Busiest weekend of the year on roads and at airports as holiday season starts

The Great Summer Getaway is expected this weekend.dronepicr - flickr.com/photos/132646954@N02

The Great Summer Getaway is expected this weekend.dronepicr - flickr.com/photos/132646954@N02

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An estimated 2.1 million British holidaymakers are set to head overseas for their summer holidays this weekend (24-27 July).

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) says millions of people will mark the start of the six-week school break with a trip abroad, with the Mediterranean still dominating the market for families.

The Great Summer Getaway is expected this weekend. Photo: flickr.com/photos/cosmicherb70

The Great Summer Getaway is expected this weekend. Photo: flickr.com/photos/cosmicherb70

Spain remains the number one destination for the UK holiday market, with the Canary and Balearic Islands continuing to be popular. Other Eurozone destinations, including Cyprus, France and Greece, are also proving particularly popular this summer with holidaymakers attracted by the strong exchange rate - the pound is currently at an eight year high against the Euro.

For those heading further afield, the Dominican Republic and Mexico have sold well, with Florida remaining the number one long haul choice for families.

Domestic bookings are healthy with travel agents and tour operators reporting strong demand. As well as city and country breaks in the UK, shorter holidays to Barcelona, Amsterdam, Rome, Dublin and New York also feature as some of the top picks for summer 2015.

Airports in the South East are expecting a very busy weekend with 450,000 passengers departing from Heathrow, 310,000 from Gatwick, 160,000 from Stansted and 90,000 from Luton. More than 100,000 will be leaving from Scottish airports, with 50,000 from Glasgow alone, and 171,000 are due to depart from Manchester, 73,000 from Birmingham and 50,000 from Bristol.

Other regional airports, ports and the channel tunnel will also be extremely busy over the weekend with hundreds of thousands leaving the country. Around 71,000 holidaymakers will be heading off to Paris and the South of France on the Eurostar over the weekend.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA chief executive, said: “This weekend sees the great summer getaway in full swing with all of the schools in the UK having broken up for their summer break and hundreds of thousands of UK holidaymakers heading off for a break.

“Destinations around the Mediterranean remain the firm favourites for British families with Spain and Greece leading the way.

“Many ABTA Members are reporting an increase in late bookings to Greece following the recent progress in securing a bailout, with customers taking advantage of some exceptional deals.

“For those flying long haul, Florida and Dubai are very popular this year, with families benefitting from the cut in child air taxes that was introduced in May.

“Holidaymakers will also see their spending money going further with the pound having increased in value against a wide range of currencies, particularly the Euro, over the last twelve months.”