The History of Holidays

Holidays now form part of most people’s annual activities. Whether it be a national or foreign trip, taking a holiday has become an accessible necessity for the majority of people. In our lifetime, it has always been this way but let’s take a look at the history of holidays.

At the early part of the last century, a British seaside holiday was enjoyed by the elite and then the masses. The development in passenger flights meant that by the 1970s, international travel was a popular and realistic choice for many and in current times, travelling the world is an almost expected rite of passage for young adults.

But holidays began much longer ago and this article gives a brief history of the holiday trade.

History of holidays

By the late 16th and early 17th century the sons of wealthy families began to travel through Europe at the end of their studies, much like students do nowadays. Such travel was encouraged by Queen Elizabeth I, who promoted travel amongst young men in the hope that it would further educated them and benefit the country in later years.

The real revolution in travel came about with the revival of spas in the 16th century. Spas and the healing benefits of baths had been introduced to England many centuries before, by the Romans. Unfortunately, when the Romans left, they took their bath ideals with them and the idea of travel for relaxation diminished.

Following the Renaissance, such ideas began to circulate again and spas were re-introduced into the country. This encouraged tourism and gave visitors places to visit. The idea developed and soon, spas became settings for plays and entertainments to further benefit the experience of visitors. With further introduction of games and social activities, spas soon became early versions of pleasure resorts.


By the mid 1800’s, Thomas Cook had introduced himself fully to the travel industry. In 1841, Cook organised a group trip by train from Leicester to Loughborough. By 1855, he accompanied a group travelling throughout Europe and in 1872, Cook spent the best part of the year travelling to Egypt – via USA, Japan, China, Singapore and India!

The 1871 Bank Holidays Act declared that certain days would be acknowledged as official holiday. With more efficient railways and breaks from work, holidays became accessible to the masses. The wealthy would travel to a seaside resort and spend a week relaxing and staying in a hotel or guesthouse, whereas the poor in society would enjoy a day away from their factory towns.

20th Century

Fast forward a few decades and in 1950, one of the cofounders of the Horizon Holiday Group, Vladimir Raitz, pioneered the first mass package holiday. The flights flew from Gatwick to Corsica and soon led to a variety of other destinations.

The rest, they say, is history! With the development and competition for low cost airfares, the potential for travel continues to grow and attract more and more holidaymakers each year.

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