Top travel deals for 2010
Published 16/01/2010 | 05:00
We thought Las Vegas couldn't get any bigger. We were wrong. Sin City's reputation for turning the most sensible of souls into dice-tossing, daylight-shunning crazies wasn't exactly family-friendly, so it has worked to diversify in recent years.
Branching out from the casino and wedding chapel shtick, visitors can now take in a world-class selection of shows, all manner of Grand Canyon excursions and several discount shopping outlets.
Details: Tour America (01-817 3535; touramerica.ie) has four nights in Vegas, plus flights and three-star accommodation, from €459pp. Upgrade to the five-star Hotel Bellagio at €701pp.
There's nothing new about Morocco, so why does it feature in Lonely Planet's top 10 countries for 2010? Because North Africa offers long-haul culture at short-haul prices, that's why. To that, Morocco can add warm weather, the Atlantic surf and a rapidly improving suite of hotels and infrastructure.
Explore has a nine-day adventure tour getting right under the country's skin, with stops including Marrakesh, the High Atlas Mountains and the Atlantic Coast.
Details: Explore (01-660 8540; explore.co.uk) has this tour, including eight nights' B&B and a tour leader, from €404 (land-only). Flights to Agadir with Aer Lingus (0818 365000; aerlingus.com) start at €54.99 each way.
The Big Orlando...
The USA was Ireland's most popular long-haul destination in the Noughties, a trend that looks set to continue in 2010.
This offer is based on travel for a family of four (ie, a total price of €1,916) and, though it obviously clashes with the school term, an opportunity to get your family to Florida and back for less than €500pp is a deal in any man's language.
Orlando itself is home to Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, Gatorland and Disney-MGM Studios. Phew.
Details: American Holidays (01-673 3800; americanholidays. com) has seven nights at Orlando's Doubletree Resort, with flights, from €479pp for a family of four. For travel in May.
Lisbon city & coast...
When we think of Portugal, we tend to compartmentalise: it's either the city or the seaside; Lisbon or the Algarve. It doesn't (and shouldn't) have to be that way, of course. Sunway is running twin-centre trips with three nights in Lisbon and four nights on the coast (just 45 minutes away by train, in Cascais, Estoril or Sintra).
What's more, every 20th online booking made from January 20 will be honoured for free (the offer expires when a giveaway total of €20,000 has been reached).
Details: Sunway (01-288 6828; sunway.ie) has a four-star version of this twin-centre trip at €754pp. Book before February 28 for a €150 discount and free child places on selected properties.
Pass... from €159pp
InterRailing was a rite of passage in the 80s. Could 2010 see a comeback? Trains are comfortable, eco-friendly and deposit you in the heart of a city -- as opposed to budget airline outposts such as Oslo (Torp) or Frankfurt (Hahn).
The InterRail brand was recently revamped too, and its Global Pass now offers unlimited travel on 30 European rail networks, with further discounts for under-26s.
Details: InterRail (interrailnet. com) has second-class tickets from €249 for travel in a 10-day window, to €469 for 22 consecutive days (€159 and €309 respectively for under-26s).
Get away with Aer Lingus...
It's Saturday, so relax: you've got until midnight on Monday (January 18) to take advantage of Aer Lingus' winter sale. The Jetaway Sale still has reduced fares on offer on almost 70 routes out of Dublin and Cork, including Heathrow from €19.99, Amsterdam (pictured), Berlin and Paris from €29.99, and New York, Boston and Chicago from €189. All prices are one-way and include taxes and charges.
Details: Aer Lingus' (0818 365 000; aerlingus.com) winter sale tickets are valid until March 24.
Costa del cheapo...
We gasped when we saw it in 2009. Seven nights in the sun, including flights, accommodation and transfers, for €199? But there it was -- a rock-bottom lead-in price offered by the now-defunct Budget Travel.
