Instead of sitting down with loved ones for Christmas Day lunch, hundreds of motorists decided to brave the traffic.

Traffic was crawling on the two major motorways out of Auckland.

A south-bound driver on the Northern Motorway told the Herald that the motorway's north-bound lanes were jammed with vehicles which in some places were reduced to a slow crawl, between Silverdale and central Auckland.

At around 2.30pm a crash blocked the north-bound onramp on to the Southern Motorway near Otahuhu, however the onramp was soon cleared.

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An NZ Transport Agency webcam mounted at Tristram Ave shows the north-bound lanes were full just before midday.

The south-bound lanes on the Southern Motorway at Takanini also appear to be crawling.

North bound lanes of Auckland's Northern Motorway packed with traffic at just before midday. Photo / NZTA
North bound lanes of Auckland's Northern Motorway packed with traffic at just before midday. Photo / NZTA

As tens of thousands of Kiwis pack their beach towels and get set to hit the road for holiday destinations, police and the Transport Agency are urging motorists to drive safely.

The official Christmas-New Year Holiday period started at 4pm on Friday and ends at 6am on January 3. Last year 19 people died in crashes over the holiday period.

Five people have died so far during this year's period.

• A female driver died in a three car pile-up on SH5 near Hamurana in Rotorua on Sunday.

• A person was killed Sunday on Pourerere Rd in central Hawke's Bay after a car rolled down a bank.

• Boney Biju died while on his way home from his own 21st birthday party when his car left the road and struck a tree near Hanmer Springs on Christmas Eve.

• Fijian national Lalita Devi was a passenger in a car that crashed on SH14 at Maungatapere on Saturday.

• On Friday. taxi driver Abdul Raheem Fahad Syed, 29, died in central Auckland when his car was hit by another.

The 4km/h speed tolerance for motorists has been in force since Monday.

The Transport Agency has released a nationwide map of holiday hotspots and times to avoid travelling, in an attempt to reduce the chaos.

The extensive list shows the busiest times based on previous years' travel patterns but warns the predictions could change based on weather or crashes.

The key message from the agency to help motorists avoid traffic headaches was "plan ahead".

Some of the worst affected areas were heading south on Auckland's Southern Motorway from Takanini and heading north between Puhoi and Wellsford.

Commuter chaos was also expected on State Highway 1 near Whangarei as the holiday period kicked into action.

Further down the island, NZTA had also predicted congestion heading out of Wellington to the Kapiti Coast as well as over the Rimutakas between Wellington and Featherstone.

In the South Island, State Highway 6 (Nelson-Blenheim, and at Murchison) and nearby to the east State Highway 63 (St Arnaud) are the roads to avoid if you can between December 27 and the first days of the New Year.

Meanwhile police are urging motorists to take care on the roads, to make sure no one is missing their loved ones at the Christmas dinner table.

"The speed you're travelling at has a huge impact in the outcome of a crash and is the biggest determinant in whether anyone is killed, injured, or walks away unharmed," said a spokesman.

"This is why we also do things like have a lower speed threshold over the holidays on our safe speed cameras. We want people to slow down while they're travelling to see loved ones over the holidays."