European Staycations – 6 reasons to ditch long-haul flights this winter

For those of us born with the travel bug, we are always dreaming of the next faraway place to go where we can have adventures, experience new places and be immersed in a new culture. For some of us, however, reality often gets in the way. While we still long for adventure and dream of getting away from our day-to-day, life, family commitments, budget constraints or lack of enough vacation time may hold us back from a lot of the places we want to see – particularly if they’re on the other side of the World!

Wild Sweden Lake

But what if we could find options to quench our wanderlust and nourish our appetite for adventure by exploring all the wonderful things, we can find close to home? There are many benefits when traveling within your own country/continent, and we’ve put together a list of incredible places in Europe that are perfect for a Winter getaway.

Here are 6 reasons why you should swap long-haul flights for a staycation in Europe this winter:

1. Affordability

Travelling close to home can have major money-saving benefits, and you won’t break the bank while still having fun. Being able to use our own transportation, share costs with friends or jump on a train often results in a fraction of the cost compared to long-haul international flights.

Mountains and valleys Ecrins National Park French Alps

One of the most famous French national parks, Ecrins National Park, remains a major landmark in south-eastern France. Rich in natural resources, the park houses high mountainous ranges, peaks, alpine pastures, glacier fields, lakes, subalpine woodlands, and glacier valleys – perfect for all you nature lovers out there!

Above clouds on mountain at Ecrins National Park

Public transport is also available from almost all parts of France, and the park also has parking facilities for anyone who is driving there.

2. Spontaneity

Take freedom in knowing that traveling within close(ish!) to home can require very little planning. Traveling in the EU means you don’t need a travel visa, there are no roaming charges and for the most part, the currency stays the same. This takes away the stress often associated with planning for a vacation, allowing you to jump right in and go wherever your heart desires.  

View from Miradouro Boca do Inferno Azores

If you think you need to travel far to see over 25 species of whales and dolphins – think again! Complete with spectacular volcanic landscapes, warm and welcoming people and fantastic diving opportunities – the Azores has it all! Considered a sperm whale “hotspot”, this incredible archipelago just off the coast of Portugal is also on the route of some migrating species, such as the blue, fin and sei whales.

3. Reduce your carbon footprint

Traveling close to home has the added bonus of reducing your carbon footprint. Depending on where you want to go, some flights may be required, but generally speaking, you can get to most places in Europe using public transport. From high-speed trains such as Eurostar, Thalys or TGV, and scenic trains like the infamous Glacier Express, to local inter-city trains known as ICE, each route offers a unique experience. That said, if you do need to fly to get to your destination, you’ll be happy to hear that we carbon offset all the trips booked through Eco Companion. We’ve partnered with World Land Trust to make sure we effectively neutralise your carbon footprint – no matter what your destination is!

If you’re looking for a different kind of holiday where you can reconnect with the natural world, and learn to live in perfect harmony with Swedish wildlife, try a stay the wonderful Kolarbyn Ecolodge.

Ideal for friends, couples or families, this four-day adventure gives you the chance to discover the hidden secrets of the forest, combined with the chance to see Moose, Beaver and Swedish natural landscapes!

4. Flexibility

When you can’t take long periods of time off to travel abroad, vacationing locally allows for travel plans to easily fit into your current work schedule. Local adventures also allow for the ability to plan for the unexpected. Staying close to home also means you are able to alter or postpone a trip – or even better, knowing you can easily go back whenever you feel like it!

If you’re looking for a bit of countryside magic, the Balebarn Lodge brings together rustic comfort and a sleek modern finish for a sumptuous eco-friendly stay. Complete with a private hot tub, the award-winning flagship project of Wheatland Farm Eco Lodges offers a glorious veranda with a stunning unobstructed view of the countryside and the farm’s largest pond.

5. Stress-Free Travel

Travelling locally allows you to spend more of your much-earned vacation time doing the things you want to do. Not having to deal with long over night flights and jet lag means your vacation can start immediately! When traveling long distances, we often cram as much as we possibly can in the time we have because we don’t know when or if we will ever be back, which can mean returning home more exhausted than when left.  In contrast, local travel allows for more ease and stress-free exploring, allowing for relaxing vacationing experience. 

The Albanian Alps, or Accursed Mountains as they are more ominously referred to, are one of the country’s most beautiful destinations. Nestled in the country’s far north, a world away from the sun-drenched coast, this fantastic untapped playground is perfect for those seeking a touch of adventure.

6. Rejuvenating

It’s easy to become complacent and bored with our everyday lives, especially if we don’t often get to veer far from our daily routines.  By exploring your own country and getting to know Europe better, you gain a new appreciation for the beauty that surrounds you. You suddenly realise that there is much to explore at your doorstep, and it can be the perfect way to break up the Monday to Friday routine, giving you the chance to see the world with fresh eyes. 

If you want to get away from the usual tour groups and explore a more untouched side of one of Europe’s most popular destinations, check out the Eco Companion special Iceland tour. Personally led by Eco Companion’s founder Max Sinclair and EC Journalist Tom Grond, this one time adventure gives you at least 4 separate opportunities to see the northern lights – rooftop hot tub anyone?!

You will be able to experience parts of Iceland no tourist has the chance to see, such as the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, thanks to every expedition being led by local experts in ‘Super Jeeps’!

Travelling in Europe is not only easy and accessible but also means you can quickly get to incredible places full of dramatic landscapes and stunning wildlife. Just because you’re not going across the globe doesn’t mean you won’t meet lots of interesting international travelers, experience new cultures and discover wonderful new adventures.

Feeling inspired? Let us know in the comments what your favourite European destination is and speak to an Eco Expert today to book your next adventure!

You can follow Elizabeth’s incredible adventures on her Instagram

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