When people are planning their summer holidays there are a multitude of options available to them.
The world has been truly opened thanks to advances in air, sea and rail travel making every corner of the globe accessible. Rail travel has now become an international affair with people able to hop on the train and not only travel across the UK but into Europe as well. The Eurostar has also allowed people to head into the likes of France and Belgium in just a matter of hours without the need of having to go through potentially arduous airport security checks or boarding a ferry.
Now people think nothing of being just a train journey away from the centre of London to the centre of Paris. However, there was a time when this was a wild dream until a fateful day in 1841. That day was June 9th and involved a 32-year-old cabinet-maker known as Thomas Cook, a name that would become synonymous with the UK's travel industry for years to come.
Back then the young Cook was attending a temperance meeting to discuss ways in which the working people's lives could be improved. He believed that the less people drank and the better educated they were the more they could reduce the problems they faced on a daily basis. He suggested harnessing the power of the railways and organised a trip for 500 passengers to be transported from Leicester to Loughborough for a meeting, for the mere price of a shilling.
Little did he know that this simple act would be the dawn of the railway tour. The trips became extremely popular with the working people and Cook was able to arrange routes to the likes of Nottingham, Derby and Birmingham on behalf of local temperance societies and Sunday schools. It was not long before the first commercial trip was launched and in the summer of 1845, Cook organised a trip to Liverpool.
This was a much more extravagant affair but while the prices remained low, 15 shillings for first class and ten shillings for second, Cook managed to provide an added extra of a handbook of the journey. This would go on to become the precursor for the very first holiday brochure, something that is almost taken for granted in modern society.
As Cook expanded his travel business he set his sights beyond the UK shores. He started with targeting the European excursion market and in 1855 he was able to establish the Harwich and Antwerp route. It allowed him to give passengers a tour of the likes of Brussels, Cologne, the Rhine, Heidelberg, Baden-Baden, Strasbourg and Paris before returning to London. His ambition did not stop there as he looked across the Atlantic.
Launching a round the world ticket was something of a pioneering move for the travel company. Even in 1872 it allowed people to travel from Leicester, cross the Atlantic on a steam boat, then hop on a train in New York to San Francisco. As the train reached the West Coast passengers could jump on a Pacific steamer and explore the Far East before travelling back to London through Egypt and Palestine then moving onto Turkey, Greece, Italy and France.
Thomas Cook may be a household name across the UK, and even the world, nowadays and it is all thanks to its pioneering founder that carved its name in the history of holiday travel.