24,000 fly from Southampton this Christmas

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More than three million people are expected to head overseas over Christmas and New Year, despite the economic downturn.

Southampton airport will see 24,000 passengers fly abroad before January in search of festive sunshine or snow, according to the Association of British Travel Agents.

Early snow in Europe has meant that the ski season has opened early, and snow fell across many resorts last week.

Geneva, the gateway to the Alps, is one of the top destinations for skiers flying out of the UK.

But most of those heading abroad will be searching for sun, especially after the freezing temperatures in the UK over the last few weeks.

Tenerife, the Caribbean, Egypt and Turkey are set to be popular destinations, and extra flights from Manchester to the Middle East are also proving popular.

Saturday, December 27 looks likely to be the busiest day, with holidaymakers setting off for New Year breaks in cities including New York, Paris, Madrid, Dublin, Amsterdam, Athens, Budapest and Warsaw.

A spokesman for ABTA, the UK's largest travel association, said: "Christmas and New Year is traditionally one of the peak getaway periods of the year.

"This year will be no different as people look to get away from the stresses of work and spend time with their families and loved ones."

Justin Fleming, ABTA's president, added: "Holidays – especially at this time of year – are considered to be much more than a luxury."

More than two million people will be leaving the country through BAA airports.

1.1 million will travel through Heathrow, 500,000 through Gatwick, 250,000 through both Stansted and Luton, 200,000 through Glasgow and 105,000 through Edinburgh.

If you're flying from Southampton airport, the Holiday Inn Southampton Airport is a great place to stay the night before your flight so you can start your holiday refreshed and relaxed.

Prices at the Holiday Inn Southampton Airport start from just £100.00 for a room with up to 15 days' parking.

Price correct for bookings searched on December 23, 2008. Prices are subject to change and availability. Book your Southampton airport hotel in advance with Holiday Extras to get the best prices and availability.