From Blackpool to Phnom Penh with love

It's summer and the British are packing their bags. Simon Calder maps our changing holiday habits over five decades and Paul Vallely pens some postcards home

1945: Post-war holiday habits did not become re-established until the summer of '46. But class divides survived the war: Gerald and Rose would not have been seen dead staying in Blackpool - they based themselves in prim Morecambe and made a day-trip into what was an unashamedly mass- market resort.

Post-war euphoria could not mask the fact that holiday provision in the late Forties was poor. The standard allowance was one week, to be taken at the employer's discretion, and holiday pay was unusual. An entire town would close down and move en masse to the same resort. Blackpool's illuminations were blacked out for the war and resumed only in 1949.

The main attractions in '45 were the Tower and the Pleasure Beach, already half a century old. In '95, the biggest draw is the pounds 12m Pepsi Max Big One rollercoaster, battling for trade with the brand new pounds 3m World of Coronation Street. A total of 17 million visitors are expected this summer, including 10,000 Arabs and 1,800 Russians.

1955: Owning a car was rare in Britain in the Fifties. In '55, 3.6 million were registered; in '95, 24.5 million. Taking it abroad was rarer still. The wealthy travelled to Cherbourg on the cross-Channel legs of transatlantic liners such as the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary. Their chauffeurs could steer the Rolls to Lydd airport and on to a flying freighter of Silver City Airways for the hop across to Le Touquet.

Poorer motorists heading for Normandy took the British Railways' ferry service from Southampton to Le Havre. Vehicles were lifted by crane into the hold of the Normannia for a seven-hour crossing; P&O car ferries take the same time 40 years later. By 1964, the Normannia had had her passenger cabins ripped out and was turned into a drive-on car ferry between Dover and Boulogne. British Railways charged pounds 3 one-way for the car, with driver and passenger paying 41 shillings each. In 1995 terms, this is equivalent to about pounds 140 return, the average cost for a round-trip to Paris on Le Shuttle via the tunnel.

1965: Spain stagnated under Franco. In the Sixties, a solution to economic under-performance presented itself: to harness the rising disposable incomes in northern Europe by providing reasonably cheerful and indisputably cheap holidays on the unspoilt coastline and islands. The prototype was the coast of Catalonia, a province still being punished for its resistance to fascism. By '65, about 100,000 British people were arriving each month. Riviera Holidays operated package holidays to Lloret del Mar on the Costa Brava. Fourteen nights started at 32 guineas (pounds 33.60), flying from Gatwick or Manchester to Gerona aboard a Bristol Britannia. In today's terms, this would cost pounds 338.

Spain in '95 is king of the charter market, with nearly one million Britons flying in every month. Having done the beaches, many are discovering the inland gems - while the trendiest Hispanophiles are discovering the hidden delights of Girona (reverting to its Catalan name) and the Costa Brava.

1975: Following the ending of seven years' military rule by the Colonels in '74, Greece opened up to tourists. First in were hippies, carving the paths for modern backpackers. Across Asia on the Cheap led Australians through a haze of dope across Afghanistan and Iran to Europe. Twenty years on, Lonely Planet's Mediterranean Europe cautions: "Hitching is never safe in any country, and we don't recommend it."

The UK's travel industry had been rocked the previous summer by the collapse of Court Line, stranding 40,000 holidaymakers. A few charter flights had started to test the resilience of Crete, but many people still took the surface route. London to Athens on a bus (three days and sleepless nights in a standard 53-seater) cost pounds 55 return. Some UK currency restrictions, first imposed in summer '66, remained in force - limiting the amount of cash and traveller's cheques you could take abroad. Smuggling money out of the country was widespread until all restrictions were abolished in '79.

1985: Florida loved Freddie. Mr Laker (soon to be Sir Freddie) opened up the transatlantic market with Skytrain, and pioneered routes to Orlando and Tampa. Some say over-expansion caused his airline's demise in '82, but Richard Branson paid tribute to the aviation entrepreneur by naming one of the Virgin Atlantic 'planes Spirit of Sir Freddie.

Florida's tourism industry's only problem was how to sell empty capacity in summer, particularly August, when only a mad dog would head for the Sunshine State. The solution: fill it with Englishmen (and women), who flew in to enjoy Orlando. The fact that early in '85 the pound had hit an all-time low, descending to parity with the dollar, did not deter those who had reaped the benefits of Thatcherism.

Ten years on, the US is the most popular long-haul destination for Britons, and Florida the favourite state. In summer, you cannot find a flight to Florida for love nor money. Should you strike lucky, say hello to Sir Freddie - he now lives there permanently.

1995: Ten years ago, hardly anyone had been to Thailand: it was a punishing flight away, and an unknown quantity when you got there. Nowadays, with three Jumbos a day shuttling between Heathrow and Bangkok, it is passe. Trendy travellers are traipsing across Indo-China, but have become political pawns in guerrilla warfare.

London is the world centre of air travel, paring fares to levels that other countries find astonishing. It helps to explain the tenfold increase in long-haul travel between '73 and '93. Tamsin would need only 10 minutes to find a round-the-world fare for less than pounds 1,000, allowing stops in Delhi, Kathmandu, Bangkok, Sydney and Tahiti.

Tim could try the tunnel again in his campaign to woo Emma, with a cut- price trip to Bruges on Eurostar - pounds 62.50 each until 23 September. And if Fiona gets caught in a downpour in Blackpool, she need only page Teletext or surf the Internet on her laptop for a cheap trip abroad.

Suggested Topics
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Helpdesk Analyst / 1st Line Application Support Analyst

£18000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Nursery assistants required in Cambridge

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

Year 4 Teacher

£20000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to wo...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week