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Staycations in the UK: As foreign travel restrictions change, here's what to pack for a trip closer to home

If you're looking to holiday in the UK this year, these are the essentials you need in your luggage

Louise Whitbread
Wednesday 02 September 2020 08:51 BST
We've got you covered for your staycation from beachwear to walking boots and everything in between
We've got you covered for your staycation from beachwear to walking boots and everything in between

When the prime minister announced that hotels, caravan parks and campsites could reopen from 4 July, it was a welcome change to our new normal after months spent in lockdown.

Whether you’re getting cabin fever or are sick of working from home with much less social interactions than usual, we’ve never needed a holiday more.

As sunny weather and blue skies are making a more frequent appearance, take a few days off and book a staycation to explore some of the beautiful sites the UK has to offer such as Somerset, The Lake District or Norfolk.

Head to the shores of the relaxing beaches, book a remote cottage and go walking or head to a luxury hotel for a much-needed change of scenery.

Staycations are proving to be a popular choice for Brits, especially as the government guidelines require travellers returning from Spain, France, Malta and the Netherlands to quarantine on their return for 14 days.

Jamaica, Switzerland and the Czech Republic have also recently been taken off the UK's quarantine-exempt list, with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advising against all but essential travel to these destinations.

Holiday-goers arriving home to Scotland from Greece will now have to quarantine for two weeks upon landing, due to a spike in coronavirus cases in the country. This latest update will come into force at 4am on Thursday September 3.

Additionally, in Wales, people arriving back from Greek island Zante, are also being asked to self-isolate for two weeks upon their return. This is due to a flight that landed in Cardiff on 25 August found to have seven passengers test positive for coronavirus.

If you're staying in the UK, we'd also recommend booking one now to avoid disappointment. Luxury lodge specialist Hoseasons has reportedly seen a new booking every 11 seconds since the new rules were announced.

A word of caution, however, as holidaymakers have been warned to be wary of scammers impersonating airlines, travel agencies and banks, posting fake listings, so when you come to book your trip, do double check before you hand over any money. For guidance on how to avoid being scammed, you can read the UK Finance advice here.

We’ve compiled the ultimate guide on what to pack for your next trip so you’re equipped whatever the weather or activity, as we all know how temperamental the British summertime can be.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.


First up is, of course, a bag to hold your holiday wardrobe. Look for something robust and spacious that will keep everything safe and easy to look through.

If it's just a quick weekend away, we would recommend this Rains weekend bag (Rains, £59) which topped our guide to the best men's overnight bags.

Made in a matte fabric that’s waterproof, it features a spacious main compartment, detachable shoulder strap and sturdy handles. Even if you’re not a light packer, you’ll still be able to fit everything in without it weighing you down to carry.

Keep all your stuff safely packed in these sturdy weekend bags

For a longer stay, such as a week, this weekender bag (Away, from £225) is ideal, as it features a 15” laptop sleeve if you want to switch up your working from home space, shoe compartment, zippered pockets and a trolley sleeve which will come in handy next time you’re using a suitcase or travelling approach.

It’s available in durable nylon and canvas in seven different colours, but we’ve got our eye on the coast nylon style.

For the journey

Chances are you will most likely be driving to your destination, and if you’re facing hours in the car, keep yourself entertained with a set of headphones to blast your favourite tunes.

Try a pair that are noise-cancelling to shut out the world and hopefully you’ll end up snoozing the whole journey. That’s if you’re lucky enough to be the passenger.

They’ll also come in handy if you plan on sunbathing on your staycation – if the weather holds up.

In our guide to the best noise-cancelling headphones, these Bose headphones 700 (John Lewis and Partners, £299) impressed us the most, which are wireless, fit over-the-ear and have a battery life of 20 hours.

Shut out the world with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, perfect for sunbathing sessions and long car rides (The Independent)

There are 11 different noise-cancelling settings so you choose exactly how much of the outside world you let in.

Our reviewer described them as “among the most luxuriously designed headphones you’ll come across, with no visible joints, a stainless-steel headband and adjustable earcups”.


Even if your staycation destination isn’t particularly sunny, it’s still just as important to wear SPF, even more so if you’re heading somewhere beachy where sun exposure is guaranteed.

