you'll be entering the M4 straight from Heathrow. This is a busy motorway albeit not as busy as the M25 circular around London. It will get quieter the further westward you travel but you need to bare in mind that within a couple of roundabouts from Heathrow you'll be slap bang in the middle of three lane motorway traffic. This won't be as bad as it sounds because you'll be able to familiarise yourself with the car whilst cruising along uneventful roads. You may choose to stick to the inside lane so as not to feel too much pressure to keep up with the speed of other motorists.

Posted by
5710 posts

This is usually the busiest travel day of the year, so yes, it will be busy!

Use public transport in London as it will move quicker than Uber cars can. Take the tube to Heathrow, although you will have to change lines at Green Park. (The Heathrow Express runs from Paddington not Piccadilly Circus underground station.)

Most of the traffic will be heading out of London rather than entering, so you will be going with the flow.

Make sure you know where you are heading before you leave Heathrow as the traffic at the junction of the M4/M25 is unforgiving if you are in the wrong lane! Depending on where your car hire place is, you will either join the M25 north at junction 14 (easy) or you will be heading north out of the airport on the M4 spur then left onto the M4 proper and then you will need to come off at the first junction for M25 north.

Posted by
28126 posts

if going to the northern Cotswolds (Stow on the Wold etc.,) the M4 is only for a short while to get you to the M25 (which will be a thrill, as is the M4 where you will be on it because of ongoing roadworks (don't speed in the traffic speed averaging area).

M25 north to the M40, then west.

Posted by
13 posts

Thank you all for your reply’s. Yes you are correct I meant paddington station. Sorry about that. From all of your reply’s I would imagine leaving early out of London would be ideal. Would you say this is correct? If so what time would be best.? Ideally I’d like to leave at either 9:00 am or 1pm but if you suggest anything different I’ll do it to avoid the mass exit. Thanks again.

Posted by
28126 posts

probably the earlier the better as far as I am concerned. But remember that you will be one or two days after the shortest day of the year, and don't expect significant daylight until after 9am. Likewise, although sunset is nominally 3:50 as you head north (3:54 in London, shorter as you go north) if the day is overcast (likely) lights and headlights will likely be on by 2 or 2:30.

The airport car hire desks will likely be rammed - there is no public transport over the holiday, especially with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on the weekend and Boxing Day on Monday - so you will likely need to be flexible with what they give you.

EDIT: I oopsed on the dates. 23rd is day of this travel, Saturday is Christmas Eve, Sunday Christmas Day, Monday Boxing Day

Posted by
28126 posts

on another related topic - do you have your meals reserved for the weekend? It may be getting a bit late for Christmas Day, especially if the winter bout of covid stays away or is very mild. If folks don't have to lockdown like the last couple of years they will likely be splashing out (if they can afford it)

Posted by
13 posts

Thank you. Yes we do have plans for all three days. Staying in our own cottage where we’ll be cooking mostly but we will be next to a pub that’s open all three days. Already have reservations for Christmas Eve there. It sounds like no matter when we leave we’ll encounter some issues so I think our best bet is to pack some patience and hope for best. Based on everything you have all said I think I’ll book car pick up for 12 noon. I’d book it earlier but driving in dark on first day may not be best idea. That would mean leaving london area around 10:30 am whichever way we choose to get there. Maybe using underground would be best. I’d like to stop and do Windsor castle on way out of town but clearing area before mass exit might be a better idea.

Posted by
28126 posts

a couple more of sighting questions -

where in the Cotswolds (it is a bigger area than it looks) is your cottage? I may have some driving hints...

Have considered taking the train from Paddington (GWR) or Marylebone (Chiltern) to Oxford and collecting the car there?

Do you have particular things you'd hope to accomplish in the Cotswolds area? Need any help there?

Is this the first time for you driving here? Need or want any pointers?

How old are the munchkins? How much luggage?

Posted by
13 posts

Thank you Nigel. I’d appreciate any tips you can give. So here is our detailed plan. Family of 5 with kids ages 18,15,and 10. My husband has driven in England a couple of times over the years and he will be the one driving. We are staying outside Broadway in Evesham. We have a cottage there in center of town. Our expectations aren’t to be busy the whole time (23-29th) rather looking forward to spending some quality down time with our family. Ideas so far while there include chipping Norton panto on Christmas Eve day, fleece inn for dinner Christmas Eve and apparently there is live music on Christmas am in town. Sounds fun! Boxing Day maybe head to Warwick castle for day with stop in Stratford on Avon. Butterfly farm
27th and 28th open to ideas. Maybe Broadway tower weather depending. Special tea time somewhere close. Was thinking lygon arms on Broadway. Sudley castle, or possibly Oxford for one day. Heading to Cardiff for 3 nights over New Years before heading back to london for flight home.
I’ll look into your idea of picking up car in Oxford. Thank you for that. Any other driving or itinerary ideas/tips are very welcome. 😊

Posted by
28126 posts

The car hire places in Oxford are within a very short walk of the station. The centre of Oxford now has a ZEZ - zero emission zone and parking is always a bear so unless you have an EV (electric car) and the patience of a saint better to not drive into town.

