Wednesday 1 March 2017

Bargain your way to autumn sun

Gemma O'Doherty

In six weeks' time, the clocks go back and we'll be scouring the cupboards for woolly hats and jumpers in anticipation of what could be our third Arctic winter in a row.

If that's enough to send you over the edge, hang on. Now is a really good time to consider sneaking a last-minute dash to the sun, especially if you're free of the ties of school-going children.

Ask any travel guru to choose their favourite month for travelling and they'll probably say October. Prices are low as demand drops for the start of the 'shoulder season' -- the midway point between peak summer rates and the off-season bargain period from November to mid-December.

As tour operators still operate their charters but have far more seats to sell, you've a much better chance of picking up a late deal.

And a lot of the pain is taken out of travelling at this time of year. Airports are quieter so there are fewer queues, the crowds have left the beaches and you're likely to get better service in hotels and restaurants.

Another perk of going on holiday now is that you don't have to go far to find reliable sun. Last year, I spent a glorious week in Umbria at the end of September, most of it basking in the pool.

In the Med, sea temperatures are much warmer in October than in June, and the big skies and colours of autumn add a touch of drama to the scenery.

The further south you go, the higher your chances of getting stable weather. Head for Cyprus, Crete and the Costa del Sol and you can expect temperatures hovering around 27°C with almost nine hours of sunshine.

Of course you'll need a fleece for the chillier evenings, but if you add an extra couple of hours to your flight and go to the Canary Islands, the Red Sea resorts of Egypt, or Turkey, you can expect steamy weather virtually guaranteed right through November.

At this time of year, you're also in a much stronger position to negotiate how much you pay. Only a fool would sign up to the brochure price, and Irish travel companies are desperate to get cash in their coffers right now, so if they won't budge on cost, demand (nicely, of course) an upgrade to a suite, spa treatments and breakfast.

If you're not buying a package, a smart ploy is to contact your hotel directly and ask for the price of a one-night stay. Hotels loathe the prospect of 24-hour guests and would much rather get you in for a few days, so they might be willing to throw in an extra couple of nights for free.

Do your research, scour websites and you could save yourself hundreds.

When you're baking on a beach in a few weeks' time, the dark days of winter won't seem so hard to bear.

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