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Compare the best summer holidays

Summer holidays offer the chance to recharge our batteries, spend quality time as a family and soak up some much-needed sun. TravelSupermarket's comparison tools will make it easy for you to find the best holiday for you, for less.

How to plan and book your holiday

If you're starting to plan your next summer holiday, where do you start? Our tips will help you to find the perfect holiday for you at the best possible price.

Make a plan
Before you rush to book a holiday, take a step back and make a list of what everyone in your group wants from your trip. Are you after an active break? Do you want to learn a new skill? Or is a week flopping on the beach just what you need?

And will you need a kids' club, a sandy beach or museums and art galleries to explore? Decide on the time of year you all want to travel and how long you can go away for. Then separate your list into “must haves” and “nice to haves” to focus your mind.
Now, set your budget and remember that this should include everything from your hotel and flights to car hire, spending money, food and drink while you are away, and any activities you want to take part in.

Finally, make a list of possible destinations with the people you are travelling with - as well as those you wouldn't consider.

Do your homework
You should now have a short list, so to help you whittle this down, ask friends and family for their recommendations or get advice from your connections on social networks.

Find out key facts about your potential destinations online using sources such as the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office website - make sure you pay particular attention to the weather when you want to travel, if you are going to need visas and whether you will need any injections or medication.

For inspiration on what to do while you are away, look at guidebooks, review sites, magazines and newspaper supplements. If you have any questions, go to travel forums http://www.travelsupermarket.com/community/forums/default.aspx or speak to your local travel agent.

Now look at your list again and narrow down the destinations again involving all of the people you are travelling with.

Compare prices to find the best deal
It's time to look for prices for your chosen destinations now but before you snap up the first “deal” you find, look at the cost of both package holidays and booking separate flights and hotels side by side so you know which the cheapest option is.

To be sure that the price you have found is the cheapest available, use a price-comparison site such as TravelSupermarket which pulls in prices from all of the big holiday companies in one place.

If you are sticking to a tight budget, TravelSupermarket's Holiday vs holiday tool is a handy gadget which will help you find out where in the world your money can take you. You may just be surprised by the results!

Make a list of your top holiday options and note down which can be booked with just a deposit and which require a full payment.
When you have options within your budget, compare accommodation and board types to see which break is the best value for money for you.

But be honest with yourself - don't opt for an all-inclusive holiday if you know you won't eat in the hotel and, if you'd rather have room service and meals at set times, self-catering might not be the best option for you.

Review your options
You've almost found your ideal holiday but before you hit the book button, refer to your original list of “must haves”. Does your break tick all of the boxes?

If so, do a quick online check of review sites and, to have peace of mind that the place you are staying is what you expect, read feedback on your accommodation from other holidaymakers.

It's time to book
Do a final price check before you book and remember our three golden rules when booking any holiday:

1. Where possible, book an ATOL or ATOL-Flight Plus holiday. If you are unsure whether your break is ATOL-protected, ask your travel company before you book.
2. If you can't book an ATOL-protected holiday, take out a travel insurance policy with end supplier failure to cover you should any element of your trip fail.
3. To make sure your holiday money is protected, pay for your trip using a credit card to get protection under the Consumer Credit Act for items over £100 and less than £30,000 in value or use your Visa or MasterCard for chargeback protection.

So, now you've booked. Stick up a picture of your destination to inspire you to start saving your spending money and let the holiday countdown begin!

Summer: Where to go when?

Going away this summer? Whether you're tied to travelling during the school holidays or have more flexibility, find out where to go and when.

Whether you are tied to travelling during the school summer holidays or you have the flexibility to get away off peak, there is a huge choice of destinations to pick from. But where should you go and when in order to get the best combination of prices, weather and resort activity on a traditional package style holiday? Our travel expert, Bob Atkinson, offers up some suggestions.

April

The weather in the Med is warm, however if you want it to be hot you will need to head to Egypt, the Canaries or over to the Caribbean or Mexico. Alternatively, destinations like Goa and the Maldives are good options.

