Find out more about Cathy Toogood
How to find the best long-haul holiday deal
The busy summer travel season may be over for another year but that doesn’t mean that you have to pack your sunny holiday wardrobe away just yet. If you are yearning for some guaranteed sunshine, you’ll just have to venture slightly further afield.
And the good news for those looking to book a long-haul break is that the holiday companies are currently out in force trying to get your travel custom.
But how do you find the best long-haul deals, and which destinations should you consider from now until March?
Read our tips below.
Take advantage of special offers
There are a number of flight sales on at the moment from companies including British Airways, Air New Zealand and Virgin, so snap up a bargain before the sales end (British Airways and Virgin’s promotional rates are available until September 25 while Air New Zealand’s promotion ends on September 26). Discounts are up to 40% off in some cases.
And travel companies are offering discounts on long-haul winter sun holidays at the moment too. For example, ebookers is offering up to 50% off hotel rates in its Travel Happier sale (ending September 30), and Thomson has a low deposit offer on winter sun holidays so you can secure a holiday deal for a deposit of as little as £150 per adult on a long-haul break and £350 per family.
But before you book the first deal you see, do your homework and compare flight and holiday prices using a site such as TravelSupermarket so you know the offer that you are snapping up is a good one.
Don’t miss all of the deals
Do you feel like you always miss out on holiday sales and that by the time you’ve heard about them, all of the best deals have gone? If so, sign up to travel emails from your favourite holiday companies to hear about flash sales, special offers and early booking discounts before everyone else.
Travel when no one else wants to
When demand is high during peak travel periods – such as school holidays and at the weekend – prices tend to be higher too. So, if you can be flexible on the time, date and day of your trip, you stand the best chance of bagging a bargain.
Recent research from Which? revealed that Tuesday was the cheapest day to book a flight out of the UK and Sunday was the most expensive day to return, so with this in mind, compare a number of flights and package holiday deals departing and returning on different days side by side.
TravelSupermarket’s holiday search tool displays prices for seven days of the week in one place so you can quickly spot the cheapest time to travel.
Look at both package holidays and DIY breaks
Before you book a tempting package holiday deal or snap up an offer on a flight, compare the price of booking a flight and accommodation separately with that of booking both in a package to see where you will find the most competitive price. You may be surprised.
And compare different board types too
Comparing different board types can also save you significant sums of money as, for example, upgrading to half, full or even an all-inclusive board basis may not be significantly more expensive than staying on a bed and breakfast rate but could save you a large sum of money in food and drink costs while you are away. But be honest with yourself when you are booking – if you are still likely to eat outside of the hotel, you don’t want to end up paying twice for food.
Self-catering properties are another accommodation type to consider when comparing long-haul holidays – especially when travelling to a destination such as Orlando as a family. Not only will you be able to be flexible on when and what you eat, you will be able to control how much you spend on your meals and drinks.
Where should I go?
From fun-filled Florida to the beach lover’s paradise Australia, there are plenty of destinations where the sun will be shining while we are cranking up the heating. But, if you are looking to keep the costs down, our top destinations are:
Whether you are travelling with the kids, as a couple or with friends, there’s plenty of fun to be had in Florida for all ages – from the theme parks in Orlando to bohemian Key West. The Sunshine State got its name for good reason so expect blue skies and temperatures in the 20s/30s, even in January. There’s accommodation for all budgets in Florida too, from bargain basement motels and self-catering villas with pools to high-end hotels.
We found villas with four bedrooms in Orlando for as little as £350 a week over the 2013 Easter holidays – but book now as demand tends to outstrip supply at this time of year.
As a classic winter sun destination, prices can creep up in the Caribbean when temperatures drop in the UK. But take a look at Cuba, Mexico or Dominican Republic holidays for best chance of bagging a Caribbean bargain. There are some tempting all-inclusive packages on offer to all three destinations, so if you like to deal with most of your holiday costs before you even board the plane, keep an eye out for offers on this board basis. You’ll find seven-night package holidays from around £600 on TravelSupermarket and many all-inclusive seven-night packages come in at less than £1,000 per person.
Between November and February, the sun shines in Thailand for eight to nine hours a day and temperatures are in the early thirties making the country a perfect winter sun destination. And whether your idea of a dream holiday is to lounge on pristine white-sand beaches, party all night, explore temples all day or sample the mouth-watering food on offer, you’ll find the perfect break for you. Plus, there’s a huge range of budget accommodation in Thailand so you can keep the cost of your trip down.
Take a look at our Thailand holidays page for seven-night deals from just £515 per person.
Dubai may be famous for its glitz, glamour and all things luxurious, but it’s possible to find a good-value package to the Middle Eastern hot spot. For example, if you want to banish the January blues, there are seven-night package holidays available on TravelSupermarket for as little as £468 from north west airports. And, while you are there, don’t forget to take advantage of the tax-free prices in the malls as well as practising your haggling skills in the souks.
This group of islands off the West African coast enjoy an average of 350 days of sunshine a year, so they are the perfect place to escape to when the weather starts to get chilly in the UK. You can enjoy a laid-back atmosphere, watersports and huge swathes of white-sands – and there are plenty of great value beach breaks to be had in this up-and-coming destination. We did a quick search for holidays from London in November and found seven-night package holiday prices from as little as £492 per person.
In its annual Long Haul Holiday Report (2011), the Post Office found that Sri Lanka was the best-value destination for 10 popular holiday items – including a cup of coffee, a bottle of beer and a three-course meal for two with wine. And savvy holidaymakers will be glad to know that the tear-drop shaped island has held this place for two years in a row. So whether you want to take in the wildlife on a safari, visit the colonial sights or just flop on the beach, you can relax knowing that your money will go further here than in other long-haul destinations.
If you want to jet off to Sri Lanka in November, there are deals available from London for as little as £600 per person.
Follow Cathy on Twitter at @CathyToogood
Please note: Any deals or prices in this article were correct and available at the time of writing.