So what exactly is flashpacking?
Given the name of our website (and Instagram account, and facebook page), and the fact that the term ‘flashpacking’ isn’t that widely used – even within the travel industry – we get asked a fair bit; ‘what is flashpacking?’
Flashpacking isn’t a term we made up but is a description of a way of travelling that’s been around for at least 15 years. The interesting thing is that there doesn’t seem to be one definitive description of what flashpacking is – though there is lots of overlap in how various people describe and understand it.
So, for what it’s worth, our take on flashpacking is this: Put simply flashpacking is a mix of backpacking and luxury travel, giving the independent vibe of backpacking, and the budget to allow for some luxe splurges on your trip. There will be budget hotels or hostels involved (though probably not dorm rooms), but there will also be boutique hotels or fancy Airbnbs thrown in too. And whilst there could be the odd 3rd class rail trip or 8-hour bus ride – just for the experience! – there’s just as likely car hire, drivers or short flights to get from A to B. Want the advantages of the independent travel and attitude, and are happy to save budget on accommodation to spend on other elements of their trip.
Another school of thought entirely says that a flashpacker is a tech-loving backpacker, with a bag stuffed full of the latest hardware and gadgets – laptops, iPods, digital cameras, smartphones etc. Whilst there may be some truth that flashpackers use technology, aren’t smartphones standard backpacker issue these days? No need to find an internet café in each town you roll into to pay by the hour for the worlds’ slowest internet connection so you can send and receive a few emails or keep up with what’s been going on in the world (are we showing our age? Travel without smartphones deserves a blog post of it’s very own…)
Nor is flashpacking anything to do with the ongoing suitcase vs backpack debate, as these days many backpackers themselves don’t travel with a backpack, but prefer the convenience and practicality of a suitcase, shock, horror!
I like Paul Miles’ take on the term, who described flashpacking in the Guardian way back in 2004 as:
“An incongruous mix of slumming it and luxury; of adventurous travel with those on a budget by day and sedate dining and sleeping with the better off by night.”
Put in this light, we feel flashpacking describes our preferred style of travel very nicely. We think it can be a great style of travel for families with young children because let’s face it, travel can be tiring even without kids. So when you throw early starts, night wakings, toddler tantrums and being alert to accident-prone kids into the mix, sometimes you just need a little bit of downtime, some pampering, a comfy bed, (and possibly an all-inclusive/catered option from time to time) so you can switch off and relax.
And we’re not talking ultra-high end, because who wants screaming kids running around when they’ve paid hundreds of pounds a night to go and relax? We’re talking family friendly mid-to-high end accommodation with all the facilities you need. Maybe it’s taking a driver over a train. Maybe it’s taking a flight over an 18-hour bus ride. Maybe it’s taking a flashy backpack with wheels and packing cubes so you can separate out the inevitably sticky kids’ clothes from your own. Our travel won’t break the bank.