As the last days of April approach, the first wave of charter flights to the Greek islands will fire up along with seasonal departures to places such as Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica. And the first last-minute deals of summer will start to appear with 'late' prices being marketed up to 12 weeks ahead of the departure date. Cyprus and Malta are great destinations at this time of year for added warmth and it's an ideal time for city breaks in Europe as well.

May
The Med really starts to open up in May and many of the Greek and Turkish resorts see beach bars opening and restaurants dusting off the covers for the coming season. Spain and Portuguese resorts are cranking up and getting ready for the peak in summer and you can generally enjoy great weather, quietish resorts and stunning spring colours across the Med.

The Caribbean still basks in good weather and it's an excellent time of year to visit Florida or other US destinations ahead of the busy domestic holiday season in the summer. The last week of May will be a very busy week for Brits as half term is the first big getaway week of the summer. If you can, avoid travelling during this week in order to find quieter resorts and better prices. City breaks remain great value and it's not too hot across Europe.

June
June is one of the best times of the year to go to the Med as the sun is shining and resorts are fully open, yet it feels nice and quiet ahead of the school holidays. Take you pick from across the region.

If you fancy a break in northern climes, the days are longest in June with almost 24-hour daylight in Iceland, for example, and temperatures reaching the low 20s.

July and August
The school holidays begin in July and the entire Med becomes a holiday playground for people from all over the world. The weather is at its hottest, the sea temperatures are superb and the resorts are fully open to serve the holiday crowds.

Spain and her islands, along with Portugal's Algarve, the Greek islands, the French coastal resorts and Turkey are busy as are the Croatian and Slovenian coasts, Cyprus and Malta.

Be cautious of the heat in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia at this time of year, though, and bear in mind that it's the start of the hurricane season in the Caribbean and Florida, which runs through until autumn.

September
In September, the schools go back and prices start to fall once you get past the first week of the month. This is ideal travelling time to find a bargain, with the summer heat dissipating and resorts starting to get quiet. Be cautious of Greece and Turkey where some areas start to close down ahead of the winter months, though.

It's a great time to visit Spain, Italy and Portugal, and city breaks come back into vogue for many - although European cities can be very busy with a combination of holidaymakers, business travellers getting back to work after summer and school trips.

October
For guaranteed sunshine, head to the Canaries, the Red Sea or further afield to the Maldives, Goa or Dubai in October.
Alternatively, opt for the North African destinations of Morocco and Tunisia, city breaks in Europe or North America.

Many resorts and hotels in the Med do remain open but the weather can be a risk and some resorts become very quiet. Italy and France in particular see businesses shutting down after the holiday season along with Greece and some Turkish resorts.

However, this is the perfect time to snap up a bargain flight or hotel from the choice of what's still on offer.

With half term in the last week of October for many schools, expect prices to be far higher and availability much tighter so avoid this week if you can.

Best destinations for families?

Planning the next big family holiday but unsure where to go? Here's our pick of great places for families to visit.

Great family summer holiday destinations
Book the right summer holiday destination and you and your family could have the best two weeks of your life.
If you're struggling to decide where to go on your family holiday, read on so that you can all enjoy the break you deserve.

Classic family destinations
The Mediterranean is a mecca for British holidaymakers and the beauty, especially for those with younger children, is that you don't need to spend hours getting there.

Most Spanish resorts and the ever popular Balearic Islands of Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza are no more than two to three hours away by plane, while you can hop over to France by ferry in as little as an hour and a half.

Even the Greek islands and the Algarve are accessible in around three hours.

For a taste of the high life, head to Cannes or St Tropez on France's southern coast, or Spain's Marbella.
If, however, your priority is having lots to do, a bustling resort such as Benidorm on the Costa Blanca or Albufeira in Portugal will probably prove more suitable.

Finally, if you are prepared to travel further afield, consider splashing out on a trip to Orlando in Florida, where the many world-renowned theme parks are sure to put a smile on your kids' faces.

