Amid confusing messaging from the government on whether or not to book summer holidays in the UK, Matt Hancock on Thursday asked people to be “patient”, warning that there was still “a lot of uncertainty”. On Tuesday, Hancock said he had booked a family holiday to Cornwall.
The Guardian spoke to four Britons about their plans to attempt at least a UK getaway this summer.
‘We have three trips booked and won’t cancel’
Gill Dimbleby, 75, from Northampton, has booked three holidays in the UK for this year, and is undeterred by Boris Johnson’s latest advice.
“My husband and I have a trip to Cornwall booked at the end of May. The government does change its mind quite often, but we won’t cancel and just hope we will be able to go.”
Dimbleby shopped around and feels lucky to have secured affordable accommodation in National Trust properties amid high demand for UK getaways and surging prices, much like last year. “Already in November there weren’t many options in Cornwall left, so I’m glad we booked.”
For the couple’s second holiday, which they take every year with their two older grandchildren in July or August, they have booked a venue in Suffolk. “We tried taking them to Dorset, where we used to live, but by January, Dorset was already fully booked for self-catering accommodations during the school holidays,” Dimbleby said.
“So we’ve now booked a Dorset holiday for the October half-term. We managed to get a house to share with our daughter’s family as a treat from us as they’ve done so well working from home and coping with two young sons.”
‘If UK holidays will be forbidden this summer, something will have gone very wrong’
Gareth Colwell, 38, from Southsea, booked a summer trip to Devon last Tuesday for himself, his wife and their son, and thus far, he has no regrets.
“I booked before Grant Shapps and Matt Hancock made their confusing statements, but I’m not concerned about the conflicting advice – it’s par for the course for this administration – and it’s clear that after spending all of last summer downplaying concerns, the government has just changed their tack to super-cautious, somewhat belatedly,” he said.
“I have a feeling it’s mostly a communications strategy. The general consensus is, people are booking trips, and you want to get in there, even if there is a risk of losing your deposit. If you delay booking, everything will be gone.”
The young family’s weeklong stay in a mobile home will cost £1,700 – significantly more than they paid for a similar holiday by the beach in Cornwall last August – but Colwell believes the risk of losing their deposit will be their last concern should travel within the UK still be forbidden by the summer.
“If UK holidays won’t be possible by then, something will have gone very, very wrong.”
‘Prices are through the roof, but we need to get back to normal’
In Greater Manchester, Alison, 25, who works in marketing, was also frustrated by changing government advice. “I don’t think the constant negativity helps – people don’t need that right now.”
She and her fiance have booked a week away in a cottage in Cornwall at the end of April, costing them around £500, but Alison is not worried about cancelling if restrictions are still in place, because she can “get the money back or rebook at a later date”. “We just need a change of scenery,” she said. “We’ve been staring at the same four walls, going on the same walk … We just want to get away from it all for a bit.”
Alison said prices for UK holidays were “through the roof” and considered booking a holiday abroad as it was much cheaper, but in the end decided it was too much of a risk to leave the country.
“If the government allows us to travel, we will go even if restaurants and shops are not open. We need to get back to normal. Once the older generations have the vaccine, the economy needs to get back on its feet. We cannot live like this for ever.”
‘Travelling before August would be silly, even close to home’
Siobhan McGovern, 56, from Edinburgh, is planning to travel 20 minutes by train to holiday in North Berwick on the eastern coast of Scotland this summer.
She feels it’s important to stay closer to home this year because it’s safer and she can support her local economy. “People jetting off to warmer climates at the first opportunity, I want to ask why,” she said.
“I adore foreign travel and am desperate for a break, but the pandemic has made me reassess what’s important. I want to follow the gospel according to Greta Thunberg and stay local.
“I think attempting to travel before August would be silly. I’m not even remotely concerned about my own safety, but don’t want to put others at risk. I’m filtering out Boris Johnson’s nonsense on this, and am just waiting for more advice from Nicola Sturgeon. Fingers crossed!”