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Plane or train: UK staycations that are more affordable than abroad

Three children standing on a beach

With staff shortages at airlines and airports causing flight cancellations and long queues at check-in and security, perhaps a staycation is a better option than a family holiday abroad this year. There’s certainly no shortage of things to see and do around the UK. And holidaying in Britain means you can avoid the stress of airports and flights and enjoy a much more relaxed start and end to your trip.

So if you’re looking for your next family adventure, why not consider the attractions on your doorstep (or just a short road or rail trip away) rather than automatically reaching for your passport? You could save time, hassle and money, and still make memories with your kids to last a lifetime.

UK staycation or overseas holiday?

There’s an endless list of fantastic attractions in various cities, towns and even small villages throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that are perfect for families, meaning you won’t struggle to find the ideal staycation spot right here in the UK.

As part of our latest campaign, we have chosen some of the most popular UK destinations and highlighted a must-do attraction for each place. We’ve grouped these into five categories - adventure, history and heritage, beach, city break and countryside - to showcase just how much there is to see and do in the UK.

For each of these destinations, we’ve taken a range of factors into consideration, such as the one-way travel time from London (chosen for its position as the UK’s capital city), the round-trip fuel price as indicated by the Go Compare fuel calculator, and if any stops are required before arriving at the destination.

We’ve also compared each UK destination with an overseas location, finding a similar attraction for all of them to show that it really is possible to have an almost identical experience on British soil. For the overseas destinations, we’ve calculated the travel time from London Heathrow Airport, in addition to the flight cost based on the best price found on SkyScanner, and if any stopovers are needed.

So, which UK destinations are coming up just as good as, if not better than, similar overseas getaways? You can find out more by checking out our full campaign, but for a sneak peak, keep reading.

Living the beach life

Beach breaks are an excellent choice for families. A bucket and spade set can keep little ones entertained for hours, and whenever the heat gets too much, you can all head for a dip.

It’s often assumed that jetting off to foreign shores is the only way to experience soft golden sands and clear waters. But with the UK benefiting from a plethora of beautiful shorelines, is there actually any need to catch a flight? Brighton, Newquay, Blackpool, Torquay, Llandudno and the Isle of Wight are all praised for their stunning beaches, and they are all a five hour journey or less from London, meaning you needn’t travel far for the full beach experience. Perfect if you have tots in tow.

Of course, there are many picturesque beaches all over the world, including in Europe, which is home to breathtaking sandy spots such as Playa San Juan in Alicante, Spain, Coco Beach in Nice, France and Lagos Beach in Lagos, Portugal. But, if you’d prefer to avoid the airport, there’s a good chance you can still have the beach holiday you’re longing for in the UK. Remember though - it can still get hot in the UK so it’s important to protect your children in the sun and try to keep them cool.

The adventure of a lifetime

Adventure is out there, and if you have your family with you, you might want your kids to see the world. There’s no denying that taking children on trips abroad allows them to experience different cultures. However, travelling long distances with little ones can be stressful at times, particularly if you have to move through busy airports and take long flights.

The good news is, you can make sure your kids experience something different without having to hop on a plane. For example, while you could travel to Tromsø in Norway for some whale watching, you can also get a glimpse of amazing sea life in the UK. The Whitby coast in Yorkshire hosts both minke and humpback whales, meaning you don’t need to travel aboard for such a memorable experience. Your brood is bound to be in awe of the variety of marine life found just off UK shores.

A slice of history

Getting youngsters interested in history can seem like a challenge, but not if you choose the right attractions to pique their interest. From the impressive National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France, to the iconic Statue of Liberty in New York City, USA, there is a wealth of history and heritage in each corner of the globe that can spark all the family’s imagination. That being said, the UK boasts its fair share of history with something new to discover at every turn.

Take your little kids to discover the mystery behind one of the world’s most famous landmarks, Stonehenge in Salisbury, or head to Cornwall to explore the ancient fortress of St Michael’s Mount. Meanwhile Liverpool offers a look back at its music scene with its Beatles Magical Mystery Tour, while The Deathly Dark Ghost Tour of York gives an insight into the city's fascinating history through humorous ghost stories of days gone by. Bear in mind that with an 8pm start time and plenty of dark humour, this is one best saved for older children and adults.

A city staycation

From Barcelona and Paris to Madrid and Nuremberg, there are so many different cities throughout the world that are waiting for you to visit. But if you’re keen for a taste of city life without having to grab your passport and herd your family onto a flight, there are so many superb destinations here in the UK.

The Roman city of Chester is steeped in history and has an array of attractions for adults and kids alike. Discover more at the Deva Roman Experience, where you can take a self-guided tour. Meanwhile, LEGOLAND Discovery Centre in Manchester is the perfect indoor playground family attraction for both big and small kids, while Liverpool is home to Anfield Stadium, where you can walk in the footsteps of football legends.

A countryside retreat

From the verdant Provence countryside surrounding Cannes, France, to the exquisite tulip gardens at Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands, to stargazing in the Tuscan night’s sky in Italy and viewing the spectacular Swiss scenery by railway, there is so much beauty to see in the world. However, if you want your family to have the chance to embrace nature without travelling too far, the UK is renowned for its charming countryside too.

Perfect for chilled out family trips that give you a chance to escape the stresses of everyday life and absorb fresh air and unspoiled vistas, the Scottish Highlands offer dramatic views and plenty of adventure for energetic kids and adults. Clent in the heart of the Midlands is also a great location for long walks, or why not pack your bikes and enjoy a group cycle? Meanwhile, Cragside House in Northumberland features gardens bursting with brightly coloured rhododendrons, as well as a towering collection of trees called the Pinetum. When the inevitable cries of ‘I’m hungry’ ring out, just make your way to the tea rooms for some tasty refreshments.

Where to next?

Heading off on a family holiday abroad is fun and exciting, especially since many of us have not been able to for such a long time. However, it’s clear the UK is also a great staycation spot, with many popular must-see attractions right on your doorstep.

So, where to next? Let us know your holiday plans using #UKHolidaysVSAbroad.