On leave? Brits leave 125 MILLION products (over half of which are plastic) on holiday every year – but pick up ‘holiday friends’ for social media


  • Brits have left over 125m items on holiday in the past year – 76m of which are plastic
  • Books, sun tan lotion and pool inflatables top the list
  • But we also pick up ‘holiday friends’ – people we meet on holiday and add as friends on social media, but never see again
  • 8% of adults have over 100 ‘holiday friends’ on social media

Many Brits are taking the idea of ‘holiday leave’ a step too far, according to new data from travel search engine KAYAK.co.uk, with over half (53%) admitting that they leave items on holiday because they simply can’t be bothered to take them home.


Its research has found that British holidaymakers purposely leave a staggering 125 million* items they no longer need on holiday every year. And whilst books – something Brits leave 46 million of – may be enjoyed by someone else, more than half of the items (76 million) are plastic, that others will need to dispose of.

Unfinished toothpaste (15m), deodorant bottles (13m), sun tan lotion (13m) and pool inflatables (12m) are the items Brits most commonly leave behind – with travellers perhaps preferring to just buy fresh items when they return home. Plastic items such as pool inflatables may also be considered as ‘single holiday use’ items, which are purchased on holiday without any intention of taking them home.


It is also thought that the increased prevalence of travelling with hand luggage-only – under the rules of which passengers are not allowed to take any liquids over 100ml – may also be having an impact. Instead of buying often costly ‘travel-sized’ versions of their favourite toiletries, Brits are instead buying them on holiday and simply leaving them behind when the holiday has finished.

Overall, it was found to be books that are the single item Brits leave behind most on holiday – likely to either reduce weight when flying home, or to give someone else the opportunity to enjoy them. Over a quarter of Brits (26%) leave at least one book behind each time they go on holiday, while 3% admit to leaving five or more behind on each trip.


Other items that Brits commonly leave behind are unfinished bottles of alcohol (13% / 9.8m), clothes (11% / 8.3m items), moisturiser (8% / 6m items) and make up (2% / 1.5m items).

And whilst Brits leave a lot behind on holiday that they don’t think they will need any more, many are also returning having picked up something – ‘holiday’ friends on social media, that they will never see, or even speak to, again.

The average Brit currently has eight ‘friends’ on social media that they met on holiday and have not seen or heard from since. For nearly one in ten adults (8%) the figure rises to 100 friends, whilst 13% of under 25s have more than 100 holiday friends they don’t see.


John-Lee Saez, Managing Director for KAYAK Europe, comments: “We often return from holiday with fewer items than we went with – either by accident or because we simply don’t think we’ll need them again. Whilst some items, such as books, may be used and appreciated, others – such as large, plastic pool inflatables or half-finished plastic bottles – are simply waste.

“The research also demonstrates that Brits may want to give their friends list on social media a clean up too. If you are still ‘friends’ with someone you spoke to a few times on holiday half a lifetime ago, it may be time to clean up your newsfeed and responsibly “dispose” of them too.”

In order to help Brits make the most of their packing space on holiday, KAYAK has created a series of tips to help travellers pack smartly – as well as a host of other useful ‘holiday hacks’. Reader can view the hack here:  https://www.kayak.co.uk/magazine/21-travel-hacks/.



Research conducted by Opinium Research amongst 1,007 adults in the UK, between 10-14 January 2019 and not previously published.


Figure workings:

  • There are 52,078,525 adults in the UK (Office of National Statistics Population Estimates for UK: mid-2017)
  • 69% have been on holiday in the past 12 months = 35,934,182
  • Those who have been on a holiday in the past 12 months on average have had 2.1 holidays = 75,461,782 holidays taken by UK adults in the past 12 months
  • Figures reached by multiplying this figure by the percentage of adults who admit leaving behind each item