This year, the €199 package is back, courtesy of Falcon Holidays. The price is based on six people sharing accommodation but -- brace yourself -- the TripAdvisor reviews of it are mixed. Then again, what can you expect at that price? Details: Falcon Holidays (1850 453545; falconholidays.ie) has seven nights in Majorca departing May 1, and seven nights on the Costa Dorada (pictured), departing May 7, from €199pps.
Four five-star nights in Dubai...
Dubai is putting up with a lot of puns right now (the city built on sand, etc), thanks to its implosion last November when Dubai World asked for a freeze on debt repayments. But an awful lot of five-star hotel rooms were built in boom times, and those rooms still need filling, meaning some serious discounts.
Details: 1800hotels.ie has four nights in the Hyatt Regency from €385, Taj Palace from €409 and Bonnington Jumeirah Lakes Towers from €429; all prices per room, based on two people sharing in May. Going to press, Kayak.com had return flights to Dubai in May from €389pp.
A Bargain in Barbados...
Barbados is one of those palm-fringed paradises known to many but visited by few -- thanks to the long-haul flights and exclusive resorts involved.
Not even paradise is immune to recession, however, and Tropical Sky has a package bringing the crown jewel of the Caribbean into affordable terrain.
Best of all, this seven-day trip to Discovery Bay, a plantation-style house on the island's west coast, is all-inclusive.
Details: Tropical Sky (068 56800; tropicalsky.ie) has this all-inclusive trip to Barbados from €899pp, based on May 17 to June 22 departures.
Travel early to avoid the summer rains.
Malta, with its storybook scenery, ancient architecture and serial sunshine, offers several holidays in one. Sure, beaches are lacking, but it makes up for that with winter sun and a canny knack for catering to all tastes. You can just as handily shush your way through the silent city of Mdina as sing karaoke in St Julian's.
Valetta, one of the few inhabited walled cities in the world, is like a postcard from the Middle Ages, and the diving off Gozo is top notch.
Details: Concorde Travel (01-775 9300; concordetravel.ie) has seven nights in a three-star hotel in Malta from €299pp, or seven nights in the five-star Radisson Blu Resort from €413pp. Departs February 9.
Treat them to Turkey... from €369pp
Falcon Holidays is one of the tour operators making hay from Budget Travel's collapse (it recently bucked industry trends to announce a capacity increase for 2010).
New for this year, it has Corfu and Turkey, with the latter now a firm favourite of Irish holidaymakers.
Why? The Aegean coast rivals the best of the Med, there's no shortage of culture (Roman, Greek and Turkish), and it's strewn with coastal resorts boasting late nights and lager on tap. Oh yes, and there's lots of sun.
Details: Falcon Holidays (1850 453545; falconholidays.ie) has Turkey from €369pp for seven nights (for travel May 1-June 23). Free child places on selected bookings before February 8.
Eight nights in Thailand...
Thailand is on every traveller's list, as much for the headiness of Bangkok as the idyllic beaches of Phuket and Koh Samui. This year could make the dream a reality, with Twohigs offering a saving of €632 and two free nights per couple. It includes eight nights at the four-star Krabi Thai Village Resort. Downsides? The beach is a 12-minute walk downhill. But hey, we all have to make sacrifices.
Details: Twohigs (01-648 0800; twohigs.com) has this trip for €629pp, plus taxes of around €283pp, valid for travel between April 16 and June 30. Book before January 31.
Sin City & the Mexican Riviera... from €899pp
Can't decide between Vegas or a cruise? Why not have both? Trailfinders has an 11-day offer custom-made to spirit you from a freezing February into America's sunniest climes.
It includes four nights at The Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and seven nights on a Mexican Riviera cruise onboard Princess Cruises' Sapphire Princess.
Sailing out of LA, the cruise is calling at Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas -- all meals, some beverages and most entertainment is covered.
Details: Trailfinders (01-881 4948; cruises.trailfinders.ie) has this 11-day cruise from €899pp, including all flights and taxes. The trip departs Dublin on February 2.
A to Zakynthos...
Zakynthos is home to Shipwreck Beach, consistently voted one of the world's best for its sheer beauty (it remains unspoiled as it can only be reached by boat).
