/ Travel & Leisure

Are cheap holidays a thing of the past?

Exchange rate sign

The pound is so weak it’s making even the most basic holiday items seem costly. So is it time for us to re-evaluate our holiday expectations and accept that we can no longer holiday abroad on a tight budget?

Despite being aware that the dear old pound is well past its heyday, I couldn’t help but feel shocked every time I went to pay for something on my recent two week holiday in France.

Paying for campsites, food in supermarkets, souvenirs and clothes and eating out in restaurants all seemed as expensive – if not (gasp!) more – than back in Blighty.

The sterling slump

Little wonder – the sterling slump began in the second half of 2008, when a pound would get you a healthy €1.40. Compare that to the €1.08 that I got and it’s easy to see why costs seem high. As one British woman who has a house in France remarked: ‘I don’t even bother converting in my head anymore – it’s not worth it for a few pence – just treat Euros as equivalent to pounds.’

And that’s exactly what I was doing, which is a far cry from my last few European holidays, when it was affordable to eat out everyday without worrying about the grand total at the end of your holiday.

Plus, it’s not just a problem with the Euro. Back in 2007-08 Brits came to expect a healthy two dollars to their pound – now, we’re lucky if we get $1.50. And other currencies, like the Swedish krona and the Swiss franc, continue to stand strong against the pound.

How costs compare

So what does this mean to the average British traveller? The Independent released some interesting research at the weekend, showing just how much prices have leapt.

It compared costs of various tourist activities across the world between 2008 and today. For example, child admission to Disneyland Paris was £28 and is now £46 – a 65% increase. And if you want to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the cost has rocketed a startling 92%, from £77 to £148.

But it isn’t only the extravagant things that dent holiday funds. In May, the Post Office compared a typical one-week family shopping basket across a range of popular holiday destinations.

Many countries were on a par with the UK when it came to the likes of bread, milk and eggs – just as we found in France. And if you think it’s pricy to dine out in the UK, six of the fourteen countries they compared, including Croatia, France, Portugal and Greece, worked out more expensive when it came to a three-course evening meal.

Is this the end of cheap holidays?

But is it right to grumble? My generation has certainly grown up in the era of cheap flights and a strong pound – we’ve come to expect holidays to be cheap. We’ve got used to European mini-breaks and long-haul holidays where we’re positively loaded when we have pounds in our pockets.

Haven’t we had it good for a long time now? Perhaps it’s time to accept that if we want a lovely holiday we’ll have to save up for it – and take fewer trips abroad. Or have you found a way to keep the costs down when you’re heading overseas?


Sterling will recover, so I believe it is pessimistic to say that this is the end of cheap holidays.

The Euro will soon crumble into the doldrums and unless the US does something drastic to reduce their debts, the dollar will follow the Euro. In the end, we will all be back at square 1.

The recession will end and we will all live happily ever after. Just have patience.

I guess everything has been getting cheaper, not just holidays. We opt to buy products and services off the internet, we go for special deals at the supermarket, our desire for a bargain will never subside.

I think now we are seeing a reverse in that prices are going up, but only because they’ve been going down almost exponentially in the last decade or so. Just think how much a plasma tv was not so long ago, now you can easily get one with HD for under £500.

I lived in Germany and Holland and everything there is generally more expensive, however, wages are commensurate with this. What switching to the euro did for europe was to increase the price of all goods, but also increase the basic wages, making it difficult for not-so-prosperous nations to keep up with the big hitters (France, Germany, Netherlands) resulting in the situation we have now.

I was fortunate enough to be living in Holland when the bottom fell out of sterling, every month I got more for my money when paying across into UK savings. At one point, I bought a tv in the Uk to take back to Holland and it was half price, yes, half price!

So personally, I think all cheap goods and services are at an end, sure it’s been cheap to fly around europe for a while, but hey, we all took advantage of it right? I know I did, and now it’s over. Never mind eh? Just the one holiday in Tuscany this year then Tarquin 🙂

Loskee says:
15 July 2011

DIY holidays are still good value. We are just back from 11 nights in North Portugal. Flight for two to Oporto was £175 inclusive of luggage etc etc. Hotels ranged from 40 euros to 80 euros a night per room B&B. 1 Week car hire was £127. Eating out in Portugal was still good value a meal for two with wine 25 euros. Where we were was mainly Portugese and Spanish tourists and few Brits which may have been one reason for the good value.
Inclusive of everything(Car Park, flights, hotels, car hire and insurance) it was £1100 foreleven nights for two of us and we spent a maximum of £600.
Some may think this a lot but I think it was pretty good value as the quality of it all was good too. I guess that a similar package deal would easily have cost double and you putting all your trust in a stranger to book it for you. I have booked this kind of DIY holiday twice a year for the last 7 years since we had a disaster of a package tour to Kefalonia with Olympic Holidays and the agent gave us no back up for the subsequent insurance claim.

graham says:
16 July 2011

The last time we went abroad was to Spain [ Malaga ] that was in 2008,and we found it expensive when you take in to account all the extras,insurance,airport tax,exchange rates,travel ,and all the other things,so since then we have stayed in Scotland and have had a fabulous time up north and plan to have most of our holidays in the UK its so much easier .

Y Chan says:
6 September 2011

We are Chinese living in Britain but we usually go abroad for our holidays. One of the reasons is, we did not have much positive experience when taking holidays in England. There is a strong perception against foreigners in Britain and it seems to go worse in the past few years (perhaps due to the portraits or stereotyping by the media?). We found holidaying abroad much more comfortable. We have been to Switzerland and Holland several times and we are still looking forward to the next one. Everyone we met whether they are cashiers in the supermarket or ticket collectors at the station are very friendly – something we seldom experience in Britain. I’m sure we all have different experience, and people may not agree, but like everyone else, we have to right to express our views.