Family sun: 25 of the best summer holiday deals for 2016
Deals & Steals
With Holiday World approaching, Mark Evans rounds up the very best of this summer's holiday deals.
The most miserable day of the year (last Monday, in fact) has come and gone, but the weather still isn't letting up.
With the Holiday World Show kicking off in Dublin's RDS this Friday, this is peak time for families to book - or just mull over what's available - for the summer.
But with Tunisia and Egypt out of the picture for the time being, and many desperate to take a first holiday in years, bargains could be thin on the ground.
However, all the big operators are in sales mode (some until the end of January, some until mid-February - shop around quickly), so now's the time to bite the bullet and find out what suits your budget.
All-inclusive is growing in popularity, and Falcon Holidays' Splashworld resorts are hard to beat, with food and drink all-in, plus access to kids' clubs and waterparks.
It's got a departure from Dublin on May 27 to Tenerife, staying at the three-star Parque Cristobal for two adults and one child from €2,099 (2+2 from €2,929).
For self-catering, it's got a July 4 departure to the Mythos Apartments in Kos from €479pps; 2+1 is from €1,349; and 2+2 from €1,687. See falconholidays.ie/Tel: 1850 453 545.
With the dollar at a crippling rate, places like Turkey still offer good value for money. If you're travelling without kids of school-going age, there's a nice deal to the beautiful Bodrum peninsula, departing May 22, with seven nights at the three-star Summer Garden Apartments from €409pps, with a fortnight from €70pp extra. See sunway.ie/Tel: 01-2311 800.
Thomson has a competitive price for Turkey in the height of summer (departing June 27) at the family-focused Suntopia Tropical resort. It's full of activities for children, and has the peace of mind of being all-inclusive too. Prices for a week are from €2,129 (two adults/one child) and €2,869 (2+2). See thomsonholidays.ie/Tel: 1850 453 545.
If money's tight, Cassidy Travel has decent offers popping up, with a week self-catering on the Algarve on selected June dates from €245pps, and 10 nights' self-catering in Torremolinos from €330 mid-June. See cassidytravel.ie/Tel: 0818 332 500.
Or if you want to go fancy, budget experts lowcostholidays have noticed demand for higher star ratings this year, and have a good deal to the Costa del Sol (June 7). A week at the five-star Blue Sea Gran Hotel Cervantes is from €410pps, including flights, but bags and transfers are extra. See lowcostholidays.ie/Tel: 01-485 3835.
Think the French Riviera is too expensive?
Check out a new addition to the market, the Irish-run Mimozas Resort just outside glitzy Cannes. From June 6, you can stay for five nights in a two-bedroom apartment from €1,136 in total or from €1,616 from June 30. The price is €1,216 for July 11 or 18. The resort features a swimming pool, spa, restaurant/bar and is five minutes' walk from Mandelieu beach. See mimozascannes.com
It's also a year of new Aer Lingus routes, and one of the handiest is to Montpelier in the south of France. Clickandgo has a nice budget deal to the city, departing August 29. It's €269pps, including flights and four nights at the Park & Suites Elegance hotel. clickandgo.com
Nothing stays still at the world's big theme parks, with Florida's Walt Disney World going all Star Wars this year.
Holidaymakers can interact with the characters and see rare movie memorabilia at Star Wars Launch Bay. The popular Soarin' ride around California now has stunning view of world sites, while the Animal Kingdom gets sundowner safaris and Frozen fans get a new Ice Palace and Elsa-themed world at Epcot.
Sunway has a week's stay at Disney's All-Star Music Resort in Orlando from €675pp, including flights, in May, based on two adults and two children sharing. See sunway.ie.
If you want to stay longer in the happiest place on earth, americanholidays.com (Tel: 01-433 1061) has a fortnight in the All Star Music Resort from €829pps, up to €941pps for the Caribbean Beach Resort.
Meanwhile, King Kong is returning to Universal Studios in Florida, at the scary-sounding Skull Island. Try a week at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort (above) with flights, on May 10, from €629pps, based on two adults/two children. See touramerica.ie.
It's worth remembering it's cheaper to book park tickets at home than at the gate. Check out attractionticketsdirect.ie for prices.
The big news is the Falcon/Thomson direct flights from Dublin to Mexico (Cancun) and Jamaica's Montego Bay from June.
There's a myriad of prices, depending on timing and hotel quality, but a three-star all-inclusive at the Holiday Inn Resort in Montego Bay is from €1,549pps, departing June 19. Or the stunning Sensatori on Seven Mile Beach (above).
