Chaotic scenes at airports have become routine during school holidays due to staff shortages and post-pandemic pent-up demand.
While some are planning to go abroad this summer, many are staying in the UK, continuing a trend that has holidaymakers flocking to destinations in Cornwall, North Wales and Cumbria, among others.
Four people share their UK holiday plans and watch how rising costs are hitting both domestic trips and international travel.
“Same cottage in Devon cost me 60% more this year”
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 that the same week’s price had skyrocketed 60% in August. “I didn’t really notice the price because I only paid a £25 deposit at the time. Only after I booked did I remember the price. I did it without much thought as I assumed it would be similar to last year,” says Torrens, 57, explaining that he initially thought there must be a mistake in the email to the Company sent for confirmation.
Although they used to enjoy crossing the Channel to France, Torrens has not been on a trip abroad with family since the pandemic. His 22-year-old son is considered to be extremely clinically vulnerable and they decided “to take no chances” with a trip abroad. Given the news of the travel chaos over the past few weeks, Torrens believes the decision to remain was the right one: “Now you hear all the plane and ferry nightmares – it just seemed like a good idea to just stay in the UK. It’s going to be a great holiday – just a bit pricey.”
“Package holidays are much more expensive than before the pandemic”
While self-employed gardener Lee Sugden, 50, traveled to places including India and Thailand before the pandemic, he will be staying closer to home this summer. “Holidays and flights are far more expensive than before the pandemic,” he says, citing the example of a package holiday to Cape Verde: “For which we paid around £700 [a few years ago] is now [around] £1,000.”
Instead, Sugden, who lives in Stroud, Gloucestershire, plans to holiday at a friend’s cottage on the Isle of Man in September. The uncertainty surrounding Covid has also played a role. “We still don’t fully trust the Covid situation. We’re just worried about the cancellation – it’s not so much about the illness as it’s the aftermath of an illness,” he says. And while accommodation will be free, transportation is proving to be more expensive than expected. “It was a better part of £350 just to go to the island [on the ferry with a van]’ says Suggen. “The actual cost of diesel is also becoming a very obvious expense. Whilst you didn’t really think about it before, it now costs around £120 to fill the van.”
“Our caravan holiday is £25 a night”
As soon as the school holidays start in Scotland, program manager Peter Vincent, 49, will be driving with his family from West Lothian to a caravan site in Dumfries and Galloway. It costs the family of four £25 a night to stay there in their caravan, while he estimates their daily budget at around £100. “I can’t even get a flight abroad for that price,” he says, adding that while they would have liked to visit Greece this summer, financially it wasn’t an option.
However, the family of four was taking an overseas trip to Tenerife over the Easter holidays and Vincent noticed how much prices had gone up. He estimated a meal cost “about a third” more than it did before the pandemic, although he attributes some of that to his teens, ages 14 and 16, who are eating more than they were two years ago. As well as travel expenses which have cost the family a total of £1,600 in flights, Vincent was keen to avoid another onerous airport trip this summer. “It’s a total scare, especially when you have kids,” he says. “It’s getting increasingly difficult to do these things.”
“It might be cheaper to fly to Spain than go to Suffolk”
For Isabella Pashley, 60, the ideal summer vacation would be a trip to Spain. “I was looking for cheap flights to Bilbao – I wanted to go to San Sebastian in September when my son is doing his master’s degree,” she says. “I would have loved to go abroad, somewhere with culture, sand and sea.” But the “shambolic situation” at UK airports is keeping her from booking: “My local airport is Manchester Airport… We don’t know if [the travel chaos] will clear up by then,” she says.
Pashley, from Derbyshire, has not yet decided on a course of action and says 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 go to the south of England,” given the cost of fuel as well as the cost of living in general significant are the crisis, which drives up prices for rent and food. “There’s no arguing about it — it’s simple [due to] the situation at the airports. It just looks so bad right now – I don’t quite know what to do. You hear terrible stories [about] Manchester Airport.”