Whether you're striking out on your own or co-ordinating with the school holidays, there's still time to bag a holiday bargain.
Published 30/03/2014 | 02:30
Nicola Brady takes you through the best last-minute offers
What child wouldn't be thrilled with an Easter break in Florida? The skies will be blue, the air warm and the theme parks are all on your doorstep. Fans of Hogwarts will be left speechless by the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios, and little ones will be bowled over by Disney World. American Sky has seven nights self-catering in Orlando from €619pp based on two adults and two children for travel between April 13 and May 23 from Dublin. See Americansky.ie
Barcelona is a hugely popular destination, and rightly so. It offers so much to a holidaymaker – buzzing nightlife, excellent food and a long list of museums you'll be eager to visit. But the long, sandy beach right in the city means that it can feel as much like a seaside holiday as a city break. You can spend the day by the sea before soaking up the energy of the city come nightfall. To avoid the inevitable crowds at La Rambla, amble up the side streets to find pretty squares with cafes perfect for people watching. GoHop.ie has eight nights in a three-star hotel from €421pps including flights from Dublin on April 14. See Gohop.ie
3. Lake Garda, Venice and Verona
If you want to see a few cities in one trip without having to worry about packing every few days, this tour from Travel Department has the solution. You'll be based for seven nights in Lake Garda where you'll have time to potter around and explore at your leisure. But interspersed are guided tours to Venice and Verona, where you'll be led on full-day excursions. The cities are close by, so you won't be going stir-crazy on a coach. You'll spend Easter Sunday at Lake Garda itself and have a tour there too, so your rest days can be spent relaxing on the picturesque lakeshore. Easter in Lake Garda, Venice and Verona costs €679pp with flights from Dublin departing on April 17. See Traveldepartment.ie
4. Val d'Isere
It's not too late to hit the slopes in April. At high altitude resorts such as Val d'Isere you'll still find snow, and being the end of the season you can find some bargain rates too. Powder White has some great fully catered chalets on offer for Easter, meaning you can indulge in huge breakfasts, afternoon tea and champagne dinners each evening, and there's a Jacuzzi to heat the bones after a hard day's skiing. Five nights in Chalet Appaloosa costs €510pp based on two sharing. Flights to Geneva are not included, but can be arranged by Powder White, along with ski passes and transfers. See Powderwhite.com
5. Boston and Cape Cod
Cape Cod is a dream for families, with a slow pace of life, beautiful beaches and plenty to keep everyone occupied. You can take a boat trip to try to spot a humpback whale, or amble between seafood shacks for the freshest lobster rolls. Boston is a short drive away, so it makes sense to combine the two. There's a huge variety of things to see in the city, with the Children's Museum, Franklin Park Zoo and New England Aquarium topping many a wish list. Trailfinders has seven nights from €999pp based on two adults and two children, with two nights in Boston and five in Cape Cod. The package includes direct flights from Dublin, accommodation in five-star hotels and car hire, departing on April 17. See Trailfinders.ie
It's not too late to book a villa for Easter, and with new Ryanair flights from Dublin to Comiso, Sicily is a great option. The south east of the island is dotted with UNESCO-listed towns and beautiful beaches, and Easter is celebrated with fabulous parades and events that last all week. The Sicilian Villa Company has availability in La Masseria, a beautifully restored villa with a stone wall courtyard and stylish pool. The baroque towns of Ragusa Ibla, Modica and Scicli are only a short drive away, and well worth exploring. At Easter, a week costs £2,700 (€3,230), with a 15pc discount for a group of seven or less.
See Thesicilianvillacompany.com, Ryanair.com
7. Gran Canaria
Where would we be without the Canaries? Each year we flock there in our thousands to get our fix of sunshine and alfresco living. Throughout the year, the temperatures hover around the 20°C mark, so it's the perfect spot for a sun holiday. The wide beach at Puerto Rico is often busy, so hire a car if you want to explore hidden coves and discover more of the island. Or splash around at Aqualand Maspalomas, the biggest water park in Gran Canaria. Low Cost Holidays has a week in self-catering apartments in Puerto Rico from €499pp, departing Dublin on April 15. See Lowcostholidays.ie
The cobbled streets of Antigua in Guatemala are an explosion of colour over the Easter week. The Semana Santa Easter Festival is a huge affair, with lengthy processions, floats and statues being carried through the thick crowds. Journey Latin America has an in-depth holiday that features the festival in Antigua and plenty of other excursions around the country, including a cruise on Rio Dulce and Tikal. Prices start from €3,224pps including B&B accommodation for 11 nights, most meals and flights from Dublin via New York.
