As the Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, Holidaysplease looks at how travel compares to 60 years ago…

As HRH Queen Elizabeth II prepares to mark 60 years in the UK’s hotseat, she finds herself in a modern world of online check-ins, luxury lounges and in-flight dating services.  But what was travel like in the 1950s, back when Her Majesty took over the crown?  Holidaysplease have decided to take a vacation down memory lane…

The average UK weekly wage…

Even converted to ‘today’s money’, the average 1950s weekly salary is less than half of today’s figure.  Then again, there was no council tax back then, house prices were tons cheaper and we all know bus fares used to cost SO much less…

1950: £7.08 (source) – that’s £197 converted to today’s money

Now:  £461 (source)

…and the average cost of a holiday to the Costa Brava:

Back in post-war Blighty, the price of a trip to the impossibly-exotic Costa Brava amounted to a whole fifth of the annual salary – albeit with minimal ground costs once you’d touched down.  Nowadays, a Spanish trip makes much less impression on the bank balance, but you can bet you’ll be paying ‘tourist prices’ for that coke with ice and lemon… 

1950s: £35 pp in high season (source) – that’s £1,026 pp converted to today’s money

Now:  £558 pp (via

Total number of British holidaymakers abroad:

In these fancy modern times of ours, over 50 million of we Brits take our excellent manners, questionable fashion, numbered tee-shirts, iPhone chargers and screaming kids to foreign shores – a dramatic rise on those days of yore, prior to the advent of package holidays.  While the countries visited must be thankful for the commerce, that’s probably as far as their gratitude extends… 

1950s: Around 2 million (source)

Now: 56.0 million in 2011 (source)

The most popular destinations:

Some things never change – namely the draw of France, Spain and Italy.  That trio of European holiday behemoths remain our favoured boltholes.  However, long-haul destinations – particularly the USA and Australia – are now much more commonly visited than in the days of Churchill and Buddy Holly .

Top 4 holiday destinations:

1950s: France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland (source)

2011:  France, Italy, Spain, USA (source)

The biggest airlines (passengers carried):

1957: 1. American Airlines, 2. United Airlines, 3. Trans World Airlines, 4. Pan American World Air Lines, 5. British European Airways, 6. Delta Air Lines, 7. Air France (source)

2011:  1. Delta Air Lines, 2. United Airlines, 3. Southwest Airlines, 4. Lufthansa, 5. American Airlines, 6. China Southern Airlines, 7. Ryanair (source)

The average length of a flight…

The biggest single travel change from 60 years ago regards the speed with which we can get from A to B.  Not only are cars, trains and planes much faster, but there are more of them: more connections, more options, more access.  Today, a long weekend in India is possible (if not much fun and wholly eco-unfriendly); as the 1950s began, it could take an entire weekend to even get there at all…

to Milan…

1958: 3hrs 25mins (via British European Airways)

2012:  1hr 55mins (via British Airways)

or of flights / a flight… to Delhi:

1948: 44hrs 30mins (via British Overseas Airways)

2012:  8hrs 35mins (via British Airways)



Typical free-baggage allowance:

One of the main reasons why we can now travel so quickly is because airliners are so weight-conscious.  That extends to baggage allowances, which are lots lower than in the ‘50s. Happily (sort of), this change seems to have coincided with the onset of global warming.  Our holdalls are gradually being packed with ever more skimpy Speedos and fewer chunky knits – a handy fact when weight is so important.

1947s: Normally 30kg on British Overseas Airways flights (source)

2012:  23kg in economy with British Airways

The swimming costume:

It wasn’t always about skimpy Speedos, though – six decades back, one-piece, corset-style bathing suits were de rigeur, and every self-respecting lady wore a lavish swimming cap.  Fast-forward 60 years, and dripping barnets and bikinis are the order of the day.



All in all, it’s been amazing for to see how much travel has changed over the years – and to think about how much it will differ again in the next 60 years.  A week’s B&B on Mars, anyone?


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