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Holidays after 50 – how much are our dream vacations?

Part of the Life Well Spent Report 2023

It’s no surprise that those of us over 50 love a good holiday – in fact, 15% name travel as one of the top three things that makes them happy. But can people afford to go on holiday as often as they’d like in later life? And where would they go if money was no object? For the second year running, we asked more than 2,000 over 50s to share their thoughts...

How many holidays do the over 50s take?

On average, almost 9 in 10 (87%) people over 50 take at least one holiday abroad or in the UK every year – that’s the same number as when we asked in 2022. They go on an average of one international break and two staycations.

When we break it down between all over 50s and the happiest group, the latter go on holiday more – both abroad and in the UK.

And nearly two thirds prefer to go somewhere new on holiday, whether abroad (66%) or in the UK (64%). But 13% of people over 50 say they don’t go on holiday at all.

How much do over 50s spend on holidays?

Holidays abroad

On average, people over 50 spend £2,411 on holidays abroad – that’s £161 less than last year. But the happiest over 50s spend £2,809 – a drop of £371 on 2022.

There is some regional variation in the amount spent on holidays, with East Anglia topping the list with an average spend of £2,952. Londoners spend the least on holidays abroad, an average of £1,998, perhaps helped by the breadth of flight options available at London airports.

The average length of holidays abroad has also fallen considerably since last year. Over 50s in general are going away for an average of 12 days (compared to 15 in 2022), and the happiest go for 13 (compared to 18 previously).

People over 70 and retirees take the longest holidays abroad, with average lengths of 15 and 14 days respectively.

Holidays in the UK

When it comes to holidays in the UK, over 50s are spending more than last year. A staycation sets them back £732 on average (+£27), and £806 for the happiest (+£53).

We’ve also seen some change in their length of holidays in the UK – seven days for all over 50s (down from nine days), and eight for the happiest (up from seven).

This average is significantly higher for those in the North West of England, whose staycations last an average of 12 days.

More than three quarters said holidays make them happier

The good news is more than half (55%) of people over 50 felt happier in the short term after a holiday abroad (+3% since 2022). And, like last year, 40% felt happier in the long term.

Overall, a total of 77% said their holiday abroad made them happier in the short term, long term, or both – 2% up on 2022.

But over 1 in 7 (15% – +2% since 2022) said they wished they’d spent more to make the holiday last longer or do more activities, and 4% (-2%) wish they’d spent more on luxuries.

Three fifths (60%) of people over 50 felt happier in the short term after taking a holiday in the UK – 4% more than in 2022. 34% (the same as last year) felt happier in the long term after their staycation. This contrasts with holidays abroad, which made fewer people happier in the short term, but more happier in the long term.

In total, 76% said their UK trip made them happier in the short term, long term, or both – 2% up on 2022. That’s just 1% less than those who said their trip abroad made them happier.

Like last year, 1 in 7 (14%) said they wished they’d spent more to make their staycation last longer. And 3% wish they’d visited a different destination altogether.

What do over 50s look for in a holiday?

Rest and relaxation is what people over 50 are looking for most in holidays – both abroad (74%) and in the UK (69%).

Sunshine comes next for destination holidays, with 69% (-3% since 2022) of people saying it’s one of the most important things when considering a trip abroad. Women are slightly more likely to be looking for sun, with 73% naming it as a factor compared to 65% of men.

Value for money is what matters for staycations, with 64% (-3%) saying it’s something they look for most in a UK holiday.

There are some notable regional differences in what people look for most in a holiday abroad. Northern Ireland are the least likely to care about sunshine (56% versus average of 69%), Wales are unlikely to look for holidays involving walking or hiking (13% compared to the average of 23%) and Scotland are most likely to be looking for good shopping areas (28% versus 18% average). Also, the West Midlands are almost twice as likely to be looking for exciting activities such as theme parks or jet skiing.

Over 50s expect their dream holiday to cost £7,037 on average – this is down a whopping £4,365 on last year. But 33% (-3%) don’t think they’ll ever be able to afford such a trip. 25% (+1%) hope to go one day, but also aren’t sure it’s within their budget.

The top three dream holiday destinations for people over 50 haven’t changed since 2022. Here’s the top 10 places they’d like to escape to…

It’s clear to see that while many of us are dreaming of travelling far and wide, a significant number prefer to stay closer to home. Although none of them make the top 10 individually, destinations across the UK are dream holiday spots for 10% of people over 50. Others say they feel happiest in their own homes, and no longer feel a need to travel.

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