The best alternative ways to travel: avoid package holidays and try a boat, bike, train or road trip

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Alternative ways to travel on a canal boat

Tired of the same old package holidays? Jump on a boat or train, take a hike or spin some wheels for an alternative travel experience

Some of the most impressive holiday destinations around the UK, Europe and further afield are best experienced at a slower pace...

1 Voyage of discovery

The world looks very different from the deck of a boat. And as there are countless different decks, and bodies of water, you’ll never run out of inspiration. A luxury liner in the Caribbean is a very different proposition to a slow boat on the Mekong, after all – and a winter cruise is different again. Choose to sail from a UK port or book a fly-cruise.

Home: Take the ferry from Penzance to St Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly for an island-themed break exploring white-sand beaches and sub-tropical gardens with Premier Holidays (eight-day independent tour from £969).

Away: Sail with Hurti Gruten through the spectacular Norwegian fjords on a winter cruise, visiting remote fishing villages and keeping watch on deck for the fabled Northern Lights (six-day voyage from €599, excluding flights).

Don’t leave home without: A pair of binoculars – perfect for scanning distant shores, and you never know when a whale or dolphin might pop up in your wake!

Alternative ways to travel on a cruise ship

2 Two-wheel adventure

More ‘Tour de Fun’ than ‘Tour de France’, a cycling holiday kits you out with bikes, route notes and pre-booked accommodation, leaving you to freewheel through beautiful countryside while your luggage is transferred ahead of you. Guided or independent options are available. And don't forget you can save 10% on a new bike with Cycle Surgery.

Home: Take a gentle pedal along the bridleways and quiet country lanes of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast on Headwater's trip, dawdling in seaside towns and staying in comfortable hotels (five-night self-guided tour from £589).

Away: Travel with Skedaddle and cycle through the backroads of Tuscany on a leisurely guided tour, weaving your way from vineyard to the cypress-studded hills between the medieval towns of Monteriggioni and Siena (seven-day tour from £1,295).

Don’t leave home without: A pair of padded cycling shorts – you’ll be grateful after a few days in the saddle.

Alternative ways to travel on a cycling holiday

3 Steam train odyssey

You don’t have to be a railway buff to enjoy a steam train holiday. It’s not only a relaxing and stylish way to travel, but you get to experience beautiful scenery and a heady dose of nostalgia. Railway tours range from single-base holidays to Michael Portillo-style continental epics.

Home: Travel by steam train through the Highlands of Scotland with Great Rail, weaving through the Cairngorms and crossing the 21-arch Glenfinnan Viaduct of Harry Potter fame (four-day tour from £710).

Away: Travel with Rail Trail to Wernigerode in the heart of Germany before setting off by steam train to explore Hansel & Gretel towns and fairytale forests in the Harz Mountains (seven-day tour from £1,025).

Don’t leave home without: A copy of George Bradshaw’s Continental Railway Guide – essential browsing for European train travellers.

Alternative ways to travel on a steam train

4 Cruising the waterways

With over 2,000 miles of navigable waterways to choose from in the UK alone, a canal or riverboat holiday lets you drift back in time through unspoilt countryside, but with plenty of modern comforts. Europe’s major rivers offer exciting multi-city cruises.

Home: Explore the Heart of England with Black Prince by canal boat, meandering through 130 locks along the Avon Ring through historic towns such as Stratford-upon-Avon, Evesham, Tewkesbury and Worcester (14-day narrowboat hire from around £1,500). Or try Hoseasons, who offer 5% off their boating holidays to Boundless members.

Away: Travel in style on a Danube River cruise from Budapest to Nuremberg via three countries; Viking River Cruises' trip includes shore excursions in grand cities and world heritage sites (eight-day cruise from £1,095).

Don’t leave home without: Lightweight trainers or deck shoes with non-slip, rubber soles.

Alternative ways to travel on a canal boat

5 Coach comfort

Good value for money and an eco-friendly alternative to flying, a coach holiday also puts everyone in the back seat where they can enjoy the passing scenery while someone else does the driving. Guided excursions and evening entertainment are often included as part of the package.

Home: Cross the Irish Sea to Dublin with Shearings before heading to Killarney for a few days in the ‘Jewel of Ireland’ – best known for the 179km Ring of Kerry drive around the Iveragh Peninsula (five-day tour from £299).

Away: Travel with Trailfinders and discover the iconic sights of eastern USA and Canada on a coach tour linking New York, Boston, Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Amish Country and Washington DC (ten-day tour from £1,114, excluding flights).

Don’t leave home without: A travel pillow to rest your head on as you nod off to the motion of the coach.

Alternative ways to travel by coach

6 One for the road

Free to travel at your own pace, stop where you like and venture off the beaten track, a self-drive holiday not only gives you independence and flexibility, but also opens up a world of opportunities. For ultimate freedom, hire a motorhome.

Home: Take your car island-hopping through the Outer Hebrides with Hebridean Hopscotch, using local ferries to link Lewis, Harris, Berneray, North and South Uist, Eriskay and Barra on a 134-mile journey staying in cosy B&Bs and hotels (five-day self-drive from £389).

Away: On Rainbow Tours' trip you'll fly to South Africa for a Cape escape along the Garden Route visiting Cape Town, Cape Point Nature Reserve, Boulders Beach, Camps Bay and the Winelands (nine-day fly-drive from £1,390).

Don’t leave home without: A good selection of cruising music – on CDs or preloaded on your phone.

Alternative ways to travel on a self-drive road trip

7 Best foot forward

The ultimate in ‘slow travel’, a walking holiday immerses you in the landscape, nature and culture of a place. Break yourself in gently with a single-centre holiday, staying in a comfortable hotel and taking guided day hikes. Before you know it, Everest Base Camp will be beckoning…

Home: Get footloose and fancy-free in Yorkshire with HF Holidays, based in the historic harbour town of Whitby and venturing out on daily guided walks across heather-clad moors and windswept headlands (three-seven nights, from £295).

Away: Take an Inntravel trip and spend a couple of days delving into the souks of Marrakech, then head south for gentle guided walks in the foothills of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, following mule trails between ancient Berber villages (six-day tour from £770, excluding flights).

Don’t leave home without: A pair of walking poles to take the strain off your knees on steep descents and to provide support on uneven terrain.

Alternative ways to travel on a walking holiday

Do more with Boundless

Save 5% on river cruises and coach holidays

Shearings offers a range of river cruises for all tastes and budgets, with a range of destinations worldwide. If you prefer to stay on land, Shearings also offers half-board and all-inclusive coach holidays in the UK and Europe in spacious coaches.

Save 10% on Belmond’s iconic luxury trains and river cruises

Step into a world of classic glamour as you travel with Belmond from cosmopolitan cities to ancient wonders.

Save up to 7% on Brittany Ferries

Members save 7% on ferry travel with Brittany Ferries, and 5% on Brittany Ferries holidays to France, Spain and Portugal.

All images © Getty Images.

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