There are many places in Europe that are sadly so fantastic that they are either overrun with tourists or are so expensive that they are no longer a viable option - unless you travel at 06.20 on a Tuesday from Southend Airport and return at 0100 the following day. Below are my alternative options for well known destinations that may have fallen prey to this.
If you wanted to go to Paris, try Lille instead
Earlier this year, my husband and I stopped off in Lille en route back to London from the middle of Germany. Away from the main tourist drag, which in itself was still pretty and elegant, I found the city to be utterly charming - full of chic boutiques, cute cafés and gourmet restaurants. Whilst it is far from the grandeur of Paris, I could happily while away a weekend here with my other half again.
Best For: a less obvious romantic weekend away.
If you fancy Barcelona's city and beach break offering, jet to Valencia
Valencia is further south than Barcelona so blessed with even more sunshine, which is great considering it has a stunning, and natural, beach to lie on - a perfect activity after a day of sightseeing and paella eating. Valencia is just as dynamic a city as Barcelona, full of culture and buzzing from its local crowd. It makes a great year round destination.
Best for: A girly weekend away
If you are a chocolate and beer lover wanting to travel to Bruges, try nearby Ghent
Whilst Bruges is one of the prettiest places I have ever visited, so is Ghent, which is ultimately far less touristy too. It is full of the same canals, pretty pointy roofed buildings and squares to eat Belgian waffles in. I went with my mother for a night and felt like we didn't do the town justice- steeped as it is in history and dripping with yummy places to eat.
Best for: Foodies who have exhausted the usual destinations
If you are after some big nights out, swap Amsterdam for Rotterdam
Rotterdam may be an industrial city, but it doesn't mean it is devoid of soul. In fact, I found quite the opposite on a recent trip there and would urge anyone to visit - especially those who want to go to Amsterdam but are finding it tricky to locate a hotel that doesn't cost the earth. Rotterdam is a far cheaper alternative that still manages to deliver vibrant bars, slick eateries and cultural things to do for those that can manage it.
Best for: a quirky stag do
If you want a weekend full of pizza, pasta and Italian culture, go to Verona instead of Rome
I adored my trip to Verona this year and would heartily recommend it as a trip in its own right, so it certainly holds it own in comparison to its better known Italian brothers. It is a stunning town that is small enough to discover in two to three days - perfect for a long weekend away. It's compact nature also leaves you time to eat as much as possible of the delicious food on offer everywhere you turn. Another added bonus is that Verona is just a 45 minute drive to Lake Garda - aka heaven on earth.
Best for: culture vultures
If you are staycationing this year, why not travel to the New Forest instead of the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds has long been the destination for wealthy Londoners, Japanese tourists and Americans in search of quintessential England. It is undeniably pretty, at any time of year, yet the New Forest, to the south, is also extremely picturesque and has the added bonus of not being on the international radar yet. This may change with the continued success of hotels like The Pig or Limewood, so if you prefer your English staycations to be spent with more time in front of a roaring fire with a brandy in hand, and less time behind yet another coach load of tourists, I would plump for here asap.
Best for: short weekends away for couples or girlfriends in need of easy relaxation and luxury.