OPINION: How staycations help you avoid travel bedlam

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Financial expert Peter Sharkey argues that a second property offers the opportunity for peaceful staycations rather than travel disruption - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Bedlam: the most appropriate word to describe recent scenes of travellers frantically trying to ensure their plastic security trays were dealt with by airport security staff. There was little well-mannered politeness on offer: people were routinely pushing and barging in front of each other, in some instances stacking their trays three-high to catch staff’s attention.

Mayhem and pandemonium replaced any semblance of order and calm. Many people missed their flight even though they had queued for more than three hours; others abandoned any hope of getting on board despite arriving at the airport before dawn.

Images of Manchester Airport’s chaotic check-in procedures broadcast on nightly news elicited a universal response from viewers: thank goodness we’re not in that queue.

I last flew via Manchester Airport in November 2019. It was a long haul midweek flight departing at 11am. Passengers were dealt with efficiently as baggage and security checks were negotiated without any fuss. The whole check-in process took less than 15 minutes. Then came the pandemic and suddenly staycations were upon us.

Since March 2020, tens of thousands of airport and airline staff members have lost their jobs as their former employers suffered losses running into billions of pounds. Although the travel industry is desperate for life to return to normal, the consequences of staff losses were startlingly evident at Manchester Airport last week.

Several other airports were similarly affected as travellers sought to enjoy a spring break in sunnier climes, so it was notable that figures released by VisitEngland on April 11 suggested that almost 7.5 million Britons planned a short domestic break over the Easter weekend.

Our weather could not be described as Mediterranean, but we’ve grown accustomed to the staycation and enjoy the obvious advantages it confers. In place of a three-hour check-in and flight, driving a couple of hours to a UK holiday destination means you spend more time actually on holiday. Increasingly, however, finding a vacancy for a week or a fortnight is becoming difficult. One eco-friendly Scottish retreat, Hideaway Under the Stars, says it is already taking bookings for 2023, while a Welsh holiday operator offering glamping pods to staycationers reports 99pc occupancy from May onwards.

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Meanwhile, demand for weekend getaways across Britain had boomed even before Manchester’s check-in nightmares were broadcast on TV, but congested airports, coupled with the prospect of lengthy flight delays, deter people from venturing abroad.

Mindful of this, a growing number of older homeowners sense an opportunity to satisfy their demand for regular UK breaks by buying a second home, either in the country or near the coast. The property could then be reserved for their own use, their family or rented out to paying guests. The prospect of owning an income-producing asset likely to appreciate in value over is an attractive one.

“Over the past two years, we’ve received a large number of enquiries from people wanting to explore their options regarding a UK-based holiday home,” says Mark Gregory, CEO of Equity Release Supermarket, the UK’s largest independent provider.

“Equity release can be used for any purpose, so there’s absolutely no reason why older homeowners [aged 55+] cannot use their money to buy a holiday home, either in the UK or abroad,” adds Mr Gregory.

A couple both aged 64 who own a mortgage-free property worth £285,000 could expect to release up to approximately £118,000. It’s worth bearing in mind that in addition to the normal fees associated with buying a property, second home purchases in the UK are also liable for a 3pc Stamp Duty charge payable within 28 days of completion.

Several equity release lenders define second homes as property that must be available for the sole occupancy of the owner, or available to let for a maximum of four consecutive weeks. The property must be occupied by the homeowner(s) for a minimum of four weeks annually and not be subject to any formal, longer-term letting arrangements.

This short summary can only outline the process whereby homeowners may use the wealth accumulated in their property to enjoy the benefits of buying and subsequently staying at their own place when on holiday. And, should they eventually raise a glass to toast their good fortune, they may thank their lucky stars that they’ve avoided the bedlam of airport check-in queues.

For more financial advice, check out Peter Sharkey’s regular blog, The Week In Numbers.