The great Easter getaway begins as 2million jet off to avoid the freezing weather
There has been a rush for last-minute holiday deals to beat the cold snapForecasters say the freezing weather us due to last until May
Canary Islands, Majorca and New York among most popular destinations French port officers' strike called off at last minute allowing ferries to run

Ray Massey, Transport Editor


00:54 GMT, 28 March 2013



10:03 GMT, 28 March 2013

Forget the traditional Easter egg hunt. This year, it seems we’re hunting for the sun instead.

Nearly two million Britons are preparing to fly away to escape the Arctic chill this Bank Holiday – up around 30 per cent on a typical Easter weekend.

There has been a rush for last-minute holiday and short-break deals to beat the cold snap, which forecasters say will be with us until May and will send temperatures plunging to -6C this week.

Holidaymakers received a boost this morning when a planned 24-hour strike by French port control officers was called off, allowing ferries to run as normal.

From this to this: Nearly two million

From this to this: Nearly two million

From this to this: Nearly two million Britons are preparing to escape the Arctic chill, such as the heavy snow in the Lake District, left, with Majorca, right, among the most popular destinations

French port control officers had been
due to go on a stoppage that would have hit ports such as
Calais, Dieppe and Cherbourg.

P&O Ferries had warned its
passengers to expect long delays today and on Good Friday and there were
fears of traffic build-ups on routes to the port of Dover in Kent.

However at 2am the strike was called off after successful late-night talks in France. 'This is excellent news for British holidaymakers,' said P&O Ferries spokesman Chris Laming.

But those staying at home will have to contend with problems on the roads and railways, with the RAC expecting more than seven million motorists to be gearing up for an Easter break.

There will be disruption on the roads as freezing weather, jams and roadworks take their toll, while on the railways thousands of passengers face delays and replacement buses due to engineering works.

Among the worst is the partial closure of Reading station, causing diversions and delays between London and the West Country.

The Association of British Travel Agents said 1.7million Britons will get away from the continuing cold by holidaying abroad this Easter.

Many have snapped up last-minute offers to escape some of the coldest March conditions on record, heading for sunny spots such as the Canary Islands, Majorca, Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey.

Top city break choices are Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam, Rome and New York, an ABTA spokesman said, while France and Austria are the most-popular ski destinations.

Heathrow will handle 1.2million
passengers between now and Tuesday and 3.6million over the two-week
school break to April 14. Today will be the busiest day, with 116,000
heading to the sun or the ski slopes.

Forecasters say there is little chance of a let up in the freezing conditions over Easter

Forecasters say there is little chance of a let up in the freezing conditions over Easter

Some 98,000 passengers are due to take
off with British Airways tomorrow alone. Gatwick airport listed
Barcelona, Geneva and the southern Spanish city of Malaga as its top

Accommodation booking website reported huge
rises in Britons searching for trips to Corfu and Rhodes. Other popular
spots include Orlando in Florida, Agadir in Morocco, and Mexico City and
Cancun in Mexico.

ABTA chiefs added that from now until Tuesday, a total of 214,000 will fly from Gatwick, 110,000 from Manchester, 110,000 from Stansted and 55,000 from Luton. Scottish airports will also see more than 100,000 departures.

Chief executive Mark Tanzer said: ‘After two wet summers and no end in sight to the winter, many Brits are desperate for some sunshine. We’ve seen a surge in last minute bookings to warm destinations.’

For those staying in the UK, around
one in 17 still plan to have a break, with at least one overnight stay
away from home over the Easter. These trips will generate 600million
for the UK economy, according to national tourism agency VisitBritain.

groups said the seven million drivers set to take to their cars over
Easter faced jams and roadworks, as well as the bad weather. The RAC is
increasing its patrol hours by 10 per cent during the four days of ‘road
rush’ which begin on Good Friday.

information company Inrix said drivers heading to and from north-west
England and the West Country will face the longest delays, while the
Highways Agency warned that motorists have to contend with 26 sets of
roadworks covering 145 miles around the country.

John Lewis is selling fake daffodils for the first time – because the
bitterly cold weather has delayed the arrival of the real spring blooms.
The department store has also reported an 18 per cent increase on last
year in sales of its other fake bouquets.