Summer in the time of Corona is drawing to a close. Probably a summer unlike most have experienced before. There was some respite – thanks Mr. Covid for that, it was genuinely appreciated and didn’t go unnoticed. So what did Summer 2020 bring? More home offices. The re-opening of pubs. And the return of holidays, but in a different form. Enter the staycation.
Coronavirus has had a monstrous effect on most areas of society. But few industries have experienced such a monumental shake up as travel. As the virus swept round the world in Mid March, sadly the most effective way to halt its contagion was for countries to close their borders, and thus international travel became one of the first casualties of Covid.
As the wave subsided, international travel has opened up a little. ‘Quarantine passages’ appeared; countries tentatively taken off the 2 week isolation list on a case by case basis as the infection rate simmered. People took their chance, and many headed off (myself included), mask and sanatiser at the ready to salvage as much of the summer as possible. But as the infection rate has crept back up, most countries have been put back on the dreaded list. The all too familiar buzz from the ever-trusty BBC notifying us that Spain, France and most other European destinations are now ‘on the list’ have left many wondering if the faff and stress of Europe is even worth it.
The alternative? Why, the trusty Great British Isles, of course. There’s no 2 week quarantine for a weekend in the Lakes or Dorset. No stuffy airplanes with the threat of corona being recycled round the interior. And no worry about medical insurance fiascos (thanks Brexit for the clarity around that one). And so as a nation we’ve swapped Sevillian streets for the Norfolk broads, Budapest’s baths for Bath’s spas and Roman restaurants for fish and chips. The staycation is having a well deserved moment.
One of the best opportunities the staycation has to offer is the chance to explore and appreciate the natural beauty of our own country. Some of the most popular staycation destinations, such as Dorset, Scotland, Norfolk, the Lakes, the Peak District and the Cotswolds have exploded in popularity this summer, and for good reason. I can’t claim to have visited all these places, but when they’ve been on every other Instagram story for the last 3 months, you can practically tick it off the list. No, I jest of course, but when you do see a spectacular span of the Dorset coastline under a brilliant bright blue sky it is hard to believe you are viewing an English landscape instead of the Sicilian coast. Or the rugged hills, mountains and lakes of Scotland – is that actually the highlands, or is that landscape eerily similar to Frodo and Sam trekking through Middle Earth, aka New Zealand?
My own staycation was in a tiny village in Somerset called Embrough (not Edinburgh) about 20 minutes outside Bath. This was my first experience in the west country, and it was great. A beautiful Airbnb in a converted barn. A Chinese takeaway, high tea in Bath, a walk around a lake (culminating in rescuing new sunglasses from a mudslide – I won’t get into it), a roast dinner and brunch in Britain’s smallest cathedral city, Wells. Not all in one day. But this very wholesome long weekend spent sloping round yellow stoned Roman cities and deep green fields was every bit as satisfying as any previous holiday abroad (despite the hit and miss weather), and a welcome reminder that you don’t necessarily need to jump on a plane to enjoy a break. And that is coming from a self confessed unseasoned ‘staycationer’ such as myself.
More pros of staycations in the summer of Corona is the ease and lack of stress. Many people have had holidays cancelled this year in one way or another. I waved goodbye to a fortnight in Vietnam back in March, and going through airlines and insurance companies and travel agencies to get the flight money back was a right palava. But with a staycation, there is no risk of battling with embittered airlines for a refund. If you can drive to said destination (or in my case find a friend who can and is willing to take you in return for DJ services), then the only thing you’re booking beforehand is accommodation. And this is where the beauty of Airbnb lies – of course not only do you get beautiful properties up and down the country, but they adhere to pretty great cancellation policies. So if you can see which way the wind is blowing and need to cancel at the last minute, you’re normally entitled to a full refund right up to a week before departure. Basically, this convoluted point is that staycations are a lot more flexible, and whilst living through a pandemic, this is quite an attractive pro.
When flights are often cheaper than extortionate train tickets and with the British weather as unpredictable as it is even in summer, I’ve rarely considered a week in the UK as a substitute for one abroad. I was lucky enough to get a lovely 2 week hol in France – but was this was probably my last gander abroad for a while. Covid’s effect on foreign travel changes everything. The threat of quarantine on return, the difficulty of getting full refunds with cancellations looking increasingly likely as Covid once again rears its head, and the fact that staycations are actually just as nice as a holiday abroad suddenly makes them a very appealing alternative for the foreseeable. Travel, like most other things, has had to adapt this year.
Arise the staycation!