Recently popular destinations
For relatively short flight times and exotic charm, it's hard to beat North African destinations such as Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.
Egypt's Red Sea region, for example, is a family favourite year after year thanks to its long beaches, relatively low prices and world-class watersports.

With a wide range of accommodation, reliable summer sun and tasty, cheap local food, Turkey is also increasingly popular as each year goes on.

Family-friendly resorts worth a look for your summer trip include Sharm el Sheikh and El Gouna in Egypt, and Marmaris in Turkey.

Island destinations
Being cut off from the rest of the world is one reason island destinations appeal to holidaymakers of all kinds.

And the good news for parents dreaming of escaping it all is that there are plenty of islands set up for family getaways.

Along with the usual suspects off the coast of Spain and Greece - including the classic Canary Island destinations of Tenerife, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria - the crystal clear waters and diverse scenery of the Cape Verde islands have started attracting more and more families of late.
Many of the hotels on the islands boast great kids' clubs and activities for all of the family as a result.

Other lesser-known islands to bear in mind include Malta, which has a wealth of historical architecture, and Cyprus with its spectacular coastline and sultry climate. Paphos in Cyprus will be a winner with most families.

For those happier in lower temperatures, meanwhile, Iceland offers natural hot springs, extreme sports and incredible wildlife. And no trip to the country would be complete without a trip to the colourful capital Reykjavik.

Long-haul destinations
For a holiday with a difference, it is often worth going further afield.

And the good news is that many long-haul destinations are becoming easier to get to - even with kids.

Thomson and First Choice are launching direct charter flights to the island of Phuket in Thailand from November, while British Airways now offer flights to Sri Lanka via Male.

Both places offer great value for money, not to mention dreamy beaches and delicious local cuisine. And from Sri Lanka it is just a short hop to the romantic island paradise that is the Maldives.

With surprisingly short flights times of around nine hours, the Caribbean islands of Jamaica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, St Lucia and Antigua are also well worth a visit. And the Mexican resorts of the Cancun area also cater well for families.

For families who prefer the urban buzz to the beach, meanwhile, Dubai in the Middle East is accessible in just six hours and offers impressive architecture and shopping opportunities galore - just be aware of the heat, especially in the summer months.

Multi-destination cruises
If deciding where to go on holiday is proving too much of a headache, why not book a no-hassle cruise that takes in several Mediterranean destinations instead? What could be more exciting for your little ones than waking up somewhere new each morning?

You can sail from Southampton on family-friendly cruises run by either Royal Caribbean or P&O.

P&O's cruises include a 12-night trip visiting Alicante in Spain and Lisbon in Portugal, while Royal Caribbean offers a 10-night trip that includes Malta and the Southern Italian cities of Naples and Rome.

UK staycation destinations
Britain is blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches - if not the most beautiful weather - in the world.

Cornwall, for example, is home to hundreds of hidden coves and surfing spots, while Bournemouth has an incredible seven miles of golden sand.

Or, for fun beside the sea, resorts such as Blackpool and Brighton are sure to hit the spot. And, in contrast, the Lake District and the Cotswolds are stunning countryside retreats with walking opportunities and pretty towns and villages to explore.

With their enormous choice of activities and fantastic facilities, UK holiday parks can also prove a great mix of fun for the kids and relaxation for you whether you want to escape to the countryside or the beach.

And UK city breaks are a great option for all of the family with fun attractions such as the London Dungeons and free museums and galleries all over the country where you can all learn something new.

Inspiration for your summer holiday

Planning the next big family holiday but unsure where to go? Here's our pick of great places for families to visit.

Looking for inspiration for your summer holiday? Take a look at our round up of five classic destinations as well as five places you may not have considered.

Five classic and five different destinations for
Where will you jet off to in on your summer holiday?
Let us inspire you by rounding up five classic destinations that tempt holidaymakers back year after year as well as five places you may not have considered.

