Some Britons Flee U.K. For Royal Wedding

The British travel agency Thomas Cook says it's offering an extra 100,000 vacation packages at Mediterranean resorts and elsewhere, to meet a sudden demand for flights and hotels over the next two weekends. Easter is always a busy travel time for Britons, but next Friday is a public holiday to mark the Royal wedding — and it appears many Britons would rather take an overseas vacation than stay in the U.K. to watch it.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Now to the gold standard of weddings. We're just over a week away from the royal wedding between Prince William and Catherine Middleton. Tourism officials are expecting 600,000 foreigners to flood the British capital for the nuptials.

But Vicki Barker reports that all these foreigners flying in will cross paths with millions of Brits flying out.

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VICKI BARKER: It's an unseasonably glorious spring day outside this West London underground station. But the passing commuters barely pause for these high-end buskers. For this is the last rush hour before the four-day Easter bank holiday, as national holidays are called here, to be followed by next weekend's May Day bank holiday extended to four days by the royal wedding.

And millions of Brits have realized they can take an 11-day vacation, losing only three days pay. One big travel firm alone has added an extra 100,000 sunshine breaks for this coming week.

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BARKER: Ben Fahey works for the London travel agency Jet Bookers.

Mr. BEN FAHEY (Jet Bookers): The happiest Brits are those who are utilizing that double bank holiday. People are definitely taking advantage of it.

BARKER: When Prime Minister David Cameron declared William and Kate's wedding day a legal holiday, the law of unintended consequences took over. Nearly two and a half million Brits are expected to leave the country and nearly three and a half million are taking U.K. holidays well away from London.

Mr. PAUL MAGUIRE: I'll be leaving London about 6:30 a.m. on the day of the wedding.

BARKER: Londoner Paul Maguire is an avid sailor and rabid anti-monarchist. He makes a point of spending the day sailing in the waters of the Norfolk Broads in eastern England for every royal celebration and royal tragedy.

Mr. MAGUIRE: Had a very nice day when they buried Diana. I had a very nice day sailing when she got married. Jubilee, I had three or four days on the Norfolk Broads.

BARKER: Other Brits reportedly favoring places like Turkey, Egypt, the Canary Islands, places, in other words, with the least British weather possible, where they can watch the royal wedding on television from their poolside bar.

For NPR News, I'm Vicki Barker in London.

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