As summer rolls around, travel becomes a hot topic of conversation. Instagram feeds become filled with beaches, graduates head off on backpacking adventures, and retirees pack up for their summer cruises.

But are any of these things actually the best choice?

There are of course benefits to travel. Most notable is the ability to learn about other cultures and ways of life that, if done right (and not through a colonial lens), can help us grow understanding, tolerance and a desire to care for the earth around us. But there are also downsides too. Cruises are terrible for the environment and not that safe, overtourism is pushing many places like Barcelona, Venice, Reykjavik, Thailand, the Philippines and more to breaking point, animal loving tourists unintentionally fund animal cruelty, and international flights can double or triple your carbon footprint in a matter of hours. I think it’s time to start thinking of other options.

I’m not saying you should never travel again, sometimes we do need to fly because of work or family commitments, or because we live somewhere remote, which is why we also need to push the aviation industry to clean up its act and rigorously pursue alternative fuel options. But there are also things we can do to dramatically reduce demand too. We can conduct work meetings and attend conferences digitally, we can roadtrip, we can take the train through most of Europe incredibly easily. Or, we can opt for a staycation within our own country.

In the UK, staycations haven’t always seemed very cool. When European airline prices plummeted in the 90s leaving the country suddenly became a lot more affordable. Choosing to travel within the UK over summer suddenly started to carry negative connotations; suggesting that people weren’t experiencing other cultures and were, therefore, less than, or were choosing boring and safe options.

I think it’s time we leave that horrible, shaming attitude behind us and instead reclaim the no-fly staycation. Not only is it cheaper, but it’s sustainable too, and opting for one is something we should be proud of. Here are some of the top benefits of the staycation.

Not having to wait at the airport or check your bags

This also counts for train trips around Europe, but one of my favourite parts of travelling within the UK is not having to get to an airport 3 hours early, ensuring all my liquids are under 100ml and crammed into a tiny plastic bag and taking my shoes off to go through a security machine.

Apart from the security between England and France, you can basically turn up 15 minutes before your train, get on with as big a bag and as many liquids as you’d like, and be transported from city centre to city centre with ease. While trains may take longer than flights, when you add on the travel time of getting to the airport, waiting at the airport, checking out of the airport and getting to the city in question, the time often doesn’t end up being all that different. Plus you can walk around a lot more on trains, none of your body parts swell, there’s no turbulence, you usually have wifi, and there’s a lot more scenery to look at too. Honestly, it’s just a nicer travel experience.

While driving is different, and a lot more work if you’re the driver, you do have the added benefits of taking as much luggage as you want and having total flexibility and agency around when you travel.

Discovering local culture & history

It’s easy to get complacent about how much culture we have in our own back yard in favour of heading further afield. But have a think: are there galleries, music venues, restaurants, bars or other experiences that you’ve always meant to check out, but never quite gotten around to, in your own area? This is incredibly common, as work, chores and social lives take over. Intentionally taking some rest time where we live provides us with the opportunity to do all those things we’ve always wanted to try, treating our own towns like new places to explore and discover. Plus, when you start looking around you often find things going on under your nose that you had no idea about.

If you decide to go further afield in your own country, that’s brilliant too. In the UK I’ve met so many northerners who’ve never visited the south, and so many southerners who’ve never been to Scotland. The UK, like many other countries, has a vast array of mountains, beaches, lakes, and cities filled with culture, it’s not worth missing out because society might tell us it’s more ‘special’ to travel to another country. This summer will be my first time visiting Manchester properly (for an arts festival), which is filled with rich history and culture. I can’t wait, and there’s just as much validity going to a Manchester as there is going to Croatia, it just depends on perspective.

The Lake District, one of my favourite parts of the UK to visit, and an easy drive from my hometown

They’re way less stressful to organise

Before you’ve even gotten to the holiday, sorting out the myriad logistics required to have your downtime can feel like an obstacle course in itself. Trying to understand pricing algorithms and coordinating flights, accommodation, insurance, itineraries, budget, avoiding or embracing peak season, and dealing with all the other tourists can be an incredible amount to take on, especially if you’re an anxious traveller or heading somewhere completely new.

