Joan Scales, travel writer with The Irish Times
Last year we did not see any big discounting on holidays. The wet miserable summer meant that flights to holiday destinations went out full and at brochure prices. So the message again this year is book early, don’t wait for the special offers they will be few and far between. Also with the Gathering this year, prices will rise in hotels in Ireland and self-catering will see a better year too.
Package holidays will continue to be good value with Tour Operators adding extra attractions to increase value. Such as Falcon Holidays Villages and Splash World, Aquamania resorts from Thomas Cook. All-inclusive will continue to attract families, Falcon 25 years in business this year, reported a 34% increase last year.
Best value this year will be Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt. Wings Abroad will continue their value programmes from Dublin, Cork and adding Shannon this year. Holidays in May to Turkey from 336pps.
Topflight will again have the most extensive range of holidays to Italy for every age group. Bella Italia resort on Lake Garda is ideal for families. Watch out for the specials in the Hotel Bristol Sorrento, half board for around 900 in a five star hotel.
Campsite holidays will continue to offer great value in France, Spain and Italy, particularly in the early part of June and end of August. Companies like Keycamp.ie, Campotel.ie. Brittany Ferries, Irish Ferries. If you want to fly rather than take the ferry and long drive, some resorts will arrange transfers and it can work out the same, especially if you book in advance.
Most tour operators have special offer this month, with discounts on holidays, free child places, but watch out some of the discounts end in the middle of the month. You can put down a deposit to hold a holiday.
Or plan your own holiday with some of the new online travel agents like Clickandgo.com, Lowcostholidays.ie and AerLinguspackages. On these websites you can pick whatever day of the week you want to travel, for how long and choose from hotels or self-catering accommodation and transfers. It can work out cheaper to do it this way.
Regional airports will benefits from extra flights this year, a mixture of scheduled and charter services will increase the choices. I.e. Knock with have new flights to Malaga and Majorca. The improvements in services from Knock means a great variety of places are easily accessible. Tour operators will combine these flights with accommodation to provide packages, ie. Sunway will be doing Lanzarote from Knock.
Aer Lingus will have a weekly flight to Corfu during the summer on the aerlinguspackages.com website you will find a week in the five star hotel from 385pps.
Shannon will have a new service to Faro in the Algarve with Aer Lingus and again the packages are great value.
Kerry will again have flights to the Algarve with Ryanair twice a week and Concorde Travel have combined packages with hotels and self-catering options.
The popular Camino de Santiago will gain more walkers/pilgrims this year with Aer Lingus extending the season to Santiago de Compostela by ten weeks, from April to end September.
Gaining in popularity in the past year or two with the age groups getting wider. It comes down to great value tours from companies such as Insight Vacations, Topflight for Italy, Cosmos and local company the Travel Department who have an extensive range of trips from the Gardens of Yorkshire to the Great Wall of China.
Fave trip for young people are the Contiki tours, with an trip to Pamplona for the bull run followed by three days at the BBK Live music festival in Barcelona from 670 euros with almost everything included.
Going to America
Is going to be a lot easier and a bit cheaper next year due to the Gathering, So with Uncle Sam and relatives come to Ireland, we will have the opportunity to visit them back with all the extra flights, though none yet to the West Coast.
Tour Opertors like Touramerica, America Holidays and Flydriveusa.ie are creating great packages at really good prices. The euro strengthening recently will help prices. For example, Flydriveusa.ie will have a 14 day trip around the west coast with flights, car hire and accommodation from 1,600pps. A great idea for a honeymoon. Florida for families will be from 650pps.
There will be a number of cruises to or from Ireland, the full list isn’t out yet, but JGT.ie will have places on Norwegian Cruise Lines, Fred Olsen Cruises and Royal Caribbean.
E-travel.ie are positioning themselves to be one of the biggest cruise operators in Ireland and will have some great value though the year, for example the May bank Holday from 579pps for a Med cruise out of Barcelona. Watch also Cruiseholidays.ie and Cruisescapes.ie for great value.
Travelling to far flung places is getting cheaper with competition from Ireland between newer airlines such as Emirates, Etihad, Turkish Airlines and older establish carriers like BA, AF and KLM. The further you go the better the value with holidays to with top class hotels to Thailand from around 1,000 and Mexico all inclusive from 1,300. See companies like Trailfinders, Classic Resorts, Tropicalsky for deals.
The best value will always be if you book far in advance or off season. You can expect to pay 300-400 for three nights in most cities in Europe, and at times even less. Companies like Lastminute.com and Ebookers.ie have terrific value.
Get the best value of all with many all inclusive or half board holidays at terrific prices. Spain and Portugal are the main destinations and companies like Rathgar Travel, Citiescapes and Travelnet.ie. A week in the sun from 350 including meals…most travel is off season usually October to April. Steintravel.ie have been doing long term holidays for people in Portugal and Spain with four weeks from 700.
The Gathering is beginning to gather momentum, and if you are thinking of holidaying at home, book early. There will be hundreds of events on around the country. Many will be family organised with there will also be increased fun at festivals, King Puck is going to be 400, start training for the Run Rock and Roll half marathon in Dublin or get your sea legs on for the Gathering Cruise along the coast of Ireland over 20 days.