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How to beat the crowds on your UK break

Our tips to stop overtourism ruining your holiday on home soil

Travel chaos at UK airports this summer could see many of us deciding to holiday closer to home. 

But two years of Covid restrictions has already sparked a boom in domestic breaks with many towns buckling under the strain. 

Here we reveal the towns where holiday rentals fill up fastest - and share six tips to help you beat the crowds on your next UK getaway.

Are holiday rentals filling up in your favourite town?

You risk being timed out if your chosen destination is in demand and short on accommodation options.

The small Welsh island of Anglesey is the most coveted, according to data from AirDNA. Almost 74% of properties on Airbnb and Vrbo were fully booked from March last year. It has just 2,094 listings meaning visitors should organise their stay early to beat the crowds.

Gwynedd, the Lake District and Scarborough also see the highest occupancy rates in the UK.

ListingsOccupancy rate %
Isle of Anglesey2,09473.9
Lake District7,90071.6
Peak District4,59968.6

Using the table Data source AirDNA. Average occupancy and the total number of listings visible on booking platforms Airbnb and Vrbo from March 2021 to March 2022. Occupancy rate is the ratio of rented or used space to the total amount of available space 

Why is the UK so busy?

It’s not just a Covid phenomenon: Brexit and the weakening pound had already made foreign travel less appealing or even unobtainable for many.

Travellers also became more conscious of their carbon footprint and its impact on the planet, fuelling a desire to holiday closer to home. Even a few unusually hot summers have contributed to the boom. 

Then came the pandemic and its merry-go-round of travel restrictions. In the first quarter of 2021, international flights were down 94% compared with the previous year. 

Now, just as rules are easing, airport queues and wide-scale flight disruption are again making people anxious about venturing abroad.

Nine ways to save money on a UK holiday

Too many tourists: what’s the impact?

Brighton busy street 484389

Overtourism isn’t just a problem for the likes of Venice and Barcelona: it’s happening here on home soil too. 

Last summer, a major incident was declared after thousands flocked to the Bournemouth beach amid soaring temperatures.

Excessive visitor numbers threaten eco systems and damage popular landmarks. It also causes traffic jams and parking problems, with litter piling up at beaches and beauty spots.

But you can still avoid the crowds if you plan to holiday in the UK this summer. Here we tell you how.

Six tips to beat the crowds in UK hotspots

1 Find alternatives

Shoreline in Pembrokeshire National Park

Consider a UK break to somewhere less obvious. The Brecon Beacons attract only half the visitor numbers experienced by Snowdonia each year. Pembrokeshire’s secret coves and wide, sandy beaches are reminiscent of Cornwall, minus the crowds. Not only will you enjoy a more serene break, our research found you could save £300 on a week’s hotel stay by making this swap. 

Looking for inspiration? Here are 7 of the UK's least crowded beach towns to visit this summer.

2 Plan ahead

It’s not just your accommodation that needs organising; you should also book attraction tickets, plan transport and make restaurant reservations well ahead of time. For trips to any of the UK’s honeypot towns, this should be months rather than weeks in advance.

The best 50 UK attractions - days out rated by visitors

3 Check your tech

The Cornwall tourist board is developing an app to gather real-time data on parking and traffic congestion. In the meantime, check Google Maps for any major traffic jams in the area. The GetYourGuide app also has a ‘skip-the-line’ filter, so you can see which attractions will allow you to avoid queueing. The Crowd Alerts app also tells you how busy an attraction is likely to be before you set off. 

4 Time it right 

Holidaying in shoulder season is a great way to relieve pressure during the peak booking period. May to early June and September to early October are the sweet spots that still offer decent weather without the hordes. 

Booking a rental property? See which holiday cottage providers came out on top in our survey

5 Adjust your mealtimes

 Instead of scrabbling for a dinner reservation, consider having your main meal at lunchtime. Not only are you more likely to get a table, but the midday menu is often cheaper too. 

6 Take public transport

Many destinations are doing their bit to incentivise car-free travel. For example, Cornwall is piloting cut-price bus fares to reduce traffic congestion. The four-year scheme, backed by a £23.5m government grant, means you can travel anywhere in Cornwall for £5 a day or £20 a week.