The number of foreign holidays by UK residents has surged 68% in the past 20 years as mini-breaks replace the traditional two-week holiday.

A review of holiday trends since the mid-1990s has revealed just how much low-cost airlines have changed our holiday habits and choice of destinations.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recorded more than 45 million foreign holidays by UK residents in 2016, compared with 27 million in 1996. The rise of 68% contrasts with a 12% increase in the UK population in the same period.

The one-week holiday is now much more popular than before, the ONS said, with 11 million seven-day breaks in 2016 against just under six million in 1996. Trips of two weeks declined from five million to below four million last year.

Cruise popularity

The rise of low-cost airlines has meant France is one of the few countries Britons are visiting less than in 1996, following a fall of 9%.

Rather than driving to France on a ferry, tourists are opting for a cheap flight elsewhere, with the number of holidays to Spain rocketing by 87% in 20 years.

Germany has joined the top 10 destinations for UK holidaymakers, while another new entry is cruising – now four times as popular as it was 20 years ago.

This could be due to an ageing population, but cruise operators are also trying to extend their appeal to younger holidaymakers too.

Fewer day trips

Journeys across the English Channel to stock up on alcohol and cigarettes — booze cruises — are no longer as cost-efficient as they used to be, which is why UK residents are making far fewer day-trips abroad than they did 20 years ago.

In fact, the number of holidaymakers travelling by sea has declined by 33% since 1996.

In contrast, figures from the Civil Aviation Authority show passenger numbers at UK airports have increased by 85%, from 135 million in 1996 to 251 million in 2015.

Destinations now much more popular than in 1996 include the United Arab Emirates, Poland, Romania, Croatia and Iceland. The biggest falls were countries that have experienced terrorist incidents and security concerns in recent years — Turkey, Egypt, Kenya and Tunisia.

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