When shopping for a sunscreen for your face and body, look for the "broad spectrum" label, which means it will provide protection from both UVA and UVB rays, which combined cause sunburn, premature skin ageing and wrinkling and pigmentation.

For expert advice on every type of formula, from facial sun creams to protection for your baby, find our ultimate guide to sunscreen here.

One of our favourites from our guide to the best facial sunscreens was the La Roche-Posay anthelios ultra-light facial sun cream SPF50 (Boots, £13.12). The small but mighty bottle is a thin fluid that’s fast-absorbing, non-greasy and won’t pill underneath your makeup.

Apply and reapply sunscreen to stay protected during the hot weather on your staycation (left, Boots, right, Vichy)

It’s lightweight, lasts and offers reliable protection that won’t leave you feeling sticky nor make your eyes water.

For body care, keep in mind that even if you’ve diligently applied your sunscreen, going in the water – ranging from a paddling pool to the sea – along with sweating, means you should reapply your creams every two hours.

Try the Vichy solar protective water SPF50 (Vichy, £19) which comes in a spray bottle, making application easy for those hard to reach areas and quick to reapply.

It has a light lemon scent and a formula infused with moisturising hyaluronic acid that will keep your skin hydrated. According to our reviewer, “it sprays on evenly and with a quick rub in it vanishes.”

Skincare and makeup

Since in hot weather we’re sweating more, experiencing high humidity levels and wearing more sunscreen than usual, maintaining a good skincare routine is essential to keep skin healthy.

As we explained in our guide to sweat-proof skincare and makeup, hotter temperatures also cause increased sebum production from your oil glands, which is why skin can often look greasier or shiny in summer.

It often requires swapping out heavier products for lighter, hydrating formulas that help prevent water loss and dehydration, and a simple regimen of a gentle cleanser, moisturiser and SPF can work wonders, topped up with a refreshing face mist.

Use a lightweight gel cleanser such as this CeraVe hydrating cleanser (Look Fantastic, £11.25). Massage into damp skin before rinsing off to make sure your face is free from any sweat build up.

Keep a palm-size bottle of the Avène soothing thermal spring water spray (Boots, £4.80) to hand at all times. It soothes hot skin if you’ve spent too much time in the sun, takes the sting out of patches of eczema, is anti-inflammatory for sensitive skin and most importantly, cools you down when it’s too hot.

A good skincare routine will keep breakouts at bay

The lockdown has seen most adopt a low-maintenance makeup routine, as we put aside full coverage foundations and lashings of bronzer while being kept indoors.

A tinted moisturiser is ideal for summertime and a versatile product that doubles up a sheer base too, making a welcome change from heavy foundations.

Try the bareMinerals complexion rescue SPF30 (Bare Minerals, £30), a gel-cream that provides a sheer finish to even out skin tone, but can be built up in layers if you like more coverage and can be applied with your fingers, just as you would your regular moisturiser. The oil-free hydrator is a great multitasker with a mineral sunscreen of SPF30 too.

For lightweight, hot-weather friendly makeup, try these products that will last all day

Hide tired eyes from months of working from home juggling parenthood, work and the stress of lockdown with the Becca under eye brightening corrector (Space NK, £21), a light-reflecting cream that dabbed onto dark circles is instantly brightening.

We’d recommend applying it with your finger and putting into skin until completely blended. You can use it under or over makeup too.

If you’re still keen to have long, voluminous lashes, especially for the obligatory holiday photo, pick up a waterproof formula to ensure no smudging, smearing or flaking throughout the day.

In our guide to the best, the Essence lash princess false lash effect mascara waterproof (Feel Unique, £3.29) is an inexpensive option that delivers fluttering lashes that last, thanks to its bristles set in a wide to narrow shape that allows for even coverage across your whole lash line.

Keep it all safely stored out of the heat with a stylish wash bag such as this Space NK travel bag (Space NK, £24) which due to its transparent panels, you’ll always know exactly where your stuff is and will save rooting around for what you need.

Holiday wardrobe

An upcoming holiday, even if it isn’t the tropics, means switching out your loungewear wardrobe for lighter, more breathable fabrics, like linen and cotton.

This linen-blend dress (H&M, £17.99) is the perfect throw on and go piece to keep you cool on your way to the beach. Needing very little styling, a colourful pair of sandals, sun hat and bag is all you need to look good and avoid overheating.