From the station it is easy to go west on Botley Road, away from town, to the A34, turn logically right and north to the next major junction.. For Whitney, Cheltenham, Burford, the back way to Stow on the Wold, follow the signs to the A40; for Moreton-in-Marsh and onwards to Broadway follow the A44.

For the fast way to Evesham stay on the A34 to the junction with the M40. Turn left onto the M40 and go as far as Junction 15 for Warwick (the second junction for Warwick) and Stratford upon Avon. Join the A46 and stay on it avoiding Stratford upon Avon until you pop up on the Evesham ring road. Depending on exactly where you will be staying will depend on if you go straight into Evesham or go a couple of junctions around on the ring road.

Of course you can stop at whatever takes your fancy on the way, but with such a very late start from London remember that every stop brings that early darkness ever nearer.

I think you have good plans. I like what you have outlined.

A couple of caveats - on the A46 between Stratford upon Avon and the big roundabout above Evesham (where the road and you turn left) there are a couple of sneaky nearly invisible (but legal) speed cameras that have caught a couple of my friends out (one twice in about 6 months!!) near the bottom of inclines - so a word to the wise is sufficient.

And if you drive into Stratford upon Avon and are parking the car READ the parking signs on the road, and DON'T assume that parking rules on one side of the road are the same on the other. Particularly notorious is Sheep Street, my favourite place to park, but my goodness you need to be careful. The parking Enforcement Officers are like hornets at a picnic and, like hornets, have no mercy. Again friends and many tourists have paid the penalty.

It may not be obvious but I grew up in the Cotswolds, and until 12 years ago lived for 13 years about 10 miles from Stratford upon Avon. So I know these places well...

As you drive or walk through Cotswold villages and towns look for the illuminated Christmas trees in the flag holders on the outside of businesses. If the price of electricity allows it, they are beautiful at night in the Christmas season. But with supplies of natural gas cut off to Europe and the UK and astronomically high cost of gas and electric (unregulated for business customers, quadrupling or more for residential customers) don't be surprised to see some switched off.

Posted by
28126 posts

oh, and be prepared for sticker shock when filling your car up. Petrol is around £1.90 per litre and about 20p more in the rural areas like the Cotswolds. Cheapest is always at a supermarket, but they keep shorter hours (or are closed completely) in the holidays.

Posted by
3355 posts

I've never been in the UK that close to Christmas, but I think Nigel's advice of renting the car in Oxford instead is a great idea. If it was my trip I'd want to get as far as possible from London before I get in a car.

Posted by
13 posts

Fantastic info. Thank you. So we pre- booked the car for pick up in Oxford at 12 noon. It was actually a bit cheaper this way. And train to Oxford from paddington seem reasonable so that’s great! I think it may even save us some time and for sure some headaches. Either way, not having to drive in and around london that day is a big win. I will take note of your driving directions from there. Very helpful!

Posted by
28126 posts

Let's see..

Ideas so far while there include chipping Norton panto on Christmas Eve day, fleece inn for dinner Christmas Eve and apparently there is live music on Christmas am in town. Sounds fun! Boxing Day maybe head to Warwick castle for day with stop in Stratford on Avon. Butterfly farm

Good stuff. Be sure not to get Chipping Campden (nearer Evesham) and Chipping Norton (considerably further) confused in the excitement! My parents used to live in Chipping Norton and had businesses there....

The Fleece Inn - excellent. Not a lot of parking in the village, you might have a slight walk. Excellent food and atmosphere. And often music. Nigel (not me) is the landlord. This spring they were short of staff - hopefully solved by Christmas.

Have a look around Warwick when you go to the Castle - there are some nice buildings there...
Never visited the Butterfly Farm but often see it. Remember my parking advice upthread.

Maybe Broadway tower weather depending. Special tea time somewhere close. Was thinking lygon arms on Broadway. Sudeley castle, or possibly Oxford for one day.

Broadway Tower good idea, Broadway too. Walking to the tower could be muddy.

Lygon Arms good choice. Come back in the late spring for their Wisteria.

Sudeley Castle (spelled this way) another good choice as well as the nearby town of Winchcombe.

If some want to stay and others go to Oxford for a day trip, there is a train station in Evesham on the direct line via Moreton in Marsh to Oxford.

Posted by
260 posts

There are normally Advance Single Tickets from London to Oxford from £5.40
However such cheap tickets may not be on offer just before Christmas
You should search from London All Stations as there are services from Marylebone and Paddington to Oxford
You should have a look at www.seat61.com for information on rail travel in UK including how to book tickets from abroad

Posted by
13 posts

All such great advice. I really appreciate all your help and tips. Love the train idea into Oxford for the day. If anything else comes to mind about other local events happening around that time I’m always open to suggestions. For example I thought I read somewhere that on dec 23rd chipping campdon keeps stores open a bit late and has music outside. ( possible I read this wrong). I’m sure things like this change year to year so I’ll keep an eye on local town websites I guess. Thanks again.

Posted by
2989 posts

"Fleece Inn for dinner Christmas Eve"

Be sure and make reservations far in advance. Reservations needed for Christmas Day lunch and dinner far in advance if planning to eat out, also.