Planning a great escape this year? Follow our staycation guide

After more than two months in lockdown the public has been given a few glimmers of hope for a return to normality. But although some schools look set to reopen from next week, and there is more freedom to roam outdoors, health secretary Matt Hancock has said the possibility of a relaxed break abroad is unlikely this summer.

Which means many families will be looking at the possibility of a “staycation” and with UK holiday parks and tourist attractions gearing up to open their doors with strict guidelines on social distancing, and space for far fewer people, it will surely be a summer like no other.

When can we go on holiday?

Under the current rules, day trips to outdoor spaces are permitted but taking any kind of overnight trip, including to visit a second home, is not. Hotels and bed and breakfasts remain closed. Some holiday parks are telling customers that they expect to stay closed well into June.

There is expectation that the tourist industry could start to reopen from the beginning of July, mooted by culture secretary Oliver Dowden last week. The government has been keen to push that this will only be possible with social distancing to ward off a possible second spike.

VisitBritain has called for an extra bank holiday this year, potentially around the school half-term holiday in October, in order to make up for lost earnings from the two May bank holidays spent in lockdown.

Where can we go when things do open up?

Many people will be eager to get into the countryside, which may result in a rush, albeit short-lived, towards rural locations, according to Marloes de Vries of analysts Mintel.

“There will be a temporary increase in demand for rural and remote destinations,” she says. “Consumers locked down in small homes in cities will be keen to enjoy nature and open spaces.”

Outdoor spaces are also likely to prove popular as they allow for social distancing but should large numbers focus on the same destinations, the element of isolation could be lost.

Claudia Unger, an analyst at research firm Phocuswright, says the common hotspots are Cornwall, the Cotswolds and the Lake District but she believes people will search beyond those. She says: “Wales and the Yorkshire Dales come to mind, and, of course, the Highlands. These are known for their tranquility, scenic beauty and isolation – which could look very different when hordes of tourists come in.”

How much will it cost?

Although many people may find that they have more in their pockets now as they aren’t spending on travel and entertainment, there is a huge uncertainty about the future of the economy and the looming recession. As a result, those who are hoping to go on holiday this summer aren’t expected to splash out on short breaks and weekends away, instead, opting to spend on one family getaway.

“Travellers tend to prioritise their main holiday in difficult economic times and cut back on top-up/short breaks of one to three nights,” says de Vries.

This is especially likely as many workers will have stockpiled or carried over annual leave, giving plenty of time for longer breaks, she says. “As a result, family/beach holidays should prove more resilient than holiday types which tend to be shorter, such as city breaks.”

The tourism industry has been crippled and will be looking to recoup some losses when it reopens, meaning costs may rise amid heavy demand, says Unger. Typically, school holidays mark the beginning of heightened prices but consumers should be ready for earlier spikes.

This could lead to families looking for alternative options such as Airbnb. But Unger says prices here will also rise in the most popular locations. “Airbnb is a mixed bag: houses and accommodation available for sole use will likely see a spike in enquiries and prices – in countryside locations,” she says. “However, renting out a spare bedroom or apartments in city-centre locations will likely remain in low demand.”

Do I need different travel insurance if holidaying in the UK?

Some travel insurance policies don’t include UK cover but a good one should set out what countries are and are not covered. Consumers should look at their documents before they depart and see whether the cover is included. If it is not, insurance for the UK is widely available.

You may question why you should take out insurance for a “staycation” as medical cover is unlikely to be necessary because of the NHS. However, it can cover for train and flight cancellations and delays, holiday cancellation, lost or damaged luggage and valuables which are lost.

The travel destination will typically need to be a certain distance away from the home, such as 25 miles, before it comes into effect and many policies insist on a minimum amount of time for the duration of the trip, such as three nights.

How will we get anywhere with restrictions on the transport network?

Research suggests that there is low confidence in travelling on public transport. That, combined with the low cost of petrol, will mean people will be more likely to travel by car, leading to possible jams. For those who do take public transport, prices may also increase.

“Costs are likely to rise as fewer people will be allowed ‘on board’ (trains, ferries and airplanes). There are also additional deep-cleaning and disinfection costs which means more time is needed for the turnaround of a rental car or aircraft. A plane on the ground loses money – the same would be true for a rental car that’s waiting to be serviced before it can be leased out again,” says Unger.

Sounds like things are going to be very different this year …

Haven, one of the largest holiday parks companies, says it will reopen at the beginning of July but with limits on the number of people who can come, as well as measures to ensure social distancing. Centre Parcs is also working to reopen with social distancing.

The coming holiday seasoncould see one-way systems for people to navigate tourist attractions such as heritage sites, as well as pre-booking, additional hand-sanitiser stations and staff dressed in PPE.

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