No Fly Zone: The best no-fly holidays

Who needs a plane? Johanna Payton keeps both feet on the ground to prove you can explore further than ever without taking off


For many modern travellers, the spectre of stressful airport queues and stringent airline policies, delayed (or cancelled) flights and lost luggage, means the 20th-century glamour of air travel has well and truly faded.

And if you’re a nervous flyer, the thought is even less appealing. But if you’d rather skip the plane altogether, the latest no-fly options are just as exciting as far-flung adventures — and there’s a lot more variety than you might think.

Cruise control

Set sail from Southampton and you could be on your way to the Mediterranean or heading north for a Scandinavian jaunt. And along with easy parking at the port, the major cruise lines have some new options to tempt you aboard.

From April 2018, Celebrity’s Silhouette, with balconies and/or ocean views from 85 per cent of its staterooms, will be sailing from Southampton with a maiden voyage to Norway.

In the same month, MSC Cruises’ Magnifica, complete with indoor pool with retractable roof, is offering five new itineraries from Southampton, including an unusual 14-day sailing visiting Portugal and Spain, then Amsterdam and Hamburg.

And Southampton certainly isn’t the only option if you’re cruising without flying. Fred Olsen cruises depart from UK ports including Newcastle, Falmouth and Liverpool, where you can sail off to Spain, the Azores — or, if time is on your side, a 33-day excursion to Mauritius via the Mediterranean, Africa and Arabia.

Cruise and Maritime Voyages are sailing from Harwich, Portsmouth and Poole in 2018, including a three-night bank holiday break from Poole to Normandy.

Or start from London’s Tilbury port, to grab some winter rays in Cape Verde, Madeira and the Canaries, experiencing the Northern Lights from the Arctic Circle, or hopping on board Columbus for a 121-night, round-the-world voyage.

See the world: Cut down days at sea by taking the direct Eurostar service to Marseille and joining one of the Mediterranean excursions departing from the port.

Closer to home: Find out if life at sea suits you on a mini cruise from Southampton on board one of Cunard’s luxurious and majestic ships.

Make tracks

Romance and excitement is a given when you’re zooming across the continent on a high-speed train — and while travelling from London to Paris is nothing new, the latest services and interchanges have turned St. Pancras into a gateway for international no-fly travel.

A train to the French capital opens up Europe, with direct connections to Milan, Zurich, Frankfurt, Cologne, Nice, Luxembourg and Turin. Eurostar’s fast new service from Paris’s Gare Montparnasse to Bordeaux takes just over two hours.

Taking the train is a great option for a multidestination trip. You could continue east to Berlin or Vienna; or head south from Milan and explore Italy, taking a direct service to Florence, Rome and even Naples, where you can purchase a ticket for the Circumvesuviana railway line and explore the Amalfi coast.

Another option is to head straight from London to Brussels, staying for a short city break or taking a connecting service to Ostend or Amsterdam.

If you’d rather avoid changing trains, Eurostar’s direct service from London to Lyon is an easy option for exploring France’s gastronomic capital. December is a good time to visit during the city’s iconic Fête des Lumières, an extravagant festival of light.

In the UK, train travel between England and Scotland has never been more luxurious. In spring 2018, a £150m fleet of Caledonia Sleeper trains will be unveiled including en-suite cabins, double beds and wifi.

See the world: From Lyon, make the most of the direct train service to Barcelona which then links to Spain’s fast train network, including Madrid and Seville.

Closer to home: Ride on a legendary locomotive in March 2018: a Tornado steam train will be transporting passengers across the North Yorkshire Moors National Park for an old-school experience with style.

Ferry me away

Travellers heading to France are spoiled for choice when it comes to ferry routes from the south of England — and Brittany Ferries is adding a 10th ship, the Honfleur, to its fleet in summer 2019. The Honfleur promises to be the greenest ship operating regularly in UK waters, which is good news if you’re avoiding flights for environmental reasons.

For a more unusual route, sail to Amsterdam from Newcastle, take the seasonal service from Penzance to the lovely Isles of Scilly, or travel from Pembroke in Wales to Rosslare in Ireland.

If a trip to the Emerald Isle sounds appealing, Irish Ferries will introduce a £125 million cruise ferry in summer 2018, taking passengers from Holyhead to Dublin, year-round.

Add a train journey then travel as a foot passenger, and you can explore even further — plus ferry crossings become even cheaper. Island lovers could travel to Corsica or Sardinia from the port in Marseille, or sail on the overnight ferry to Majorca or Ibiza from Barcelona. Balearia’s first class lounges have surprisingly comfortable reclining seats).

See the world: Start your holiday with a mini cruise by taking a ferry from Portsmouth or Plymouth to Santander — after a day on board, discover the beaches and Basque country, the art of Bilbao or head west to the wilder green coast of Galicia.

Closer to home: A fast ferry service operates to Jersey (via Guernsey) from Poole from April to October with Condor Ferries. Choose the right sailing and you could be in the Channel Islands for lunch.

The open road

Taking the car puts you completely in control — and lets campers, cyclists or ski fans transport all their gear easily too.

After whizzing through the Eurotunnel in 35 minutes, with self check-in options to speed up your journey, you’re only limited by time and imagination.

From Calais, why not head east towards the gorgeous beaches of Belgium and the Netherlands? If you’re looking for a classic driving holiday, try an Alpine experience in Austria and discover the Hohe Tauern National Park, cruising through flower-filled meadows and dramatic peaks with some of Europe’s most beautiful scenery along the way

Or discover the fairytale castles and picturesque villages of southern Germany along the well-named Romantische Strasse, 220 miles of winding road between Wurzburg and Fuessen.

Combine your road trip with a ferry crossing to head to Ireland’s far south west and drive the Ring of Kerry — around 110 miles circling through rugged landcapes, dramatic coastline and seaside villages. In good weather, take a boat from Portmagee out to the island of Skellig Michael as well.

See the world: For a road trip that takes your breath away, the Transfagarasan in Romania is unbeatable — with the bonus of a mini tour of Europe en route. With astonishing views from hairpin bends, tunnels, viaducts and bridges, this 56 miles through the Southern Carpathians is one of the world’s most memorable.

Closer to home: Try one (or more) of the breathtaking itineraries along the North Coast 500, Scotland’s answer to Route 66 with over 500 miles of road from Inverness around the North Highlands.

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