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Published 12 April 2023
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Summer Holidays: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

If you’re undecided where to go on holiday this summer, staycations are an increasingly popular option – but will they save you money? We compare the costs, as well as other factors to consider, when choosing between a staycation and going abroad.

You may have missed the boat for an Easter getaway, but with spring in the air and the sun bringing some cheer, it’s time to start planning your summer holiday – it’ll be here before you know it. The question is: will you stay in the UK or venture further afield?

Although tourism generally took a hit due to Covid-19, it seems that domestic tourism is recovering, according to 2021 data from national tourism agency VisitBritain.  

With pandemic-induced travel restrictions limiting where Brits could travel overseas for their holidays, some of us chose so-called ‘staycations’ to avoid the changing rules and the risk of getting stuck abroad. 

And despite foreign travel now being firmly back on the cards, it seems that Brits have found a new appreciation of the staycation, with many still preferring something closer to home. 

According to research from VisitEngland in March 2023, a third of holidaymakers are more likely to choose a UK trip in the next six months than an overseas getaway, compared to before the Covid-19 pandemic. 

We look at the pros and cons of staycations and ask: should you stay or should you go for your next holiday? 

Why take a staycation?

Many people love exploring somewhere new when they go on holiday – and there are plenty of places to discover in the UK. Whether you’re looking for a city break or a countryside retreat, you don’t have to venture far to find your perfect holiday.

Indeed, many would argue that you can catch some summer sun without having to head further afield. “It seems our summers are getting longer and warmer, so you don’t even need to go abroad for guaranteed sunshine,” says Pete Waters, executive director at Visit East of England.

What’s more, when looking for a relaxing week away, you may find that a trip in the UK is a calmer choice. If you hate the hassle of catching a flight, then a staycation with no need to arrive early at the airport or face long waits at security could be a good bet.

The pandemic has led to an increase in Brits wanting to discover their own country, with VisitScotland’s February 2023 UK and Scotland sentiment tracker reporting that Brits anticipate taking more UK overnight trips in the next 12 months, compared to before the pandemic, and fewer overseas trips.

“Scotland remains a popular choice for Scots and UK residents – during the pandemic, there was a real desire from people to explore their own country,” says Jacqui Souter, senior marketing insight manager at VisitScotland, adding that people opt for staycations because UK holidays are easier to plan. 

“In just a few hours you’re at your destination and ready to go,” Waters adds. This may be especially important to parents trying to organise a family holiday – a staycation can be as easy as hopping in the car, with no stress about how to navigate an airport with children in tow. 

Staying closer to home can have its financial advantages too. For example, in the UK you’re more likely to know how much things should cost – so you can avoid getting caught out and charged over the odds. You won’t have to worry about currency conversion fees when getting cash or using your debit card either.

You’ll also avoid having to fork out for roaming charges. Some mobile networks have restarted charging customers to use their phone in the EU after Brexit, while visiting destinations outside the EU can mean facing even higher charges.

Has the staycation bubble burst?

From calmer journeys to easier planning, staycations have their advantages but it’s important to be aware of their potential drawbacks too.

The pandemic-induced staycation boom meant that demand for holidays in the UK has skyrocketed – as has the price. With holidaymakers eyeing up desirable locations, such as Cornwall and the north Norfolk coast, the cost of staying here for a holiday may be higher than you think.

And while the cost of accommodation alone may not be enough to warn you off, it’s easy to forget the hidden costs of a trip. The cost of living crisis continues to concern holidaymakers who want to take a break but spend less. Even in the UK, popular tourist destinations can be expensive places to visit.

Added to that, getting to your destination could cost more than you think. Fuel prices are still higher than before the Covid-19 pandemic, while train fares went up by 5.9% in March 2023, having steadily increased over the past 12 years too.

What if I want to go abroad?

Staycations are not for everyone. Many people want to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and, for some, going abroad will always beat staying in the UK, even just for a few days.

Let’s not forget that a trip abroad doesn’t have to be expensive – if you’re not set on anywhere specific and can be flexible about your holiday dates, you may be able to bag a last minute deal. 

Laura Lindsay, destinations expert at travel website Skyscanner, explains: “There are great deals for those who know how to shop around, and remaining flexible on times and destinations will ultimately bag travellers the best prices.”

If you want to book further ahead instead, it’s worth tracking the price of flights on flight price comparison sites, such as Google Flights, Kayak, Momundo and Skyscanner, so that you can book them when they’re cheapest, leaving you with more spending money.

That said, don’t forget the extras that come with jetting off abroad – you may get cheap flights, but do you have to pay for luggage or airport transfers to your accommodation? The cost of hiring a car abroad is also up by more than 50%, according to analysis by for The Guardian, so it’s worth thinking about how you’ll get around. 

Then there is the rising cost of travel insurance, which has been hit by inflation and increased demand. According to Mike Nelson, CEO of travel rewards provider Arrivia, this leads to higher costs of airfares and hotel room rates, among other elements that make up a holiday, which means that the cost of what is covered by a travel insurance policy will be higher. 

If you don’t have a passport or need to renew yours before your trip, you’ll also have to factor this into the overall cost: it currently costs £82.50 to get a new adult passport or renew one online, and with current delays in passports being processed, you’ll have the added worry of whether it will be ready in time. 

Despite these pitfalls, for some holidaymakers living in the UK the call of a trip abroad is too loud to ignore. This is confirmed by latest data from the Office for National Statistics, which reveals UK residents made 24.9 million visits abroad in the third quarter of 2022, compared with 8.1 million visits in the same period in 2021.

“Traveller demand has returned,” says Lindsay from Skyscanner. “Travellers are eager to make plans, as well as continuing to make up for lost time.”

Whatever you want from your holidays this summer, it’s worth weighing up the cost and shopping around so you can get the best deal for your wallet and your wellbeing.

Image source: Getty Images

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