The Greek island offers a cocktail of sunshine, clear seas and hopping resorts -- though it's only when you break free of the main drags that you see anything resembling local culture.
Details: Panorama (0818 202020; panoramaholidays.ie) has the three-star-plus Caretta Beach ApartHotel in Kalamaki at €1,435 for two adults and two children, for a May 14 departure.
Luxury on the slopes... from €420pp
Highlife has carved a niche for itself as Ireland's top-end ski provider -- but even the top end has bottomed out in the current climate.
This April, the company has a week in Méribel, Val d'Isère and Morzine from just €420pp -- including all the usual Highlife extras (chalets with saunas, hot tubs and a chef-cum-ski guide, plus full-board and a complimentary bar).
April is pushing things in ski terms, but these high-altitude resorts have seen good late snowfalls for several seasons.
Details: Highlife (01-677 1100; highlife.ie) has seven nights from April 11 from €420 per adult, excluding flights. Going to press, Aer Lingus had April flights to Geneva from €13.99.
Seniors in Spain...
Pound for pound, older travellers are now getting the best value in tourism. How? Through the Travel Senior Programme, an EU social tourism initiative that sees the Spanish government subsidising winter holidays to the Costa del Sol or Costa de Luz. All you need to sign up is to be a) Irish and b) over 55. Several resorts are available on both coasts, and packages include flights, full-board four-star accommodation, transfers, entertainment and two tours weekly.
Details: John Galligan Travel (01-207 6555; jgt.ie) has Travel Senior Packages available until April 10, 2010. Full-board prices range from €365pp for one week to €855pp for four weeks.
Hotels... reduced by up to 55pc
January sales aren't just for the high street, you know. Nor are they confined to January. Hotels.com's January Sale runs to February 15 and is offering savings of up to 55pc on hotel rooms worldwide.
The five-star Hotel Dom Pedro Palace in Lisbon, for example, is reduced from an average nightly price of €150 to €84 per room. In Madrid, the Best Western Atlantico is down from €116 to an average of €69 per night. Find the booking for less on a pre-paid hotel and Hotels.com will match it.
Details: The Hotels.com (1800 553338; hotels.com) sale is valid for bookings up to April 15.
Madeira's Mardi Gras...
The Noughties saw the Azores come and go from our holiday brochures, but Madeira is sticking around. Situated some 300km off the African coast, what the Portuguese island lacks in beaches it makes up for with a dramatic coast, exciting watersports, dolphin and whale watching, a lively capital in Funchal and internationally renowned gardens and plant life. Visit between February 13 and 16 and you'll not only bag the winter sun, but also the annual Mardi Gras Carnival.
Details: Topflight (1890 240170; topflight.ie) has seven nights in Madeira, including flights, transfers and four-star accommodation, from €499pp based on February 7 departures.
Cruise the Med...
Cruising is on the crest of a wave right now, with a host of new boats vying to outdo each other in the mine-is-bigger-than-yours stakes.
Whatever about crimes against taste, this at least means lower prices and a more diversified offering for consumers. One is a seven-night Mediterranean cruise on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas. Departing Barcelona on May 10, it calls at Napoli, Genoa, Villefranche and Toulon, and you could be on board for less than €500.
Details: Tour America (01-817 3535; touramerica.ie) has this seven-night cruise from €469pp for an inside cabin, €619pp for an outside. Meals and entertainment are included, not flights.
skiing... from €399pp
February's mid-term break is usually one of the most expensive weeks to hit the slopes, with prices jumping astronomically.
These are times in which the word 'usually' does not apply, however. Despite encouraging snowfalls and reduced capacity, ski operators have, as of yet, failed to sell out, and that means a veritable avalanche of value.
Details: Crystal (01-433 1010; crystalski.ie) has 2.5-star self-catering in Les Deux Alpes, France, from €399pp departing February 13. A 3.5-star hotel in Flaine costs from €799pp, departing the same date. Further discounts are available if you book with Crystal online.