"I'm driving home for Christmas. Oh, I can't wait to see those faces," Chris Rea has been singing every year since 1986 at Christmas time. With a harmonious sounding melody, he sings about the anticipation of the contemplative family celebration, which he feels in himself and sees in the faces of the drivers next to him on the highway. As much as the song sounds like a peace and joy pancake, the lyrics elsewhere are just as realistic. Rea also sings about the traffic jams and the hours-long journey.
And anyone who has ever traveled around the holidays - be it by car, train or plane - knows how exhausting the whole thing can be. Instead of driving home in the car while cheerfully singing "Last Christmas" and relaxing, many commuters remain seated at the train station shortly before the holiday or have to squeeze into the crowded train with a number of other Christmas returnees. “Cuddling with strangers” wasn’t even on the wish list. To ensure that you arrive with your loved ones on time and, above all, calmly this year, we have summarized the most important information for you at a glance.
If you don't want to rely on public transport, get behind the wheel yourself. However, this time you should do it early again - and it's best to pack a good portion and some provisions in the back seat next to the presents. The General German Automobile Club (ADAC) is already expecting traffic jams on Friday and Saturday. Accordingly, large cities, motorways and expressways in the direction of the Alpine region are particularly affected by increased traffic volumes.
Commuters should plan to wait the most in the areas surrounding Germany's metropolitan areas of Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt and Munich. Outside Germany, things are booming, especially on the roads around the well-known winter sports areas in Austria, Italy and Switzerland. For example, the risk of traffic jams increases shortly before the holidays on the Brenner Motorway in Austria or on the Gotthard Pass in Switzerland. On the holidays themselves, however, as every year, Germany's streets will be peaceful, before the return wave begins in the evening on the second holiday. In any case, it is worth following the traffic jam forecasts regularly and planning a little more time. A good playlist doesn't hurt either so you don't let the wait spoil your mood.
The horror scenario of a warning strike before or on the Christmas holidays is unlikely to happen despite ongoing collective bargaining between Deutsche Bahn and the union. And yet, train riders should be prepared that something could go wrong on the journey home. Not only because delays and train cancellations are no exception, but also and above all because Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday this year - and Deutsche Bahn actually only runs through Germany on a reduced timetable at the weekend.
This means that an increased volume of travel could be met with a lower number of trains on the Christmas weekend. In this case, chaos is virtually inevitable. In order to accommodate the whole thing, the company has already announced that it will deploy 60 additional trains between December 20, 2023 and January 1, 2024 to cope with the rush. These are intended to be used primarily on highly frequented routes, which include the Berlin-Göttingen-Frankfurt and Cologne-Munich connections via Frankfurt. Nevertheless, it is always worthwhile - before and after the holidays, but especially - to check the expected occupancy of the booked train in advance on the Deutsche Bahn website and, if necessary, reserve a seat if you don't feel like going home drive. By the way: Here too, things get much more relaxed during the holidays.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have their family reachable by train or car. Some people have to get on a plane for a contemplative family celebration - or just want to spend Christmas abroad. In Hamburg, for example, 350,000 passengers are expected around the holidays; 2,500 flights are planned, most of them on the Friday before Christmas and New Year's Eve. You see the whole thing differently at Memmingen Airport. In Swabia, people are already preparing for an increased rush, including with an increased number of flights from Wizzair and Ryanair. The airlines are using 60 more aircraft over the holidays. Around 700,000 passengers are expected in Düsseldorf, but the airport is certainly able to cope with the rush and promises to run smoothly.
According to a current analysis by “Booking.com”, most Germans go to Bangkok, London, Istanbul, Paris and Vienna for Christmas. If you are also boarding a plane to spend the Christmas holidays somewhere else, you would be well advised to find out in advance about the special features of the airport and your destination and to be at the airport early so that you can go through any time-consuming security checks in good time.
In general, if you have a healthy dose of patience and are well informed in advance, don't forget to look forward to seeing your loved ones and plan enough time, you will (at some point) be able to attend the festival again this year. Or, in the words of Chris Rea: "When I get through. Oh and feel you near me." And that's what matters in the end, right?
Source: Deutsche Bahn, ADAC, Hamburg Airport, Memmingen Airport, Düsseldorf Airport