Slow travel: A beginner’s guide 

Do you know what slow travel is? 

Browse the travel sections of any UK media right now and it seems everyone is talking about it.

Put simply, you could say it means travel less, see more.

This is a growing trend among tourists with the luxury of time, or who simply want to ditch a fast-paced schedule to prioritise relaxation or discovery in tranquil destinations. Unsurprisingly, with this definition of slow travel, camping scores highly in a list of great ways to embrace it.

Maybe you’re already a slow traveller by nature, but you just didn’t realise there is a name for it —  having shunned overcrowded tourist traps for years, or perhaps it’s all new to you but you’d love to know more. One thing is certain —  slow travel is set to grow.

Slow travel is also now known for going hand in hand with protecting the environment. 

With this in mind, camping is a great option, particularly if it’s nature friendly and has a positive financial impact on local communities. There’s an extra slow travel inclined warm and fuzzy feeling if you take the train or cycle there!

Glamping can also be a sound choice so long as sites pay attention to potential pitfalls of light and noise pollution, not to mention energy use. 

“Slow travel can banish burnout, giving a much-needed break from pressured daily lives — helping us to return refreshed and productive,” says Cathy Lawson from Westfield Health.

It’s reported that burnout is also a key factor in the trend of slow travel with:

  • 1 in 3 workers stating that burnout has affected their mental health
  • 3 in 10 people have said their mental health has worsened over the past 12 months

Slow travel devotee Hollie Youlden, an expert from KILROY UK, says: “Since COVID we’ve definitely seen travellers less interested in ticking off jam-packed itineraries and more open to really getting to know a country on slower, longer trips with plenty of leisure time. 

“The key to slow travel is your mindset. Choosing to stay in destinations for longer, opting for slower forms of travel, and leaving gaps in your plans for rest and spontaneity, all contribute to a restful slow travel experience. The destination you visit on your slow holiday is less important than how you explore it.”

For renowned travel journalist, Jane Alexander, slow travel is a welcome trend. 

She says: “It’s about jettisoning our obsessions with seeing everything; with ticking off tourist ‘must visits’; with racing through a place in an egotistical rampage.  

“It’s not about Insta-perfect selfies.  It’s about slowing it right down; allowing  yourself time to sink into a place; to engage with local people and culture, in as meaningful a way as possible.  

“It’s being discussed because (I think) we’re starting to realise that our approach to travel needs a radical rethink.  When local people are taking to the beaches in protest, we have to ponder our privilege.  We don’t get under the skin of a place – we just skim over the top.  You could say it’s voyeuristic, at its worst, narcissistic. 

“My most memorable trips have been ‘slow journeys’ and ‘slow full stops’, generally avoiding the tourist hotspots and going off piste.”

For keen UK traveller Hannah Jones, the ‘new’ notion of slow travel sparks fond memories of childhood camping in Britain. 

She says: “There are plenty of families like mine, for whom camping as kids was the norm. I remember so many happy times as we explored North Wales with our trusty tent— whatever the weather. We just thought we were having a cheap holiday, not being ahead of our time with slow travel.

“It’s said all you need for slow travel is a tent, a good attitude and respect for your surroundings, it was already that way decades back.”

This type of holiday encourages you to immerse yourself in the local culture and find joy. Your body and mind will thank you.  

Katie Fittes from tailored tour organisers Century Tours says: “Slow travel is when you stay somewhere for longer than a usual brief holiday. It is for those who want to truly experience life like a local. It appeals to us as that’s exactly what our itineraries allow our customers to do. Also, the journey to a tour can become a great part of the experience, stopping off along the way in authentic and possibly seldom-visited locations rather than going on random journeys further afield. With careful planning you can make the most of a chosen region.

“Maybe it’s not for everyone, as who can realistically get longer off work or afford to permanently forgo package holidays? But with the right preparation, it can be fantastic value. stay You can focus on one region and not feel you have to pack loads in, which can itself be priceless.

“The lure of slow travel is something we are monitoring making sure we go off the beaten track and truly boost local economies. One recommendation for slow travel has been travelling by train and that can be wonderfully relaxing – if there’s no disruption at least. It’s also good to work with local guides where we can.”

Five popular slow travel holidays 

Camping  

Sometimes, the best adventures are the ones where you pitch a tent and let nature be your guide. Camping isn’t just about roughing it out; it’s about mindfulness, about finding joy in setting up your temporary home amidst breathtaking scenery. Plus, it’s an affordable option that promises unforgettable memories under the stars.  

Inspiration here: 

Going off grid 

 Imagine escaping the hustle and bustle of modern life and immersing yourself in the serene embrace of nature. Off-grid rentals offer precisely that, which is why TikTok users are going crazy for them. Nestled in remote landscapes, these cosy lodgings provide a tech-free haven where you can unwind, explore the wilderness, and truly reconnect with yourself, friends, and family. 

All-Inclusive Hotels (yes, really.)  

While camping might not be for everyone, who says relaxation has to be complicated? Opting for an all-inclusive hotel takes the stress out of vacation planning, allowing you to focus solely on unwinding. Picture yourself lounging by the pool, indulging in fine dining and soaking in the picturesque surroundings without a care in the world. Bonus: no hidden costs to worry about. 

Hiking Escapes

Lace-up your boots and hit the trails for a break that’s equal parts adventure and introspection. Hiking holidays offer a chance to immerse yourself in nature, leaving behind the noise of everyday life. Whether you’re a solo explorer or prefer the company of friends, the great outdoors has endless possibilities for meaningful experiences. 

Inspiration here:

Spa Breaks   

Sometimes, the ultimate form of self-care is a luxurious spa retreat. Treat yourself to a well-deserved break from the chaos and indulge in a variety of rejuvenating treatments, from massages to meditation sessions. It’s a chance to reset, recharge and feel refreshed. Known for encouraging digital detoxes, spas offer the perfect chance to disconnect from devices and recharge emotionally. Plus, you can find heavily discounted rates with great quality treatments if you’re a savvy deal-hunter.  

Inspiration here: 

Dos and don’ts for a great slow travel trip 

  • Don’t choose your destination from snippets of information in a glossy hotel brochure 
  • Do opt for somewhere you research thoroughly and know will meet your needs for relaxing in the right surroundings 
  • Don’t always seek out multinational brands for food and drink. Give Costa and Subway a miss. 
  • Do frequent authentic local restaurants and cafes 
  • Don’t always travel in peak season 
  • Do consider taking a break any time all year round 
  • Don’t limit your stay to the bright lights of towns and cities 
  • Do head into the countryside too
  • Don’t always go somewhere new 
  • Do discover attractions and open spaces closer to home 

More information on slow travel and how to be a ‘better tourist’ is here: