Christmas holidays: Where the worst traffic is expected and how to avoid the chaos

Traffic congestion chaos is expected across New Zealand with Christmas just around the corner and Kiwis rushing away for holidays.

Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders will take to the lead-up to New Year's Eve, aiming to escape the cities for paradise.

To avoid the traffic chaos, the NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi has published its journey planner which shows the country's popular routes and forecasts when they will be busiest.

"Every holiday period and long weekend we see large numbers of people heading out of the main centres to popular holiday destinations and this can cause queues and delays," Waka Kotahi said.

"To help alleviate these problems we recommend planning your travel well in advance and travelling outside the busiest periods. To make this easier for you, we've created an interactive traffic prediction map for holiday periods. 

"The map shows when we expect traffic to be heavy, based on travel patterns from previous years.

"Because predicted peak times can change based on incidents, weather and even driver behaviour we suggest that you check our real-time journey planner before you leave for the latest information on road works, traffic, road closures and delays."

Waka Kotahi is forecasting heavy traffic on the state highways out of Auckland from Thursday onwards.

For those heading south out of the Super City, the heaviest traffic on State Highway 1 between Manukau and Bombay is expected on Friday between 3pm and 6pm. Saturday (Christmas Eve) is also expected to be busy between 11am and 1pm.

People heading north from Auckland can expect heavy traffic between Puhoi and Wellsford (SH1) between 4pm and 6pm on Friday and midday and 2pm on Saturday.

In the Far North, southbound traffic is also expected to be busy on SH1 at Whangārei between 10:30am and 3:30pm on Friday.

For northbound traffic from Whangārei, it's expected to be busy between 3pm and 7pm on Friday and 1:30pm and 4pm on Saturday.

For Wellingtonians heading north from the capital, the Remutaka Hill (SH2) is expected to be busy between 1:30pm and 4:30pm on Thursday, 11am and 3:30pm on Friday before becoming heavy between 10:30am and midday on Christmas Eve.

People heading south from Christchurch are being told to expect heavy traffic on SH1 at Rakaia between 11am and 2:30pm on Thursday, 10am and 3:30pm on Friday and 10:30am and 11:30am on Saturday. Heavy traffic is also expected on Christmas Day between 9:30am and 12:30pm.

Click here for the full Christmas holiday journey planner.