‘Tis the season to be jolly ... on an exotic holiday for one
If you’ve made no plans for the festive season, it is still not too late to get away from it all on your own. By Sarah Marshall The countdown to I’m A Celebrity...GetMeOutof Here!isbackonSunday, and this year’s Extra Camp presenters can’t waittogetstuckin
Mistletoe pinned conspicuously above doorways, snowcapped rom coms splashed across cinema screens... when it comes to lonelier than thou holidays, Christmas comes a close second to Valentine’s Day.
If you’re single, you may want to skip the whole thing altogether. So here’s the good news — there are places where festivities are largely overlooked and where sunshine is 100% more likely than snow.
Dreaming of a golden, family-free Christmas? Here’s a crop of last minute breaks...
Why? Christmas means very little in Thailand, with 95% of the population identifying themselves as Buddhist. Instead of roasting chestnuts by an open fire, singletons can escape the festive furore in Phuket, home to some of the world’s finest beaches, glittering seas, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.
Aside from soaking up the sun on Christmas Day with a cocktail in hand, solo travellers can also take advantage of speedboat trips to nearby paradises, including Phi Phi Island and Phang Nga Bay. How: Teletext Holidays offers seven nights in Phuket from £1,244 per person, staying at the four-star The Old Phuket on a B&B basis. Flights from London Heathrow leaving on December 19.
Why? Goa is a tropical blend of Indian and Portuguese cultures combined with sun, sea and sand.
Escaping the Christmas chaos in the UK, the festive period in Goa is time for relaxation with tai chi lessons, yoga and meditation sessions, interspersed with a bit of ‘me time’ on the beach.
Trading turkey for delicious Goan cuisine, including fresh seafood, Arabian spices and coconut, it certainly won’t feel like Christmas.
How: Teletext Holidays offers seven nights in Goa from £1,427 per person, staying at the threestar Highland Beach Resort on a B&B basis. Flights from London Gatwick on December 20.
Why? The Dominican Republic has it all: sunshine, beaches and blue skies, with winter temperatures reaching 29C. Dusting down the summer wardrobe and swapping Santa hats for sun caps, it’s easy to forget Christmas when you’re in paradise.
After a couple of hours on the beach, spend the afternoon on Christmas Day exploring the historic capital, Santo Domingo, watching the world go by in the cafe-lined Plaza de Espana, visiting the Alcazar de Colon palace or taking an exciting trip to discover the island’s waterfalls. How: Teletext Holidays offers seven nights in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, from £1,465 per person, staying at the fivestar Renaissance Jaragua Hotel & Casino on a room only basis. Flights from London Heathrow on December 24.
Why? Dubai is the ideal destination to spend Christmas Day with a twist, complete with Christmas markets in the sunsoaked Versailles Gardens and open-air pantomimes.
And whilst it may not snow in the popular emirate, Ski Dubai — an indoor ski resort — offers a fun alternative.
Solo travellers can also treat themselves to a Christmas present from one of the designer stores in Dubai’s luxury shopping malls, which are given a festive makeover with Christmas trees and decorations. How: Teletext Holidays offers five nights in Dubai from £870 per person, staying at the fivestar Moevenpick Hotel Deira on a room only basis. Flights from London Heathrow on December 21.
All holidays can be booked through Teletext Holidays (0203 001 4498; teletexholidays. co.uk).
There’s no question whether this year’s I’m A Celebrity ... Extra Camp hosts are up to the job. After all, the newbies — current Queen of the Jungle Scarlett Moffatt and 2016 runner-up and comedian Joel Dommett — know the process better than most. And, for the unfamiliar, the show’s veteran presenter and former King of the Jungle, Joe Swash, is only too happy to advise.
“It’s going to be brilliant,” quips the former EastEnders star, (35), who has featured on the ITV2 spin-off every year since winning I’m A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! in 2008. “I love going out there with new people; you buzz off of their excitement as well.
“I’ve seen it and know what to expect but you lot don’t know what to expect,” he says, gesturing at his excited co-hosts. “You know Brendan from Coach Trip? I’m almost like him. I walk round with an umbrella going ‘Can everyone see the umbrella?” I’m like their tour guide. I love it.”
“You are the oracle,” agrees Moffatt (27).
“It’s nice for us because we have someone who’s an inside man,” adds Dommett, (31). “I think if we were all new we would be a lot more scared about it, but I feel that you’re Gandalf of the Jungle.”
It’s true. In just a matter of minutes, the lively trio have solved tanning woes (“We’ll get spray tans. And every Friday we’ll exfoliate” — Moffatt); to dress code (“I imagine I’ll start with trousers for the first three days, and then slowly cut those trousers until they’re shorts” — Dommett) and, most crucial of all, combatting the heat (“I got a tweet from a non-sweat armpit company that are going to send me loads of pads, so I don’t have to use sanitary towels” — Swash).
So with the “basics” covered, what else are they looking forward to?
WATCHING FROM THE SIDELINES
“Honestly, and this sounds really sad, but seeing the show before everyone else (is what I’m most excited about),” says Moffatt, confiding that she’s “jealous” of this year’s celebs.
“I remember going back and being really jealous of all the people (in the jungle), because they’re all experiencing it for the first time,” Swash concurs. “It’s the closest we’ll get to going back in there, doing this show.”
“I’m really excited to be there and being able to eat,” cries Dommett.
Jungle girl: Georgia Toffolo
Of working alongside Geordie presenters Ant and Dec, Moffatt adds: “It’s like a big extended TV family. It’s just lovely. It’s nice that when I do see them now, it’s for Extra Camp, not for a horrific trial. We can just say ‘Hello’ and have a cup of tea together, rather than ‘What have I got to do now?’”
FEWER BUSHTUCKER TRIALS
As well as dissecting the daily drama, the straight-talking threesome will get all the latest behind-the-scenes gossip, including the insiders’ guide to the dreaded Bushtucker Trials.
Are they likely to volunteer themselves this year, however?
“I’m scared of everything!” responds Moffatt. “The only reason I did the trials was because I didn’t want to let everybody else down. Like I can go hungry, I’m not bothered, (but) to say ‘Sorry guys, I couldn’t do a five-minute challenge so you’ll all have to be hungry’, I couldn’t deal with that.
“I wouldn’t do it for giggles; I don’t want to eat a deer p **** ever again. I’ve got no reason to. But you would,” she says, turning to Swash.
“I’ve made a rod for my own back, because if I don’t do them I look like I’m scared of them,” he reacts. “I don’t like doing them, but I like the feeling after doing them. Does that make sense? It’s a sense of achievement; I’m not achieving much, but to me it’s my world.”
When it comes to harmony in camp, the hosts sit on different sides of the fence.
“I like it when everybody gets on,” states Moffatt.
“Whereas I love an argument,” notes Swash. “I like both sides of it, it brings you different shows. Like last year everybody got on, so emotionally we was with them. And other years you’ve got people in there that you want to stay in because he’s driving that person mad. It brings different tones to the show.”
“What makes this show wonderful is that it’s about people coming together,” Dommett adds. “It’s not about polarising people. Last year there was so much madness in the news with Brexit and Trump, so it was so nice to watch people getting along.”
While the jungle fanatics count themselves as friends (“’Cause it’s so intense, you sort of bond quicker ‘cause you’re kind of in this together and you’re all feeling the same thing” — Swash), family visits aren’t off limits — particularly for Moffatt.
“I’ve got my mum flying out, then she’s flying back ‘cause she’s got tickets to see Steps. And then three days later she’s flying back
Relaxing time: a beach in the
Dominican Republic and (below) yoga on the beach in