I’m on holiday this week

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about social norms, and how observing environmental behaviours makes them more normal. Conversely, “where there is no social or cultural norm around a particular low-carbon behaviour, it sends a powerful signal: this type of behaviour is not typical or widespread.”

Flying is one such behaviour. In recent polling for 10:10, they asked if people knew anyone who actively chooses not to fly for environmental reasons. 85% of people said no, they don’t know any such person. We clearly need more examples of people making that decision, making it more normal and encouraging others to do likewise.

We don’t fly as a family. That’s a decision we’ve made for environmental reasons. My wife and I haven’t flown on holiday for over ten years. We’ve both taken one flight each for work in that time, and we will take the kids on a plane at some point for an adventure. But by and large, we don’t fly.

We’ve been to France on the train and on the ferry. We’ve taken the boat to Ireland. We regularly holiday in Scotland or Wales. Yesterday, if all has gone to plan, we caught the train from Luton down to Portsmouth, and then got the hovercraft across to the Isle of Wight.

I was lucky enough to have a very international childhood. There are many places I’d love to visit, and perhaps one day I will, when there are more options for sustainable travel. If my own kids want to get out and see the world when they’re old enough, that’s great. In the meantime, I don’t think we’re missing out by holidaying more locally. I’ve never been to the Isle of Wight. Hovercrafts are obviously the most badass form of public transport, and this is the only commercial hovercraft line in the world.

Do you holiday locally? Have you decided not to fly? How easy do you find it to talk about? And what can we do to make it more normal?


  1. I’m a bad boy. I have flown about twice a year for the last half-dozen years. BUT I always offset my flights, giving maybe twice as much as various websites say is necessary. There are those who say offsetting often doesn’t work, so I try to do it locally. This year I made a deal with my local RSPB office (walking distance!) that I would give them a ‘donation’ (as RSPB HQ doesn’t support offsetting), they would use it to increase their autumn tree order (they are buying in bulk so my £££s go further), then I will help with the planting. So I will know exactly where my money goes.
    Also, my last air flight was to spent 3 months in southern Africa doing practical conservation work…)

    1. Offsetting has had a bad press, but I fully support if for when we do need to fly. And doing it semi-formally through personal tree planting is fun too. It feels more real than paying a preset fee to an organisation.

  2. I hardly ever fly anymore thanks to my dog. We have been discovering lots of places by car for the last 6 years. I think Dave makes a great point about offsetting when you do have to fly.

  3. Stopped flying 15 years ago – apart from one short trip to Islay (for the whisky) from Glasgow, the sort of flight that might be electric one day since road travel is long and arduous. Best things about travelling in Europe are that once out of the UK the trains are superb; you get to leave from the wonderful St Pancras station where we always celebrate the start of our holiday with a glass of champagne under the beautiful arched roof; you arrive in the middle of cities – for instance we always have a coffee opposite the magnificent façade of the Gard du Nord to admire the view and soak up the street scene when arriving in Paris; you can picnic on the train – we have a little ‘kit’ that we take everywhere of two stemless wine glasses, a corkscrew and a small knife, so just need to add food and drink bought from lovely shops in those cities. In short – the travelling is part of the holiday and quite simply so civilised. Yes, it’s more expensive, so we just don’t travel aboard as often as we could if flying.

    1. Absolutely, when you decide not to fly, the journey becomes part of the adventure rather than an inconvenient means to an end. I also find train travel so much less stressful than flying, which involves airports transfers, increasing levels of security protocols, and any amount of waiting around in uninspiring places.

  4. Yes, we usually holiday in this country. I have never flown on holiday, and yes, that’s primarily for environmental reasons. The only flights I have ever taken were a half hour lunch break flight in circles over Luton, sitting next to the newly qualified pilot in a two-seater Auster, leaning out of the window taking photos (1958) and a business trip to and then back from Brussels in March 1960.

    For travel abroad I have used bicycle, coach, train and car, the first time being a cycle ride from Swindon (where I lived then) to Cologne and Luxembourg. The last time was by car to Normandy (via the tunnel) in August 1999 to see the solar eclipse. I have also cycled many trips in this country, including the Isle of Wight (one day ride from Luton to Shanklin and one day ride back a week later).

  5. I don’t personally fly, hardly ever, but that’s not really any sacrifice as I don’t have any money (it’s so much easier to be Deep Green when you’ve no disposable income!) and also like yourself did lots of travelling in my youth – lots of that by train, bus and hitching. More relevantly my son who has a job and is 28 never flies at all, on principle, and I’m proud of that.

    1. Interesting point, though as someone who is also on a low income, it frustrates me that flying on holiday would usually be cheaper than holidaying locally! Provided we’re talking about nearby European destinations rather than long-haul exotic holidays, the accomodation, food and transport is all cheaper than taking the train and paying UK prices.

  6. I work in global citizenship education and sustainability and fly A LOT being based in Australia. I carbon offset it all with the calculator from http://www.offsetters.ca/ and pay $30 / tonne to a personal organisation in eSwatini. The point I actually want to make is there is a growing guilt and questioning about flying from me and others like me so things are changing. I have always flown less and done the offset thing but justifying my flights to myself and especially to others is getting much harder and I absolutely welcome that… At the moment I justify my flights with the positive impacts I have in my work and that having a net benefit greater than my flights… The social construction of not flying, I believe, is certainly growing.

    1. Sweden is an interesting case here, where passenger numbers have hit a plateau and ‘flight shame’ appears to have gone mainstream. I probably ought to write about that specifically at some point.

      It is difficult when flights are made for the kind of work you do, and there will always be a need to fly for some things. I think it has to be a case by case situation, with holiday flights being the easiest to cut out.

  7. I’ve decided that one flight a year to a European country is the max my family can do for holidays. Sometimes my husband has to fly for work, but he always tries to do it with video conferencing instead if he can. I know cutting out all flights is better but for our family this is as low as we’re willing to go – for now.

    1. It’s a good start, and a well considered ‘for now’ is actually the best any of us can do. I know that once my kids are older and they see their friends taking more exciting holidays, the question of flights will come up again and we will have to answer it differently. Circumstances will change, and I don’t want to deprive them of opportunities to see the world – or even the experience of flight itself. So we’re running on a ‘for now’ as well.

  8. This is a tough one for me I will admit. My family and I did voluntary work in Bangladesh for several years and now continue to visit there regularly for charity work and to see people we consider as family (all of whom are extremely poor).Trying to get to Asia any way except by flying really is out of the question and I am acutely aware of the difficulty. I’m slowly working my way through a more sustainable living style but I don’t see any quick answer to this yet…

  9. I know many people who are in a similar situation, and there’s no way round it with international work or family overseas. That has to be okay, and it can be offset for the time being.

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