Are you thinking about having a staycation this year? It might be that you’re not able to travel abroad or are nervous about doing so given the 12 months we’ve had.
I love exploring new places in the UK: staycations are my thing and while my heart lies in Devon, I enjoy the anticipation of packing a bag and setting off somewhere new.
Tourism is one of the UK’s most successful economic sectors. It is an industry worth £127 billion annually to the economy, and domestic tourism is £88 billion of that but it has also been one of the hardest hit economic sectors.
VisitBritain has forecast a recovery for domestic tourism spending in 2021 – first seeing a ‘step change’ in spring followed by a gradual recovery through the year – however it will still be down on 2019 levels. This forecast is still subject to change given the situation is far from certain.
Now the path out of the pandemic is clearer, I am planning my own staycation. I’m itching to pack a bag and go but I also want to help the British tourist sector get back on its feet. Perhaps that sounds very grand of me but tourism is the main employer in many coastal towns and rural communities (like here in Devon) and many people depend on it.
With that in mind, I thought I’d share some tips.
Think about the type of place you want to go. Do you want acres of open countryside? Rugged coastlines to stride along? Landscapes dotted with castles? Noisy and exuberant cities or sleepy villages? There is so much choice that it can seem overwhelming and it’s easy to get confused. Clarifying the type of break you want may lead to the number one place on your hit-list. Two years ago I wanted a city break with tons of history, accessible by public transport and manageable for a solo trip. York was my final choice (and a great one too!)
Draw up an accommodation budget – and stick to it! There’s no getting away from it: Britain is not cheap and where you stay will be a big financial outlay. It’s tempting to get elastic with the plastic and say things like ‘oh, but it’s only £50 more’ and before you know it you’re spent out and not gone anywhere. Ask yourself: do you really need that apartment with underfloor heating if you’re going in the height of summer and plan to be out all day?
Save money by staying in B&Bs/guesthouses instead of hotels and campsites/hostels rather than B&Bs. Check out the Youth Hostel Association which offers exclusive hire, en-suite rooms and dorm rooms. Their places, and the work they do, is fantastic.
When planning a staycation, factor into your budget things like tourist attraction admission, meals out, travel and petty cash for little extras (ice-creams, souvenirs!) It’s always worth checking websites for vouchers and deals or signing up to newsletters to hear of discounts first.
Although we Brits like to grumble about driving/public transport it is relatively easy to get around. Pre-booking travel tickets can keep costs down. On a week-long break in Dorset, this helped me plan point-to-point hikes with a bus to/from my base. Check ahead though as some operators change timetables with seasons or are running revised services at the moment.
I’d avoid travelling on a Friday as it’s more pricey and very busy but if you must travel on a Friday, leave early or go later.
Mid-week breaks can knock ££ off your trip. I know this is hard for people with limited flexibility but spend time researching and you might uncover deals for Monday – Friday stays.
Go direct. It’s difficult to ignore the major websites (Booking.com, TripAdvisor etc) but I recommend checking directly with places too, especially smaller, independent B&B/guesthouses. Through their own websites, lots now offer best-rate guarantees. The big websites are good for searching an area quickly but, having found one, I booked direct for a staycation last year and got a better room rate and earlier check-in.
Checking maps of the local area can give you lots of ideas for outdoor activities that are free or really low cost – perhaps a cycle trail, beauty reserve, woodland, riverside footpath or even old military battlements. If you are blessed with good weather, take a packed lunch/picnic.
Ask for recommendations. Chat to the person who runs the hotel/B&B/AirBnB, look up groups on social media or enquire with tourist information. Ignore online ads or recommendation websites – I generally don’t find them useful. Sometimes I’ve been unduly influenced by the bad reviews rather than the good but I can’t honestly say I’ve had a duff recommendation from a local.
People love sharing information about places to visit that are off-the-beaten track or great places to eat. These days, I don’t use TripAdvisor or Google as my reference points and my travels have been better for it.
Feeling spontaneous? Go last minute. Late last winter, I took a last-minute mid-week break to the Scottish highlands and saved a substantial sum compared to booking it in advance. It’s a bit risky as you might not get the place you want especially with the current limits on travel but if you are open-minded, flexible and up for an adventure it might save you a few quid.
Pack for the Great British weather! That means a raincoat and sun-cream. While hiking in Cornwall two years ago, I learnt the hard way that I needed both for the same walk. Yes, it is possible to get drenched AND have a sunburnt nose in the space of three hours.
Look for the We’re Good to Go sign. This VisitBritain industry standard tells you the business is following all public health guidance and is a good indicator you’ll have a safe staycation.
“You’re off to great places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
so… get on your way!“
– Dr Seuss