Five classic destinations

1. Balearics
The Spanish islands of Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza are all ready and able to deliver the classic summer holiday experience with no drama, no fuss and with maximum enjoyment. Head to Menorca for family-orientated, laid-back breaks on soft sandy beaches; for nightlife in the big resorts or quiet getaways in remote coves, then check out Ibiza; and for all round holiday value, whatever type of break you want, Majorca has everything from happening party spots to secluded fincas in the mountains - plus everything in-between. And don't forget the Canaries for year-round sun.

2. Red Sea resorts
Whether you head to Hurghada on the African mainland or the Sharm el Sheikh resorts, the Red Sea offers year-round sun, lazy pool or beach days and superb opportunities to snorkel and dive. With flights taking around five and a half hours, you'll be transported to purpose-built holiday resorts and hotel complexes where the sun shines bright, the sea is fantastically warm and the sand is soft.

3. The Algarve
Brits love the southern coast of Portugal and have been flocking here for many years but what attracts them? The friendly welcome from the locals, great food and drink, a huge range of golf course and spa hotels, an abundance of villas and apartments to rent, and some stunning beaches set in coves and lined with dramatic cliffs. From quiet relaxing seclusion to busy party towns, the coast has something for everyone.

4. Florida
The Sunshine State is one of the most popular destinations for Brits, and families in particular head to the Orlando area for theme parks, shopping and fun in the sun. Couple this with a rest in one of the many beach resorts such as St Petersburg or Clearwater and you have a perfect combination of activity and lounging in the sun. And if you fancy something different, then why not consider a break in exciting Miami or even a stay and cruise to the Caribbean?

5. Turkey
Over the last 10 years, the Mediterranean resorts in Turkey have become firm favourites for summer holidays. There's a huge range of holiday choices along the coast from all-inclusive breaks in the many resort style hotels to simple stays in family-run pensions. You can even hop onto a gulet and cruise the beautiful coastline for a week or two. Try Greece and her islands for a similar holiday feel.


Somewhere different

Morocco
The coastal resort of Agadir and the exotic city of Marrakech are beginning to attract Brits looking for somewhere with an added punch to their normal holiday. Agadir is a heady mix of French and Moroccan influences and you can expect great food, great watersports and a relaxed family atmosphere. Up the ante in Marrakech by picking a hotel with a pool and choosing between lazing in the sun with views of the Atlas Mountains or heading into the old town to explore the sights and sounds of the Kasbahs.

Sri Lanka
With new flights to the island, Sri Lanka is set to be a popular destination in 2013 as more and more people are tempted by the combination of sandy beaches, a cheap cost of living in resort and lots to see and do. From wildlife to culture, tea plantations to watersports, this Indian Ocean gem is more accessible and affordable than you may think.

Croatia
Back in the 70s, we loved visiting Yugoslavia for its bargain prices and great beach destinations. And now we are rediscovering our love of the area with Croatia in particular picking up the most tourists. The Dalmatian Riviera and the many islands offer a huge range of resorts to choose from. Pine- clad hills, a mix of sand and shingle beaches and a combination of Greek, Italian and Eastern European food along with cultural highlights such as Dubrovnik make for an interesting break.

Cape Verde Islands
Situated around five and a half hours' flying time south of the UK, there will be no issues with jet lag on what feels like a long-haul holiday. The islands have heavy Portuguese, African and Brazilian influences with hotel-based holidays situated on glorious white-sand beaches. Many are sold as all-inclusive and the weather is sublime year round. These relatively undiscovered and unspoilt islands are great - so check them out now before everyone else does.

Costa de la Luz
Set on the Atlantic coast between the Portuguese border and the southern tip of Spain, this area is opening up as direct packages from the UK into Jerez are increasing. Alternatively, create your own break with car hire and flights to and from Malaga airport. Costa de la Luz is ideal for sun seekers, windsurfers and kite surfers as well as those who love big seas and skies. You can visit the nearby sherry capital of the world or take an excursion up to stunning Seville.