Canada's West Coast, meanwhile, will open up with a new flight from Air Canada Rouge (flyrouge.com) from Dublin to Vancouver, with rivals Air Transat (airtransat.com) to offer a competitively-priced alternative via Toronto. Keep an eye on the luxury operators like Topflight and Classic Resorts for Canadian deals.
Meanwhile, wowair.ie says it will have one-way air fares to San Francisco/LA from €199 one way, stopping over in Iceland.
Tropical Sky (tropicalsky.ie/ Tel: 01-664 9999) has an offer for a new five-star resort in Sri Lanka. The Kalutara Resort & Spa opens in April - with two pools, spa, yoga and meditation centre, three bars, kids' clubs and stunning Indian Ocean views. Seven nights at Anantara Kalutara Resort & Spa from €1,389pp, based on two sharing (B&B), including Emirates flights and transfers.
Thailand is offering decent value, with a two-centre holiday, featuring three nights in Bangkok and seven nights in Hua Hin from €1,039pps.
The deal is for the Rembrandt Hotel & Towers, Bangkok, and the Amari Hua Hin. Price includes return flights ex Dublin, accommodation (room upgrade in Bangkok), return airport transfers, taxes and charges. See travelmood.ie or phone 01-433 1063.
Competition is keen this year, particularly if you can travel just outside the June-August peak months. Many of the main cruise lines are offering deals such as second passenger half price (Royal Caribbean) and more free all-inclusive drinks packages on selected sailings (Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, NCL, MSC, etc).
This year sees the arrival of the world's biggest cruise ship - Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas, pictured right (with the tallest slides on the ocean) - and MSC basing two ships in Cuba as the Caribbean island opens up even more to tourism.
If the kids are Star Wars mad, Disney Cruise Lines (disneycruise.disney.go.com) has a millennium falcon play area onboard, plus themed Star Wars days.
Dublin's e-travel.ie (phone 01-408 1999) has a seven-night Western Med fly/cruise on Harmony, departing September 18 from €1,399pps. With return Barcelona flights, stops include Majorca, Marseille and Naples, and the price includes a select drinks package.
MSC has a week on its Preziosa ship, departing Civitavecchia (Rome's port), with calls including Malta, Sicily and Valencia. Departing June 5, it costs from €1,235pps, including an all-inclusive drinks package if booked by February 29.
If you're looking for something different (and short flights), there's a great offer around the Norwegian fjords, departing Dublin on May 30.
The seven-night cruise on Navigator of The Seas leaves from Southampton, and stops include Olden, Alesund and Stavanger. The price, from €1,199pps, includes flights, transfers, cruise and free drinks package. See clickandgo.com or Tel: 01-539 7770.
Camping is a great option if you fancy a fun holiday with keen prices.
France is number one for campsites with kids' clubs and great food, but there are plenty of other options in more exotic locations in Spain, Italy and Croatia.
For larger groups, a villa's hard to beat, and I've enjoyed some of my best holidays in a house with private pool and access to all the sights of local towns and villages in Spain and Italy.
Brittany Ferries is offering holidaymakers a discount on early bookings. Book your holiday to France by February 9 on accommodation and sailings - even during the school holidays! See brittanyferries.ie/Tel: 021 4277 801.
For alternatives like Holland and Germany, eurocamp.ie has a superb selection of properties at good prices.
If you prefer to fly, Crystal Al Fresco has some good deals to beautiful Lake Garda in Italy. A week, departing May 28, at the Eden Village has been reduced in price from €258 to €185 for a two-bedroom mobile.
Other two-bedroom prices include a week on Spain's Costa Brava (June 28) which is now €575 instead of €656, while a week in Brittany at Camping des Menhirs has been reduced from €656 to €575. See crystalalfresco.ie/Tel: 01-433 1056.
Tuscany's next-door neighbour, Umbria, is an unknown treasure to many Irish tourists. But its got its neighbour's rolling hills, fine wines and Medieval towns (Perugia and Assisi among others). The Murlo estate has a small collection of traditional cottages and villas, has pools, golf nearby, babysitting on request, a restaurant, cookery classes and anything else you need for la dolce vita.
Cottages, with modern amenities such as private pool and wi-fi, cost from €1,200 per week or €160 per night (minimum two night stay).
Umbria is in the heart of the country, with Rome, Pisa or Rimini airports being handy for getting there. See murlo.com
Book the best deals for these hotels on Independent Hotels.
NB: All prices correct at time of publication.