Stay cool in breathable fabrics such as these linen outfits (left, H&M, right, Uniqlo)

Similarly, these men linen-blend shorts (Uniqlo, £19.90) are a no-brainer buy, cut in a relaxed fit with an adjustable waistband for maximum comfort. One of the most essential pieces in any wardrobe is a pair of sunglasses that not only shield your eyes from harmful UV rays, but keep you looking good simultaneously.

In our guide to the best men’s sunglasses, these Monc kallio sunglasses (Monc, £105) are perfect if you struggle to find frames to fit. Available in three sizes, and produced using sustainable materials, these are an eco-friendly, feel good purchase. Even the packaging is made from recycled coffee cups.

Keep the sun rays off your face while staying stylish with these sunnies for men and women

For timeless styles for women, find our guide to sunglasses here, in which we discovered this Izipizi #d sun light tortoise pair (Izipizi, £35), which are a stylish, sturdy design with flexible hinges will adapt to all face shapes and sizes.

If you plan to swim and sunbathe on your staycation, ensure you’re kitted out in the right swimwear. It’s also an opportunity to shop more sustainably in a department that’s very wasteful, thanks to the continuous use of non-biodegradable fabrics like nylon and polyester.

However, in the UK we’re rapidly becoming spoilt for choice for eco-friendly alternatives. One we loved is the Kamba Samantha swimsuit (Kamba, £100), which has an array of ruffle details in flattering cuts to shop from.

If you're heading somewhere sunny, make sure you're kitted out in eco-friendly swimwear and bright beach towels (left, Kamba, right John Lewis & Partners)

Last, but least, is a handy beach towel to keep you dry and be a makeshift sun lounger. This John Lewis & Partners block stripe beach towel (John Lewis and Partners, £16) is bold, bright and fun.

Made from cotton, it has been produced in line with Better Cotton Initiative, a not-for-profit organisation that works with cotton farmers and producers to better the environment its grown it and the people work in the cotton sector.

Staycation activities

If you’re planning on making it an active break, with hikes and long walks, after months of being stationary indoors, ensure you have the best gear to help you stay dry when it rains and blister-free if you cover long distances.

As unreliable as the weather during British summertime is, keep that in mind when shopping for a jacket that will keep the rain off your back but is lightweight enough to keep you from overheating when it’s hot.

In our guide, we were impressed with the Berghaus fellmaster (Berghaus £115.50).

Our reviewer found the breathable membrane kept them dry and cool. “The material is comfortable, warm and allows for natural upper body movement and its adjustable cuffs and hood mean that the rain won’t start leaking through the jacket’s openings.”

If you want to go hiking, make sure you have the best shoes and layering pieces to keep you dry

If country walks are heading your way, it’s worth investing in a pair of shoes that go the distance with you.

Coming out on top in our guide to the best, the Ariat skyline summit (Ariat, £170) beat out competition thanks to the flexible material, waterproof soft-suede leather along with excellent grip and stability on tough terrain, perfect for year-round use.

By now you're probably sick of your surroundings, and for avid photographers, a staycation is a great way to brush up on your photo-taking skills. Opt for a compact style that’s easy to fit into a pocket or small bag for spurt of the moment photos.

For quality a smartphone can’t achieve, the Panasonic Lumix DC-TZ200EB (Panasonic, £660.99) won us over.

You can take high-quality pictures on this Panasonic model that will fit in you pocket (The Independent)

Don’t dismiss its size, it boasts a 15x zoom lens, the perfect match for everything from wildlife to sports photography and even allows you to take still pictures from a 4K resolution body.

You’ll also find an electronic viewfinder on the back, combine shots into a single image and reviewers rated it for its ‘excellent battery life and real ease of use’.

Outdoor games

If you’re taking a holiday with your kids, bring along some outdoor games to keep the whole family entertained with that will offer respite from digital screens.

A colourful take on a traditional game, this jenga set is sure to keep kids and adults entertained (WHSmith)

In our guide to the best garden games, this Professor Puzzle giant toppling tower (WHSmith, £35) is a must-have for any jenga fans.

Instead of the usual wooden bricks, this game features five colours and a die, which when rolled will tell you your fate. It’s portable, easy to play and clean too, especially if you have little ones with sticky hands getting involved and will stow away in the boot of a car without taking up much room.

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