Home » Is Britain the world’s biggest holiday rip-off?

Is Britain the world’s biggest holiday rip-off?

Getting around

The high cost of train travel within the UK is another thorny issue. Say you want to reach your Cornish holiday apartment by train, taking a leaf out of Greta Thunberg’s book and doing your bit for the planet. The cheapest off-peak return from London to Penzance on Aug 5 currently costs £143 (that’s almost £600 for a family of four), with a journey time of just under five hours. If you’re travelling from Manchester, the bill is £236 per person and the journey time is over seven hours. And that’s before adding the cost of a taxi to and from your accommodation. For comparison, a three-hour, high-speed return journey from Madrid to Malaga, on the same date, costs from £55 per person.

The alternative, and the choice of most UK holidaymakers, is to drive. Anyone who has sat on the A303 on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday never wants to repeat the experience, but filling a family car with four people and driving from London to Cornwall is significantly cheaper than a train (around £60 for a one-way journey). Sorry, Greta.

The bottom line

Add up the cost of getting to your destination, accommodation and eating out, and a family of four is looking at well in excess of £2,000 – probably closer to £3,000 – for a UK holiday. So it’s no wonder fly-and-flop packages look so appealing. Head to Tui, and £2,000 will get you a week’s B&B accommodation (including flights) at the Green Forest Hotel in Dalaman, Turkey (departing Aug 8); £3,000 will secure a one-week all-inclusive holiday at Ibiza’s Invisa Figueral Resort (departing Aug 7). 

UK holiday providers recognise that the Covid glory days are over, and are looking at ways to improve their offering. Last month, Telegraph Travel reported on how British holiday lets are raising their game to survive, with the addition of everything from hot tubs to axe throwing. Prices have also been cut.  

James Norton, the director of independent holiday business Toad Hall Cottages, confirms that the market went “crazy” during the pandemic years, but says prices are now returning to the levels they should be.

“Dynamic pricing, set by automated algorithms, adjusts the price based on demand – how many visits a page gets and so on,” he says. “There are now 50 per cent discounts being offered on some sites, but that’s a bit misleading. Prices are being corrected after an inflated few years, when some properties that rented before Covid for £1,200 [per week] were commanding rates of £3,000 or £4,000.”

One way Toad Hall has enhanced its offering is to move changeover days to Wednesdays, Thursdays and Mondays instead of Saturdays and Sundays, “so people only spend five hours on the A303 instead of eight,” says Norton. He adds: “Some owners have asked to slash prices by 10 per cent in order to secure bookings, though there are exceptions. The New Forest is doing unbelievably well, with record bookings this year, and the top properties in places like Salcombe are booked up all summer long.”

Even discounts won’t convince many of us to stay in the UK this summer. The VisitBritain research pointed to a desire among holidaymakers to experience new cultures, and this is exactly why Anna and Jon Long take their teenagers Ella, 17, and Ollie, 15, abroad.

“We haven’t done any detailed or massively informed comparisons this summer as we’ve given up looking. UK holidaying is for the very organised – anywhere lovely gets super busy in the school holidays and is booked up well in advance,” says Anna. “Teenagers are far more discerning about holidays, and would rather be at home with their friends than stuck in a cottage in Devon in the pouring rain. 

“When the cost is so marginal for a holiday in the UK, we think there aren’t many holidays left with the kids, so it’s nice to do something a bit special with them. I know we are lucky to be in a position to be able to do that, but we love to explore somewhere new as a family while we still can.”