How things have changed

Before the early 20th century, families of different generations usually lived nearer to one another than they do now and often under the same roof.

Taking a short break away from home and work, primarily for recreation and leisure, is a relatively new practice and is still not common in many parts of the world. These breaks were mostly to visiting families or friends.

Travelling any distance involved a lot of planning and could take many hours or days of walking, cycling, horse-drawn carriage transport or boat trips along rivers or around the coast. Even trams and ambulances up until the early 20th century were mostly horse-drawn.

Overseas trips, such as going to continental Europe, were complicated to arrange and usually lasted for weeks or months. They were expensive and only affordable by the very well off. Going further afield involved travelling long distances by ship followed by overland journeys.

Thomas Cook - the first travel agent to promote affordable package holidays for the less well off

'Package holidays'

A package holiday is when travel companies offer a variety of pre-arranged all-inclusive packages, usually including travel and accommodation. These were pioneered by ‘Thomas Cook’ during the 19th century and were undertaken by the wealthier who could afford them.

  • Those going on package holidays have a good idea of what to expect in advance and a tour guide will usually be on hand to give further advice.

  • While package holidays have become popular in many financially advanced countries, they remain unusual for the much of the world’s population when getting the time off work, family commitments and cost makes them impossible.

  • See the lesson later in this mini-course on travelling abroad for sport - many package or short holidays include opportunities for sport.

Trains made short holidays popular for those without other means of transport

Train travel

Short recreational pre-arranged holidays became even more popular with the advent of cheap train travel in the early to the mid 20th century, and these appealed to the less wealthy.

  • This was encouraged, in the UK, when legislation was introduced in 1937 to make holidays with pay compulsory for a firm's employees.

  • Summer holidays at the seaside became very popular and holiday camps like 'Butlin’s' were established in seaside resorts.

Air travel

Greek Islands - a popular holiday destination
A tourist hotel in India

In the 1970s destinations for the short-term package tourist began to include places further afield. In Europe this was often to Mediterranean countries where a sunnier climate and longer daytime hours in winter months were likely.

  • Flights were relatively cheap, and numerous tour companies began to arrange a great variety of short holidays

  • The wide-bodied passenger jet-aircraft had reduced previously long journey times overland by sea to hours by air.

  • It was not long before short holiday trips to far off destinations in Asia, including India, the Maldives, and Thailand, were being offered as well as to other countries in Southeast Asia, Australasia and North and South America.