Travel money statistics

Discover the latest travel money statistics from the UK.


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Passport? Check. Suncream? Check. Toothbrush? Check. Cash in the local currency? Check.

Everyone loves going on holiday, but just how many Brits travel abroad? And how do they manage their money when they do?

We all have that friend who pretends to be Scrooge McDuck when on holiday, and that other one who’d happily eat at McDonald’s every day just to save a few extra quid. What’s the middle ground? How much are Brits spending when abroad? We dived into the latest statistics to find out.

The latest facts and figures

    • Brits made over 71 million trips abroad in 2018, down 1% compared to 2017.
    • Despite taking less trips abroad , Brits spent 1% more than they did in 2017, totalling £45.4 billion in 2018.
    • The most common reasons for travelling abroad were for holidays, accounting for 47 million of our trips.
    • The two next most popular reasons for travelling were visiting friends and family (16.7 million) and business trips (6.6 million).
    • The most popular travel destination was Spain, with the majority of trips for holidays (89%).
    • There were over 15 million trips made to Spain in 2018, more than the next two most popular destinations combined.
    • UK holidaymakers spend almost £1 billion a year at airports just to “get rid” of foreign currency.

Where do we visit?

Our most popular holiday destination is Spain, with over 15.6 million trips made in 2018. Despite being comfortably the most popular travel destination, visits to Spain did fall for the first time since 2009 (-2%). See the graph below for a more detailed breakdown of the most popular tourist destinations.

Most visited countries by UK residents in 2016

Most visited countries by UK residents in 2018

Country Visits (millions)
Spain 15.618
France 8.556
Italy 4.325
USA 3.472
Irish Republic 3.218
Portugal 2.818
Germany 2.813
Netherlands 2.716
Poland 2.472
Greece 2.468

Total spending abroad

The total amount we have spent abroad has been slowly rising year-on-year until a slight dip after the financial crash in 2008. However, spending has recovered since then and has now reached a new peak of over £45.4 billion in 2018, up 1% from 2017. Despite reaching new heights, this represents a much smaller rise than in previous years.

UK spending on outbound tourism year-on-year.

Year Spending abroad by UK residents (£ billion)
1998 £19.489
1999 £22.020
2000 £24.251
2001 £25.332
2002 £26.962
2003 £28.550
2004 £30.285
2005 £32.154
2006 £34.411
2007 £35.013
2008 £36.838
2009 £31.694
2010 £31.820
2011 £31.701
2012 £32.450
2013 £34.510
2014 £35.537
2015 £39.028
2016 £43.771
2017 £44.840
2018 £45.435

Spend per trip

Budgeting for your trip is an essential part of your holiday planning, but which countries are costing us the most per trip and per day?

Luxembourg tops the spend-per-day list at an average of £119 per day. Whilst the country we spend the most visiting on average is South Africa at £1,911. Explore the tables below to find out the top 5 countries for both spend per day and spend per trip.

Country Average spend per day (£)
Luxembourg 119
Austria 100
United Arab Emirates 98
Switzerland 95
USA 93
Country Average spend per visit (£)
South Africa 1,911
New Zealand 1,815
Australia 1,615
Thailand 1,544
Barbados 1,301

What are we spending on?

Eurostat averaged spending across 28 member UK states (including the UK) to reveal what we are spending on whilst abroad.

Unsurprisingly, over two thirds of our holiday spending is on accommodation (37%) and transport (31%) – leaving us just 32% for all other holiday related expenses.

Spending Proportion
Accomodation 37%
Travel 31%
Other 32%

Leftover money

Chances are you have experienced the dilemma of what to do with leftover currency at the end of your holiday. Recent research suggests Brits could be better off to the tune of almost £1 billion by converting their unwanted currency back to pounds.

  • UK holidaymakers need to have at least £52 worth of leftover currency to go through the effort of changing it back to pounds.
  • On average UK adults spent £14.27 at airports, per trip, just to save them from bringing it home.
  • This equates to nearly £1 billion spent at airports every year just to get rid of foreign currency.


Brits need £52 to go through the effort of changing foreign currency back to pounds.

Sources used

Click here for more research. For all media enquiries, please contact:

Matt Mckenna
UK Communications Manager
T: +44 20 8191 8806

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