Travelling without flying, over land and sea, used to be the norm. The recent rise of low-cost airlines has opened up the skies to many more people. However, with growing awareness of the environmental impact of flying, travellers are looking for more sustainable alternatives.
Flight-free travel is not just about reducing the carbon footprint of your holiday, though. Those of us that are turning back to train, boat and bus are rediscovering the joy of overland travel. As the tagline for the hit BBC TV show Race across the World ponders, “in travelling over, are we missing the joys of journeying through?”
That’s all well and good, but planning a flight-free trip can seem daunting; especially if you don’t know where to start. That’s why we’ve put together this flight-free travel guide. As well as being a directory of flight-free resources, this page will act as a hub for our extended ‘how to travel without flying’ guides and flight-free travel itineraries.
The complete flight-free travel guide
Flight-free travel resources
From handy websites to flight-free travel agents, these resources will help you plan your next trip over land and sea. You’ll find inspiration on routes and destinations, as well as services that help you book train travel and even passage on cargo ships.
Join our flight-free Facebook group
Join our UK Flight-Free Travellers Facebook group for anyone looking to cut down on flying and travel flight-free from and around the UK. It’s a great place to connect with like-minded travellers, sharing tips and tricks.
To connect with flight-free travellers from around the world, check out the Flight-Free Travellers Network group.
The easiest way to book a flight-free holiday is with Byway Travel. Founded in 2020 by Cat Jones, who’s never owned a car and whose annual family holiday is by train and bike, Byway is the world’s first 100% flight-free travel agent.
The company specialises in making the journey part of your adventure, so you end up seeing a lot more interesting places than you would do flying over. From summer tours through Italy to alpine ski trips in winter, you can choose from a plethora of pre-designed adventures. Alternatively, you can use Byway’s handy trip planner to create your own bespoke holiday from scratch.
Either way, all travel arrangements are taken care of and accommodation booked for you, so you can simply sit back and look forward to your flight-free holiday. As part of the package, Byway even provides on-trip support, via WhatsApp, and free disruption rerouting throughout your trip.
Byway Travel discount code
We’ve partnered with Byway to help make flight-free travel easier; ADAPT readers get £50 off any Byway holiday over £1200! Simply join our UK Flight-Free Travellers Facebook group to access our Byway Travel discount code. You can then use this code at the checkout.
The Man in Seat 61
Seat61.com is the ultimate bible for flight-free travellers. Former British Rail employee Mark Smith, aka the ‘Man in Seat 61’, set up his encyclopaedic website in the early 2000s and has been the first port of call for travellers ever since.
Mark has been travelling flight-free since before it was cool; prior to most people thinking about the environmental impact of flying and the worsening experience of air travel, Mark was choosing trains, boats and buses because it’s more enjoyable.
From Tokyo, via the Trans-Siberian, to New York, onboard the Cunard Queen Mary 2 ocean liner, Mark has you covered. Seat61.com includes information on flight-free travel to pretty much every country in the world, with tips for how to buy tickets, details on connections, and suggestions for itineraries and stopovers.
European rail, coach and ferry travel
Formerly Loco2, Rail Europe is an excellent resource for booking rail travel across Europe. A great feature of the website is that it shows how much carbon you have saved on each journey by travelling without flying.
Some route options or rail providers don’t always work with Rail Europe, so some clever searching is sometimes needed. Use in tandem with Seat61.com for best results.
Other useful booking websites
- Trainline – An app for booking train and coach tickets in Europe
- Interrail – An all-in-one train pass giving you access to travel across 33 countries in Europe
- Flixbus – Worldwide coach travel
- Direct Ferries – Directory of ferry routes around the world
Other useful travel planning websites
- Rail Guide Europe – A blog/guide to European mainland rail services
- Discover by Rail – Help with travel planning and booking tickets, such as arranging tickets for the sleeper train to Istanbul (which can’t be bought online)
Intercontinental ocean travel
Is it possible to travel between continents without flying? The simply answer is yes! In fact, a growing number of ‘no-fly’ pioneers are hitching rides on cargo ships and repositioning cruises.
“The idea behind this is that you’re piggybacking on emissions that are already going to be emitted,” says Lewis McNeil—a project manager from the Orchard Project charity, who gave up flying in 2006. “That cargo ship, as unsustainable as it is with our crazy trade system, is going anyway. With flying, flights depend on demand.”
Repositioning cruises are one-off, one-way itineraries when ships change seasonal home ports. They are great opportunities to hitch an intercontinental ride across the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean. As well as the websites linked below, you’ll find many more options with a quick Google search for ‘repositioning cruises’.
Cargo ship passenger travel
Due to Covid, many shipping companies were forced to cancel their cargo ship passenger spaces. Current options are therefore limited. However, some sites say they will be back in 2025. So, stay posted; we will update this page as new information comes in.
- Cargo Ship Voyages – A specialist cargo ship travel agency
- Freighter Trips – Another specialist freighter travel agency
- SlowTravel Experience – Sustainable slow travel trips, including sailing and cargo ships
- Maris – Freighter Travel Club
It’s also worth checking out this Wiki Travel page for a directory of additional cargo ship travel options.