The summer holidays have started in earnest. But when Paul and Rachel Groves were looking for great views, lots to do and stunning scenery, they didn’t have to look too far.
The Lichfield couple decided to shun the hustle, bustle and endless queues at airport check ins in favour of a stay-at-home holiday, or “staycation”.
The decision meant they spent a fraction of the price of a normal holiday and they also got to see the delights of their home town and farther afield.
And they enjoyed the process so much, Rachel even sent postcards to friends and family while they were “away”
Former Birmingham Post reporter Paul said: “The West Midlands has some of the most beautiful places to visit and people come from other countries to visit here, so it seems a shame not to see it for yourself.
“Birmingham is a great place to go and when people visit from abroad, they say that as well.
“When relatives come to see us, they usually have so much to do they have to try to cut things out of their itineraries, which tells you how great it is.
“Being close to home meant we could take picnics on trips, or eat at home before we set out and all of that helps keep the costs right down.
“For those people that need to find the right kind of accommodation, there are lots of places to stay and if cost is an issue then it’s best to shop around.
“We spent a fraction of what we’d normally spend on a holiday and we loved it so much we’ve booked another week off for later in the year.”
Paul, who is a 41-year-old, PR and marketing consultant and Rachel, a 35-year-old photographer, spent a week ‘away’ in July and spent less than £200 on fuel and entry fees for visiting nearby attractions. The couple, who used to think nothing of jetting off to Paris or driving around America for their holidays, began taking holidays closer to home after Rachel was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Paul said combining visits to farm shops, cafes, having picnics, visiting Erasmus Darwin’s House, Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Chester Zoo gave them a great break and they’re planning on doing another one before the year is finished.
Ideally, their trip would have had a lower carbon footprint had they been able to use public transport, but Rachel’s diagnosis meant driving by car was far easier for the couple.
Previous to this trip they spent a week in a cottage in County Durham which cost £300 plus meals and spending money.
This, Paul says, is far less than the £2,000 spent when they drove around the West Coast of America for two weeks, five years ago.
“We discovered that the hassle and the time it takes to travel abroad can mean that you spend more time recovering, than you do enjoying yourself,” he says.
“For us, taking UK breaks means we can have more of them, for less money, which is far better for us.”
Another couple who are looking to have a UK holiday are Debbie and Steve Aubrey, from Weoley Castle, in Birmingham.
The couple, may not be staying that close to home, but they’ve decided to forsake their foreign holidays for UK shores. Previously they were so used to foreign travel they held their wedding in Gambia two years ago.
But the on-going credit crisis as well as growing environmental concerns means they plan to have a Staycation and stick with the UK this year.
Debbie, a 41-year-old transcriber, says: “One reason for us trying to do this is because of the money. We also got slightly scared because of the amount of tour operators filing bankruptcy, leaving holiday makers stranded.
“I can’t risk being left abroad so we’ll be in the UK this year.”
Debbie and Steve, a 44-year-old warehouse manager, investigated all kinds of alternatives and have opted to stay in a cottage in Scotland instead.
“We considered camping, and lots of other options, but we just felt some time in Scotland would be a good alternative. We used to go long haul at least once a year, sometimes twice, and so although we’re not staying very close to home this time, for us it’s a real change.
“Spending your holidays in Gambia, USA, Canary Islands and Rhodes is a massive change from Scotland, but we decided to make a change this year.
“I’m sure our carbon footprint will be much lower as a result.”
Energy efficiency experts are also making the most of the downturn, and the lack of disposable cash, by letting people know their holiday choices could be helping to save the planet.
Lynn Melling, of the West Midlands Energy Saving Trust advice centre, is one such adviser who is urging people to choose low-carbon options when seeking a holiday.
The general rules include making the most of your local area and embracing all that nature has to offer, carbon dioxide emissions are generated in larger quantities when we choose to fly and so staying local can be much better for the environment.
She says: “As a nation many of us have lost the art of enjoying what we have on our doorstep and even in our own garden. What can taste more delicious than a plateful of home grown veg with the satisfaction of knowing they’re all your own work and they haven’t flown thousands of miles?
“And there is a rich tapestry of activities just waiting to be discovered just a stone’s throw from where we live, from walking through the countryside to exploring our heritage and culture.
“Much of this home-grown entertainment can cost nothing or very little and will help reduce our negative impact on the environment.
“And with a little bit of imagination and planning – lots of things are possible.”
The Energy Saving Trust are encouraging people to do a number of things to make stay at home holidays far more enjoyable.
Top tips include joining the National Trust who have a range of properties across the country that are free to enter once a membership fee is paid.
There are ample opportunities to sample culture at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery or Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre and they also propose that taking a good walk in one of the region’s parks is a great way to make a holiday more environmentally friendly.
For information on other green tips, call the Energy Saving Trust advice centre for the West Midlands on 0800 512 012 or visit www.energysavingtrust.org.uk