Chaotic scenes at airports have become routine during school holidays due to staff shortages and pent-up demand after the pandemic.
While some have plans to go abroad this summer, many are staying within the UK, continuing a trend that has seen holidaymakers flock to destinations in Cornwall, North Wales and Cumbria, among others.
Four people share their plans for a holiday in the UK, looking at how rising costs are hitting domestic getaways as well as trips abroad.
After an “absolutely brilliant” family holiday in Devon last August, London-based bookseller Ian Torrens booked the same cottage again this year – only to find the price had shot up by 60% for the same week in August. “I didn’t really notice the price because I was only paying a £25 deposit at that point. It was only after I booked, that the price sunk in. I did it without much thought, as I presumed it would be similar to last year,” Torrens, 57, says, explaining that he initially thought it must be a mistake, and emailed the company to confirm.
Although they used to enjoy driving across the Channel to France, Torrens hasn’t been on a family trip abroad since the pandemic. His 22-year-old son is classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, and they decided to “not take any risk” with a journey overseas. Watching the news of travel chaos in recent weeks, Torrens reckons the decision to stay local was the correct one: “Now you’re hearing all the nightmares of planes and ferries – it just seemed a good idea just to stay in the UK. It’ll be a good holiday – just a bit expensive.”
Whereas before the pandemic self-employed gardener Lee Sugden, 50, used to travel to destinations including India and Thailand, this summer he’ll be staying closer to home. “Holidays and flights are far more expensive than pre-pandemic,” he says, giving the example of a package holiday to Cape Verde: “What we were paying sort of £700 for [a few years ago] is now [around] £1,000.”
Instead, Sugden, who lives in Stroud, Gloucestershire, plans to holiday at a friend’s cottage in the Isle of Man in September. The uncertainty around Covid has also played a role. “We’re not entirely trusting of the Covid situation still. We’re just concerned about the cancellation – it’s not so much about getting ill, but the repercussions from getting ill,” he says. And while the accommodation will be free of charge, transport is proving costlier than expected. “It was a better part of £350 just to go across to the island [on the ferry with a van],” Sugden says. “The actual cost of diesel as well is becoming a very obvious expense. Whereas once upon a time you didn’t really think twice about it, now it’s about 120 quid to fill the van up.”
Once the school holidays begin in Scotland, programme manager Peter Vincent, 49, will be heading from West Lothian to a caravan site in Dumfries and Galloway with his family. It will cost the family of four £25 per night to stay there in their caravan, while he estimates their daily budget will be around £100. “I can’t even get a flight for that price to go abroad,” he says, adding that while they’d have loved to visit Greece this summer, it was not an option financially.
The family of four did take a trip overseas to Tenerife over the Easter holidays however, and Vincent noticed how much prices had increased. He estimated that a meal out cost “around a third” more than it did pre-pandemic, though he chalks some of that up to his teenagers, aged 14 and 16, eating more than they did two years ago. As well as the expense of the holiday, which cost the family a total of £1,600 in flights, Vincent was keen to avoid another arduous airport trip this summer. “It totally puts you off, especially if you’ve got children,” he says. “It gets incrementally harder to do these things.”
For Isabella Pashley, 60, the ideal summer holiday would be a trip to Spain. “I’ve been looking at cheap flights to Bilbao – I wanted to go to San Sebastian in September when my son finishes his masters’ degree,” she says. “I would have loved to go abroad, somewhere with culture, sand and sea.” But the “shambolic situation” at UK airports is holding her off from booking: “My local airport is Manchester airport … We don’t know if [the travel chaos] will clear up before then,” she says.
Pashley, from Derbyshire, hasn’t decided on a course of action yet, explaining she will wait until next month to see if the travel situation improves. If not, she hopes to spend a few days in London and Suffolk instead, but notes that “it might be cheaper to fly abroad than to drive” to the south of England, with fuel costs being significant as well as the broader cost of living crisis pushing up prices of rentals and eating out. “There’s no argument about it – it’s just [due to] the situation in the airports. At the moment it’s just looking so bad – I don’t really know what to do. You hear horrendous stories [about] Manchester airport.”