9. Costa Blanca
Despite being only a few weeks away, you can still find some last-minute bargains for Easter. While it may not be swimming weather on the Costa Blanca yet, it will most likely be warmer than home. On average, temperatures in April are around 16C, with 10 hours of sunshine a day. There's a blue flag beach at Albir, and it's quieter than nearby Benidorm. But perhaps the biggest swinger is the price – you can get deals comfortably under the €400 mark over Easter, including flights. Low Cost Holidays has a self-catering week in Albir from €376pp, departing Dublin on April 17. See Lowcostholidays.ie
April is the perfect time to visit Dubai. Temperatures will likely be in the high 20s, so you can enjoy the sunshine without sweltering in the stifling summer heat. Tropical Sky has five nights B&B in April from €829pp at the Golden Sands Apartments. The apartments have a kitchenette, so you can pick up some ingredients in the souk for a dinner at home. Being based in the Bur Dubai district has its advantages too – the malls are only a short walk away. There's a pool onsite, and the resort also offers a free shuttle bus to the Jumeirah beach every day.
There's lots to love about Alicante. If you're lucky with the weather, then the wide sandy beach will keep you happy for the day. But venture into the town itself, where you'll find great shopping (including the usual outposts of Zara and Mango) and wonderful little restaurants. Tapas options are plentiful and offer tasty morsels to enjoy alongside a cold beer, and the old town is home to plenty of quaint patisseries. The nightlife is good too, with buzzing bars coming to life around town squares when the sun sets. Cassidy Travel has a week departing Dublin on April 16 with accommodation in the Alicante Hills from €401pps.
You can't go wrong with the Algarve. It's one of the most popular destinations for Irish holidaymakers, with pretty towns, long beaches and delicious seafood. The prices are an added bonus, with eating out often costing a fraction of what it does at home. If you're self-catering, the markets are a great spot to pick up some fresh produce for a tasty dinner at home. Albufeira makes a handy base for exploring the rest of the Algarve too. Clickandgo.com has a week departing Dublin on April 15 for €1,769 for two adults and two children staying in the Luna Forte da Oura Apartments in Albufeira. See Clickandgo.com
Portugal is also a destination that caters to the solo traveller. More often than not you're faced with single supplements that mean you're paying twice the price. A good way to avoid these surcharges is to travel with an organised group. Singles specialist Friendship Travel has a great Easter holiday in Portugal exclusively for solo travellers. You'll depart Dublin on April 17 and stay just outside the centre of Albufeira. There are four set dinners included, taken in local restaurants, and while excursions are available if you want them they're not part of an itinerary so you won't feel stuck in the company of a group all day. The holiday costs €795pp. See Friendshiptravel.com
The Portuguese island of Madeira is a destination that isn't often talked about, but its rugged, dramatic peaks make for a beautiful setting. The town of Funchal is a lively hub, filled with excellent restaurants, gardens and shops where you can pick up the inevitable hunk of Madeira cake. Burn it off with a hike, or take to one of the golf courses set high in the hills for amazing views as you play. Topflight has a week departing April 13 from €599pps with flights from Dublin and breakfast. Departures are on Sundays only, so you'll need to book a two-week break if you want to avoid travelling on Easter Sunday.
With Easter falling a little later this year you're more likely to get lucky with the weather, making it a great time to visit cities that can be a little chilly. Toronto can be beautiful in the spring when the city's parks blossom into life. Temperatures in April can vary wildly, but there's so much to do in this friendly city that the weather won't hold you back. There's a vibrant restaurant scene, some excellent museums and Niagara Falls is only a short drive away. American Holidays has seven nights in the Bond Place Hotel departing Dublin on April 15 for €719pps.
If you're looking for romance, then the five-star Marbella Beach Hotel in Corfu could be just what you're after. Tucked away in a tranquil spot close to Agios Ioannis Peristeron, the hotel is set within pretty gardens with stunning views out over the turquoise waters. There's a private beach, three saltwater pools and five restaurants on-site where you can enjoy traditional Greek feasts. The hotel organises excursions too, so you can get out and explore the island, including Aggelokastro and Paleo Frourio. Over Easter, seven nights in a standard garden room costs from €892 half-board for two people. Aer Lingus flies to Corfu on Wednesdays and Sundays.
See Marbella.gr, Aerlingus.com
Sometimes you just need sun, sand and a pool big enough to keep everyone happy. Luckily, the Marabout Hotel in Sousse has an aqua park on-site, so the kids will stay in the pool all day. The hotel is right on the beach too, and there are plenty of shops, restaurants and bars to explore nearby. The old town and archaeological sites make for great excursions during the day, and you can always haggle for a bargain in the medina. Sunway has 14 nights over the Easter break from €499pps including flights from Dublin, transfers, 20kg of baggage and breakfast. See Sunway.ie
The cost of a family holiday can quickly escalate, particularly when it comes to dinner time. If you want to keep an eye on your budget, a family holiday with meals included can keep tabs on what you spend. Clickandgo.com has a half-board week in Salou, departing April 15, for two adults and two children for €2,019. With breakfast and dinner taken care of, you'll find you won't be running out of spending money so quickly. You'll stay in the Regina Gran Hotel, which is slightly on the edge of the Spanish resort, so a little calmer, but still close to all of the action. PortAventura theme park is close by, and the indoor heated pool will come in handy too. See Clickandgo.com
NB: All prices are subject to change/availability