Cornwall can’t cope, Dorset is packed out and international travel is only just starting to move after a protracted near-shutdown. The great British staycation is truly back in vogue.
Now that Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted in virtually all areas of the UK, people are naturally itching to get away. The thirst for fresh scenery can be likened to a new Great Escape; everyone appears to be heading south or to the coast. Meanwhile, the UK’s ever-changing traffic light travel system has left airlines and tour operators in an on-off state of paralysis. Holidaymakers simply cannot afford the risk of being forced to quarantine in a government-appointed hotel – or end up self-isolating in a foreign land. There are job and insurance implications, not just hard cash. So, it is hardly surprising that the vast majority are holidaying at home this year.
The unprecedented boom in UK holidays is set to last until at least the end of this year. However, with an estimated 300,000-plus currently on holiday in Cornwall alone, poorly resourced rural areas are creaking under the strain. Packed beaches and restaurants have seen many families simply pack up early and go home. Visitors don’t feel safe. And small district hospitals, along with other essential services, don’t have the infrastructure to meet ongoing increased demand. For example, the critical care unit at the Royal Cornwall Hospital has just 15 beds and it’s a similar story at Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester, which serves the whole of West Dorset on the Jurassic Coast and beyond.
While the lure of the South West and other tourist hotspots has seriously boosted the coffers of many previously mothballed businesses, who wants the stress of competing for space on a beach or having to queue for every-day holiday essentials like ice creams? A staffing crisis, amplified by the so-called ‘pingdemic’, has also added to visitors’ woes. Many struggle to find spaces in booked-out restaurants and very busy supermarkets make ad-hoc shopping a nightmare.
If Bridget Jones’ infamous mini break still makes you yearn for the perfect staycation, keep reading!
Choose Your Destination Wisely
Location is everything, particularly when you match it to your needs. You may dream of tip-toeing along a shore and gazing out at the big, blue yonder, but do you really want to have to navigate potentially tens of thousands of other tourists just to sink your feet into wet sand? What is it that you really want from your holiday? If it is peace and quiet, a seaside town, big hotel or holiday park is probably not a good idea. You can still enjoy fabulous views in a less popular area.
Why not consider a staycation in a rural retreat? Take a look at village locations off the beaten track. You may find one close to a cove or slightly further along the coast from a resort, or even with a river setting. Check out small hotels and holiday lodges. Those offering shepherd hut or bell tent accommodation are often a good bet. Consider the overall experience as well as the scenery. And decide from the outset how far you want to travel away from home. A jaunt down the A303 or M5, trust me, is rarely a breeze.
Self-catering accommodation is flexible and gives you more control over your environment. This may be particularly important if you were one of the two million forced to shield when the pandemic hit or if your holiday includes members of the extended family. You will be free to implement your own cleaning regime and have the choice of eating in or dining out. It is also worth bearing in mind that supermarkets will deliver to most holiday cottages. Ensuring stress is kept to a bare minimum should be your goal. If you do plan to eat out, book ahead and stipulate if you would prefer to dine outside.
Once you have found your perfect bolthole, plan your activities around it. Look for local walks, nature reserves, small animal sanctuaries, and things to do in the great outdoors. If you are interested in history and culture, pencil in visits to nearby museums and galleries – they are often overlooked, particularly in market towns away from the coast. If you like water, why not book somewhere with a hot tub or a garden large enough to accommodate your own blow-up pool?
Note: Prices for holiday accommodation in the UK are currently very high. In fact, you could end up spending a lot more than you have previously shelled out for holidays abroad. Always check price comparison sites before booking. As a guide, a small holiday cottage in Dorset is likely to set you back well over £1,000-a-week during September.
What To Pack
The British weather is changeable. Pack clothes that can be layered and, if you are holidaying close to the coast, be mindful that the wind can be gusty even on the brightest of days. Don’t forget a lightweight, waterproof jacket and good walking shoes.
Leave your best jewellery at home in a secure place. Instead, take inexpensive costume jewellery that won’t cost the earth to replace if you lose it on the beach or leave it behind in the rush to pack up for home.
Pack a sun cream with a good SPF factor. Remember that UV rays can damage the skin even on overcast days and supplies in tourist hotspots can fluctuate.
Use small containers for your favourite skincare products, especially if you have invested a lot in them or don’t want to interrupt a routine.
Buy a good map of the area you are travelling to and take it with you whenever you venture more than a few miles from your base. There is nothing worse than wasting precious time trying to find out where you are!
If you have booked self catering accommodation, take staples like tea, coffee, cereals and long life milk with you. Prices in some holiday areas are often inflated and your choices are likely to be limited. You will also want to pack some washing up liquid, loo rolls, cleaning products and light meals that can be quickly microwaved. If you are taking a pet, don’t overlook their needs.
Other things to pack:
- Bedding, if it isn’t included in the price or you feel you would sleep better with your own.
- A torch for safety reasons – because you are unlikely to be familiar with your location, especially at night.
- Some new makeup to get you in the holiday spirit.
Before travelling, take a lateral flow test. The last thing you want is to fall ill on holiday or be confined to a space that is unfamiliar. In addition, health services in rural places can quickly become overwhelmed. You may receive faster, better care in your local area.
Be respectful to people who live in the location you are visiting. Wear a face mask in enclosed spaces and avoid overly busy outdoor public areas.
If you want to use public transport during your stay, choose off-peak times if you can.
Have a great holiday!