Feel that blast of heat as you step off the plane

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

The clocks have gone back; the evenings are sud­denly dark. At first, it all seems so nice and hygge – a good ex­cuse to light the fire and toast some crum­pets at tea time. But as the Novem­ber mists gather and the chill de­scends, soon we will be pin­ing for the sun – even just a week of warmth and light, of float­ing in a trop­i­cal la­goon or re­lax­ing un­der a palm tree, can re­set your sense of well­be­ing and set you up for the rest of the win­ter.

As­sum­ing, then, that a sun­shine fix or a week on the beach is your pri­mary rea­son for trav­el­ling, how do you de­cide where to go? And, per­haps most im­por­tantly in these strait­ened times, which des­ti­na­tions of­fer the best value and the most sun for your money?

There are no fixed rules, and how much you have to pay will ob­vi­ously de­pend on lots of fac­tors, but there is a lot you can do to make your win­ter break more af­ford­able. Be­gin­ning op­po­site is our short­list of 12 great hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions where you can en­joy a week of win­ter sun (and a four-star ho­tel) for less than £1,000. First, here is our strat­egy for get­ting the best hol­i­day at the best pos­si­ble price. De­ci­sion num­ber one: how hot do you re­ally want it. Broadly speak­ing, the fur­ther you fly, the hot­ter it will be and the more you will have to pay. But while some re­ally do like it hot, and are pre­pared to put up with long flights and jet lag to be sure of trop­i­cal tem­per­a­tures and balmy seas, oth­ers might pre­fer a shorter, eas­ier jour­ney and a less ex­treme con­trast.

While, for ex­am­ple, the Ca­naries can’t com­pete with the Caribbean for sheer heat, they have ma­jor ad­van­tages over long-haul des­ti­na­tions. You stay in the same time zone, the flight is only half as long as those to Bar­ba­dos, for ex­am­ple, and you will al­most cer­tainly pay less than half as much for your hol­i­day. And if the Ca­naries aren’t ex­otic enough for you, how about Mar­rakech? It won’t be scorch­ing, but it will be very balmy in the mid­dle of the day, and pleas­antly cool at night. It’s a lot warmer than the UK and a fab­u­lous cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence, too.

If, on the other hand, you do want to feel that won­der­ful blast of heat when you step off the plane, you can still find good value – as long as you choose care­fully and think flex­i­bly. With a tight bud­get, don’t have your heart set on the Mal­dives, for ex­am­ple – you’ll have to con­tend with prices that have been ratch­eted up by strong de­mand for the pre­dom­i­nance of high-end re­sorts, the high cost of sea­plane trans­fers and of im­ported food and drink.

By con­trast, the num­ber of flights to some des­ti­na­tions – Bangkok is a good case in point – keeps air­fares rel­a­tively low, and a big choice of ac­com­mo­da­tion en­sures rates are com­pet­i­tive. Tour op­er­a­tors such as Tui and Thomas Cook – which op­er­ate their own char­ter flights – can re­duce the costs of get­ting to other spe­cific des­ti­na­tions that would oth­er­wise be hard to reach. Tui’s new flights into the Viet­namese is­land of Phu Quoc are a good ex­am­ple (see idea seven). It’s im­por­tant not to be overly dis­tracted by the head­line price of a hol­i­day – it may bear lit­tle re­la­tion­ship to the fi­nal bill, at least once you have paid for all the drinks and meals you con­sume dur­ing your stay. A re­cent report by the Post Of­fice found that the cost of a three-course meal for two in Sri Lanka (in­clud­ing a bot­tle of wine) was about £50; in Dubai it was nearly £110. Not en­tirely sur­pris­ing per­haps, but it’s worth con­sid­er­ing how much dif­fer­ence that might make – eat out ev­ery night for a week and it would add an ex­tra £400 to the cost of your hol­i­day. There are two po­ten­tial ways of con- trolling these costs. Ei­ther go for an all-in­clu­sive hol­i­day, where the cost of meals and drinks is in­cluded in the up­front costs, or – if that sounds unattrac­tive and a bit lim­it­ing – favour des­ti­na­tions in south-east Asia, where eat­ing out is cheap and stan­dards are con­sis­tently high.

The dates you travel and the tim­ing of your book­ing can also make a huge dif­fer­ence to cost. You might, for ex­am­ple, feel that Novem­ber and early De­cem­ber are a lit­tle early for a win­ter break – many peo­ple do. But be­cause they are not pop­u­lar times to travel, flights and ho­tels tend not to sell out, so prices drop and you can find ex­cel­lent value – es­pe­cially if you are flex­i­ble both in terms of the des­ti­na­tion and in the ex­act dates you can travel.

Book­ing at the last minute can also pay div­i­dends. Keep an eye on the web­sites of tour op­er­a­tors listed be­low dur­ing the next few weeks (kuoni.co.uk is a good start­ing point for an over­view) and there is an ex­cel­lent chance of find­ing dis­counted deals. It is a sim­i­lar story for those trav­el­ling in early Jan­uary, but if you want to get away at Christ­mas or New Year, it is al­ready get­ting late to book – and ex­pen­sive. In mid-Jan­uary, prices also start to rise again. There will al­ways be some deals (ex­cept dur­ing Fe­bru­ary half-term), but if you want some con­trol and a de­cent choice of where to go, con­sider book­ing in the next month or two.

Fi­nally, how you book can also have a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect on the fi­nal price you pay. Most tour op­er­a­tors use the same air­lines and ho­tels, and it’s worth get­ting more than one quote be­fore you com­mit to a book­ing. Even if you aren’t able to ne­go­ti­ate a lower price, you may be able to win a room up­grade, for ex­am­ple. Note, how­ever, that larger op­er­a­tors like Tui and Thomas Cook have their own air­line and may con­tract ho­tels on an exclusive ba­sis.

Tuk-tuks are named after the sound of their en­gines

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