All these cheap deals are spoiling my fun
Will a trip to China seem as trivial as buying a new duvet cover or going to the theatre? Perhaps it will
Sunday 19 January 1997
Just think, for the price of 200 rides on the London Underground, you or I could be visiting the ice-fair at Harbin in north-eastern China, where enormous, intricate statues of carved ice are on display in the freezing fog of a Manchurian winter. Surely, in fact, that's what we should be doing. I realised this in the days when I had a 16-week summer holiday from university and pounds 3,000 a year to spend - if you refrained from going somewhere you could afford to go to, you ran the risk that you might die without ever seeing that place. Dying without having seen the Harbin ice-fair (among other places) is one of the nastiest aspects of living and even cheap travel doesn't help. The list of affordable travel destinations is so long that you'll never keep up, no matter how hard you try.
The trend towards cheaper air travel will have its blips, no doubt. Every means possible will be found to provide more sophisticated luxuries for wealthier holiday-makers, as reported on the front page of this section. Will there eventually come a time when no holiday will seem complete without helicopter sight-seeing tours and a transfer in a green Rolls-Royce?
No doubt the next century will see ultra-fast and horribly expensive aeroplanes being developed, and sophisticated travellers will gladly spend millions to cross the Atlantic in minutes. Today's style of aeroplane travel will be recalled in the same patronising terms as overcrowded trains in Asia are today, and my grandchildren will fall back open-mouthed at the idea that I once took 24 hours to get to Australia. This will then lead inexorably to a revival of the grand age of air travel and weepy romantics will pay ever larger sums to chug about the sky in renovated Boeing 747s complete with stewardesses in period costume. "The leisurely way to travel," the brochures will say, "when people had time to see the world on their travels."
Perhaps travel will never get ridiculously cheap then. Badly behaved passengers, for a start, are doing their best to push up prices. The antics of three drunkards last year caused one London-bound flight from Goa to be diverted to Vienna at huge expense, raising calls for airlines to be patrolled by specialist air marshals. And according to a recent Holiday Which? survey airport security also needs sorting out on a worldwide scale. Most airports are not yet capable of detecting the type of bomb that caused the Pan Am disaster at Lockerbie, while alarming numbers of unaccompanied bags are put on to flights all over the world everyday. Britain, in fact, was mentioned as one of the safest places in the world to fly out of but considering all the talk these days of air crashes and black boxes, security procedures are almost bound to become tighter and more expensive. This ought to please me, I suppose. Not only will I feet safer at 30,000 feet, but all those exotic destinations which recently came to seem so tantalisingly near might just recede out of reach again.
It won't help. How about Paris by coach for pounds 27 return from London? This is already reality. Cheap international travel for anyone at any time. Most employed people in Britain earn enough in a few hours to pay for journeys like this and in 20 years they'll probably be able to pop over to China and back on a day's wages, if they can bear the ignominy of flying on old-fashioned, clapped-out Boeing 747s. Will a trip to China then seem as trivial as buying a new duvet cover or going to the theatre? Perhaps it will. But what won't seem trivial is when the Chinese themselves start popping over to see us at the same rate that we would like to pop over to see them. I know of a billion Chinese who are already resolved to see Big Ben and the River Thames before they die, especially if the price dips below pounds 299 return.
The whole of Britain, even in darkest winter, is set to resemble Venice in August. Before long, presumably, those Chinese who are too busy to travel will be harking back to the good old days when they couldn't afford to come here anyway.
23 January 2015 08:00 PM
I had dinner with the pensions minister Steve Webb this week. There was a wide-ranging discussion about the new pensions freedoms starting in April, and changes to the state pension. Crucially, I also got to ask Mr Webb whether he had any plans to have another look at the injustice that is frozen pensions.
23 January 2015 08:00 PM
23 January 2015 08:00 PM
While the health of the economy is not insignificant, Mark Dampier finds it incredibly unpredictable in terms of its impact on the stock market
21 January 2015 12:32 PM
A new free app is aimed at the three-fifths of Brits who have never switched supplier
20 January 2015 09:34 AM
Regulator’s investigation into the market found that around £160bn was held in easy access savings accounts that pay interest lower or equal to BoE base rate
17 January 2015 12:00 AM
Simon Read: Information is power. And it's in the wrong hands when people are cold-called by companies that know they're in debt
17 January 2015 12:00 AM
In debt? You're likely to be targeted by unscrupulous companies that hope to profit from your misfortune. They may try to pretend to be your friend by offering what they call "help" – but almost certainly that help will come with a cost and leave you worse off than you were before they got in touch.
17 January 2015 12:00 AM
In less than three months' time radical changes to pensions will take effect, providing investors with more freedom. Yet for those who prefer to make their own investment decisions, the choice of funds available is overwhelming. And an income drawdown account is also not particularly easy to manage.
15 January 2015 12:23 PM
The minimum amount for which you can be forced into bankruptcy is being raised from £750 to £5,000
14 January 2015 08:55 AM
A shock report reveals that fuel poverty is affecting desperate families – and their children
14 January 2015 08:59 AM
Most people are too confused to know how to use their pensions for a secure income
10 January 2015 12:00 AM
Simon Read: Inflation is riding the slow train. So why have we been given a one-way ticket to travel on the fares express?
10 January 2015 12:00 AM
I struck a chord with many of you when I wrote a piece earlier this week about rising train fares. It seems there is an army of travellers who feel they've been ripped off by increased transport costs.
- 1 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 2 Dog thinks owner is drowning in lake, dives in and tries to pull him out
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Chilling drone footage captures Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary of liberation
- 5 Narendra Modi: Indian Prime Minister wears suit with pinstripes that spell his name to meet Barack Obama
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
Leaked documents show Ukip leaders approve NHS privatisation once it becomes more 'acceptable to the electorate'
iJobs Money & Business
£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...
£25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...
Day In a Page
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village