‘Solid rain for two weeks’: Readers share their experiences of rip-off British holidays

Damp squib: the weather is a frequent complaint when it comes to holidaying in Britain
Damp squib: the weather is a frequent complaint when it comes to holidaying in Britain - Getty

Is Britain the world’s biggest holiday rip-off? It’s a question our travel writer Abigail Butcher recently sought to answer, and her findings sparked a lively debate. With uninspiring cottages for £1,000 a week, shocking rail fares and extortionate meals out, Abi argued that the UK staycation boom has come to a sudden halt, and our readers, it seems, tend to agree.

“Imagine you are looking for a summer holiday for your family,” wrote Abi. “You want days on the beach, coastal walks, enjoyable meals out – but are worried about prices. You might assume, therefore, that the answer is to stay in Britain. To visit Cornwall, not Corfu; the Lake District rather than Tuscany. You’d be wrong.”

Abi couldn’t find accommodation for her family of four for a week in August for less than £890, and that was for a “decidedly charmless-looking apartment”. For something smart for a party of eight, “You are looking at over £3,000,” she said.

This seems to have struck a chord with our readers. From dining out to parking fees – many wished they had splashed out on flights abroad instead.

Dan Brown recently came back from a week in “wet, cold Scotland,” where he flew easyJet, and hired a car in an attempt to keep costs to a minimum. Although only splashing out on meals, fuel and a few entrance fees, the holiday totalled £2,200: “Ridiculous. A waste of money,” he wrote.

'English seaside towns are dumps' said one reader
'English seaside towns are dumps' said one reader - Getty

Eric Taylor remarked that, pre-divorce, he took almost all his family holidays in Devon and Cornwall, and they were “fleeced” while travelling during peak times to align with school holidays. Eric remarks that since his divorce, “I’ve been on several foreign five-star holidays and not one has cost more than a week in a self-catering Cornish cottage.”

‘English seaside towns are dumps’

“Yes, it’s possible to holiday in the UK more cheaply,” wrote Abi, suggesting a stay in a caravan or the less desirable coastlines in northern England, but to this, reader Dan added: “English seaside towns are dumps. I wouldn’t try those either. We are all ripped off.”

For reader, SA Leslie, it’s not just British holidays, but the entire expensive package. “Everything about the country has become a complete rip-off. Cost of transport, food, energy, days or nights out, parking… even dropping people off at the airport – £5 for literally two minutes in Edinburgh airport.”

“Why anyone wants to visit this country is beyond me when there are cheaper, safer, nicer, cleaner, and dare I say it, friendlier countries.”

Not everyone agreed, however, with Peter Tonkin suggesting, “The UK is expensive, but with all things considered it’s not that bad. Try places like Norway or Denmark to see what ‘expensive’ really means.” In Peter’s experience, “France is expensive unless you go for the daily lunch menu, which is normally pretty uninspiring.”

In Barcelona, Abi found food and drinks prices to be cheaper than in the UK, but reader BlackCountryCad, has other thoughts. “Where did the reviewer go in Barcelona to find prices for food and drink that cheap?! I went 13 years ago and it was more expensive than the prices listed.”

Is Barcelona a better deal?
Is Barcelona a better deal? - Getty

‘Expensive, complicated, ancient and often dirty’

There were, in fact, several readers from overseas who were happy to weigh in on the debate. After spending 32 years in southern France and Luxembourg, Nigel Plumpton is back in the UK with his family and is frankly “appalled by the complete lack of value for money in the hospitality sector”.

Fortunately, Nigel has retained a holiday home in southern Spain. “Very simply put, everything is twice the price in the UK, and half the quality. We tend to eat at home all the time.”

Similarly, Ima Claret visits Britain regularly, while also stopping off here before visiting other parts of Europe. Uninterested in beachy places (they live in Australia), Irma’s experience of British accommodation is that it is “inferior to Europe for the price” – particularly hotels and Airbnbs.

“Once upon a time, Airbnb was hailed as a cost-cutting alternative to traditional self-catering properties,” wrote Abi. But these prices have shot up in the post-pandemic years. “According to the analytics firm AirDNA, the average nightly price for a UK rental in 2024 has risen by 12 per cent since 2023, to £153. In France, Italy and Spain, the average rates are £107, £124 and £121 respectively.”

Just dropping someone off at the airport could cost you
Just dropping someone off at the airport could cost you - Alamy

On a positive note, Ima has found “some real bargains” staying in country pubs in the north of England, and she gives a special shout out to the Alma Inn near Colne on the Yorkshire-Lancashire border: “Most of us loved many of the regional cities and towns,” but found issues accessing the train system, which is “expensive, complicated, ancient and often dirty”.

“We usually find a very reasonable cottage for around £500,” wrote reader AB. “We don’t holiday at the beach though. We prefer to see stunning landscapes. We are off to Shropshire again soon, where we shall enjoy canal and train trips. Much depends on one’s expectations, of course, but there are reasonable holidays to be had.”

‘The weather was solid rain for nearly the whole two weeks’

The most British of all complaints, the weather of course, featured in both Abi’s piece and the readers’ complaints, with Tony Dalby commenting on a visit to Scotland with his two children in the summer of 2004: “The weather was solid rain for nearly the whole two weeks.” The only thing that saved their holiday, said Tony, was the Olympics showing on television. “At least we could hunker down and watch that.”

However, not everyone is a sun-seeker. “If your only criteria for a good holiday is blistering sun every day, then feel free to endure the airport hassle and sunbed wars in sunnier climes,” wrote Baller Man. “If, however, you appreciate good English food, beautiful countryside, history, architecture and stunning beaches, then you have everything here on your doorstep.”

“The staycation boom is well and truly over,” wrote Abi.