“Home is where one starts from.” – T.S. Eliot
I’m gonna be real with ya, my UK Wanderlusters for the rest of 2020 you may not be catching any flights to far off lands.
Say it ain’t so?
This ain’t definitive but with the UK still being under a semi lockdown ’til July I can’t predict what the aviation industry is gonna look like. Flights may become extortionate (or not in order to entice us back), country borders may still be closed or require quarantine when landing making it difficult for my fellow 9 to 5ers with limited annual leave and you may just not feel comfortable getting onto a contraption where we are all breathing the same circulated air for x hours. Basically, we just do not know.
So how ’bout we get to exploring our very own backyard, a.k.a. Britain, a.k.a ‘I know we have sucky weather, but give it a try!’ Below are my tips for planning a staycation here in Blighty.
Please note all my tips are for post lockdown, I’m not advocating any of this while there are conditions on our physical interactions and movements
1. Start small with a day trip or trip in your own city
How much do you know about your own city? If you’ve never planned a staycation, starting can be quite daunting or overwhelming, so why not start with where you live?
Your area might have a local tourist information centre or tourist board like Visit Britain, full of ideas of places to explore – you do it abroad, why not do it in the UK?
Also, the local newspaper can tell you about events, festivals and all sorts of going-ons, that you can enjoy in your area. I, myself have found out about many happenings that are taking place in the local news or mags like Time Out. Other great resources are location specific blogs like ‘A Lady in London’ for London excursions or Stephanie Fox who talks about my home town, Newcastle. Google truly is your friend.
Some of the best fun I’ve had in London is when I’ve become a tour guide to family and friends when they come to visit. It’s not everyone’s idea of fun but when your mind is full of historical and interesting facts about a city you love, then it can be fun to share it with those eager to hear. When my American cousin came to visit one summer we walked from London Bridge all the way to Trafalgar Square taking in the London sights and quirks with me sharing details about my city of birth. You can find out more about your city this way too.
Living close to London I have gone on many day staycations like taking a cruise along the River Thames from Westminster to Hampton Court Palace and even ones that are just a train ride away like visiting the Hitchin Lavender Fields in Hertfordshire last year.
2. UK Urban Staycations
The UK has 69 cities – 69 – for you to explore and find out more about. Not all cities are created equal but find one close to you that intrigues you for whatever reason.
Some Christmases ago I escaped to Bath, home of Jane Austen between 1801 and 1806 and the setting of many scenes of her amazing novels. Or perhaps you are a massive chocolate-eating fan so you decide to visit Cadbury’s World in Birmingham to see how its made and engorge on a lot of chocolate! There literally is so much choice when it comes to a UK urban staycation.
3. Seek points of interest
What do you like to do? What would you find interesting that you’ve never thought of doing/visiting before? Find what you like and centre your next staycation around that.
- You like to party? Try Newcastle, Manchester and Leeds out for a great nightlife
- A shopaholic? Birmingham and Leeds to get those bargains different from where you live.
- A street art enthusiast? Bristol (birthplace of Banksy) and Brighton
The UK is full of endless other points of interest such as:
- National parks like Snowdonia where you can hike or go trampolining in a cave
- English Heritage sites like Stonehenge near Salisbury and Audley End House in Essex. The English Heritage is a charity that manages over 400 historic monuments, buildings and places.
- National Trust sites like The Vyne (a Tudor mansion in Basingstoke) and Dovedale in the Peak District. The National Trust is a charity that looks after over 300 places of historical interest and more than 200 gardens and parks.
You can plan a staycation around a brown sign you may spot on the roadside when driving. Brown signs direct people to tourist attractions and facilities and there are 93 types of brown signs. Wonderfully, this lady Amanda Hone has found such adventure and new things by ‘brown signing’ – check out her adventures – a beginner’s guide to ‘Brown Signing’
I, myself went on a microadventure due to a brown sign. I was bored, had finished work and I didn’t want to go home just yet so I saw a brown sign and decided to follow it and explore and the sight I got to behold!
4. Find your tribe
“All you need is some good company.”
Let’s be real – staycations in the UK can be expensive, sometimes more so than going abroad, which is a real shame. However, you can cut the costs by finding people to travel with.
Just get a group of friends who you would like, and want to travel with. I have seen so much of the UK with the following:
- girly weekend breaks – visited York with my childhood friends
- church groups
- organised events
With my church group, Hillsong Daytrippers I go on monthly day trips and sometimes extended weekend staycations – as a result, I got to gaze upon the beautiful Durdle Door.
With one of my friends every two months, we have a cultural outing in our city and take it in turns to organise and surprise one another – this can range from seeing a new immersive play at The Vaults in Waterloo to visiting a Japanese garden in Holland Park. So find yourself a ‘culture vulture’ partner!
What if you don’t have that kind of tribe yet? No excuse – Meetups is a great website to meet and do things with people who share similar interests with you. Who knows what new friend is around the corner?
If you advocate for solo travels, then you either have to suck it up and find a tribe to reduce your costs or take the L (the financial loss of it being more expensive solo)
5. Plan it!
The planning stage of a staycation can be stressful so I present two options:
- Find a friend within the group who loves to plan and will do it for you
- Assign responsibilities of organising the staycation to different people – like one is in charge of the accommodation, one is in charge of transport, etc. That way the burden is shared.
Finding your tribe means splitting the costs in the following:
Get yourself a nice place on Air BnBs or family-sized hotel rooms.
With planning how to get there – find out who can drive within your group. The driving, rental car and petrol costs can be shared if embarking on a road trip staycation.
Alternatively, if taking a train you can get GroupSave train tickets available for groups of 3 to 9 people giving a discount of 34% if travelling on off-peak trains. There are eight main types of UK railcards which offer different discounts and how and when you can use them – check it out to ensure what will make your travel cheaper. I have a Network Railcard which I paid £30 for and it gives me a 1/3 off when travelling in the South East England area – I have easily made over and above that cost in the savings.
Hiring a mini van/ coach as I did with my church gang to the Peak District is another option for larger groups as well as the Megabus or National Express (which also has student discounts). These options can be significantly cheaper than train options.
If you need help planning the route to somewhere within the UK, Rome to Rio is a good website detailing the different transport options on how to get to a destination. Its actually how I found out I could take a boat trip from Split to Dubrovnik.
If you opt for self-catering on your staycation (this is not me lol!) then food costs can be split. There is an app called Splitwise that you can download on both iPhone and Androids which allows you to keep track of spending and to split costs stress-free, detailing who owes who, so no one is out of pocket.
Group bookings of activities can be cheaper and often have discounts. If they do not always seek to negotiate with companies, often talking with them saying you are a group they can give you a little off. If you don’t ask you don’t get!
Bonus tip – JUST DO IT and stop talking about it.
There you have it – all my knowledgeable tips to help with your staycation planning. If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to drop them in the comments or alternatively let me know where you have decided to visit. Inspire me!
I hope you enjoy ‘exploring your backyard’ as much as I do!
Much Explorer Love,
The Five to Nine Traveller