Opting for a staycation eliminates a lot of this travel stress, which is key to actually enjoying your holiday. You can plan as much or as little as you want and you can change your plans with much more flexibility both in the run-up to your staycation and when you’re actually on it too.

Actually slowing down

Have you ever come back from a trip feeling more tired than before you left? I know I have. When you travel to another country, especially one that is well known amongst tourists and travellers, there can be a kind of invisible pressure to see and do all the ‘musts’; the things that you’re told you absolutely must see, do and document online, just in case this is the only time you get to visit.

In your own country, the stakes are a lot lower, meaning that you can actually take things slow and only choose to do things you’re interested in. No need to wake up early for that three-hour walking tour, no need to stand in a ridiculously long queue for a cultural icon if you don’t fancy it. After all, you only live a few hours down the road. Wake up at 11, get some brunch, read in a park. When the travel pressure is off you can actually take a break and do the things you always want to, but get too busy for.

No language barrier

I am a big believer in learning at least a little of the language of the place you’re visiting, even if it’s just to show you’re trying and not lazily sitting on colonial expectations that ‘everyone should speak English’ wherever you roam. But it’s also true that social anxiety is increasingly common, and adding the extra pressure of trying to communicate in an unfamiliar environment can be a genuine strain on some people’s mental health.

Staycationing completely removes this risk, allowing you to navigate your exploring with one less thing to cause complications. There’s nothing wrong with embracing this; visiting somewhere that is more familiar to you in its language and overall culture can still provide an enriching experience while lessening triggers and ensuring your mental wellbeing.

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Taking your pets with you

It’s difficult, and often not logistically possible, to take a pet with you on holiday. But leaving them behind can be stressful, and potentially very expensive if you have to pay someone to look after your pet or take them to kennels. Staying closer to home means you can bring animals like dogs along with you, so they’re there to join in the fun and you don’t have to feel guilty for leaving them behind.

Visiting friends who moved to other cities

It’s inevitable that, as time goes on, your friends start to scatter more and more across the country. When you’re always prioritising far off trips for your time off from work, soon years start passing and you only catch each other briefly at Christmas, sandwiched between obligatory family time.

Staycationing helps you conquer two birds with one stone, as you can head to your friend’s local city instead. Spend some quality time with people you love, plus you get to experience their home through their eyes, which guarantees better food, drinks, and all-round experiences that only come with local knowledge. Opting for a staycation provides the chance to intentionally prioritise bonding with people you love, and gives them the chance to share more of their world with you.

The Lit & Phil in Newcastle, one of my favourite places to take people when they come to visit

Less emissions

This is obvious, but still worth mentioning. Staying in your city or choosing train or road travel dramatically reduces the footprints we create:

The tank of a Boeing 747 holds over 200,000 liters (52,000 gallons) of kerosene when full — about as much fuel as 4,000 small cars. Taking off and climbing to altitude at the start of the trip are the most fuel-intensive phases. That means a short-haul flight will require more fuel per kilometer traveled than a long-haul flight: 75 grams of kerosene per kilometer (roughly 4 ounces per mile) per passenger for a flight of 250 kilometers (150 miles), for example, versus 33 grams per kilometer for a flight of 1,000 kilometers, according to IFEU.


Essentially, those short-haul flights to other parts of Europe are the least efficient, which is good seeing as they are the easiest to replace with train travel. Beyond CO2 jet engines also release a mix of nitrogen oxides, ozone, water vapour, soot and sulfurs, and scientists aren’t certain about exactly how bad these are for the environment.

The efficiency of trains will, of course, vary by country. For example, if trains are electric but still running on a grid system that predominantly powered by fossil fuels, they’re definitely not carbon neutral. That being said, they definitely produce significantly fewer emissions than flying regardless, and new advances in rail technology could pave the way for many trains in the future being hydrogen-powered, which produces no emissions except water. It’s an exciting prospect, and the more people opting for trains the more investment goes into this industry, eventually making it cheaper and more accessible for all of us.

So, even if you can’t stop flying altogether, why not look at things you can do to reduce the flights you take? Even taking one less flight a year is a start that has a big impact. I plan to spend this summer exploring Cornwall and a few other UK locations, all of which I’ll visit by train, I hope you’ll consider looking for similar options in your own neighbourhood too.