independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

10 Best Easter Escapes

Dubrovnik

Pól Ó Conghaile selects his pick of the top family getaways

TAKE THREE NEW YORK CRASH PADS

The Big Apple can be hard on the pocket but staying in a short-term rental is a great way to save cash.

You can cut back on eating out with your own kitchen, and keep packing to a minimum as properties come with laundry facilities. Better still, many short-lets are in quiet, safe neighbourhoods rather than busy touristy zones.

There’s a host of websites to choose from, but these are some of our favourites: How about a condo in one of Manhattan’s most luxurious apartment blocks for €60 a night, or a gorgeous Brownstone duplex in Brooklyn’s hottest district for €40? With more than 170,000 properties on its books, Flipkey.com is fast becoming one of the world’s leading vacation rental hubs.

Its listings in New York are impressive and cater for singles or families with properties that are comfortable and clean. Newyorkstay.com is also worth a visit. Properties, ranging from studios to penthouses, are vetted by website staff, and are very keenly priced.

Onefinestay.com started life in London and has expanded to New York. It places guests in luxury homes while their regular residents are away.

Perks include a fully stocked fridge on arrival and a locally functioning iPhone filled with the homeowner’s tips on best local restaurants and things to do.

TIME OUT… IN TURKEY

Think of sun holidays, and the Med invariably springs to mind. Encourage the Easter Bunny to hop a little further east, however, and you’ll get a little more bang for your buck… in Turkey.

Abbey Travel has flights plus seven nights B&B at the four-star Sea Pearl Hotel in Kusadasi, on the Aegean coast, from €1,127 for a family of three.

Departures are March 23 and 30, with prices rising to €1,716 for a family of four on the later date. 01 804-7100;

ABBEYTRAVEL.IE.

FAMILY DEALS… IN DUBROVNIK

Easter is a real holiday rush hour. Package capacity is way down on its Celtic Tiger peak, and that means families can be doubly hardpressed to find a bargain. Concorde has a contender in Croatia, however, with seven nights at the three-star Hotel Kompas in Dubrovnik available from €1,347 for two adults and one child.

The holiday is based on a March 29 or 31 departure, and it includes direct flights with Aer Lingus, transfers and a 20kg baggage allowance.

You can upgrade to a four-star hotel from €1,497. 01 775-9300;

CONCORDETRAVEL.IE.

HOUSE PARTY… IN NORTHAMPTONSHIRE

Got a group of families clubbing together for some Easter extravagance? Take a look at the Wow House Company, a UK operator specialising in exclusive houses and villas across the globe. Amongst its Easter options are Flore Manor, a Grade II listed property in Northamptonshire.

Sleeping 18 over nine double bedrooms, Flore sets the scene for a perfect country house party (and 19 acres of gardens and parkland should make for a smashing Easter egg hunt, too).

Features include a private cinema, and you could tack on a day-trip to the Towcester Races on Easter Sunday while you’re at it. It costs £7,995/€9,230 for five nights, i.e. £444/€512pp. 0044 1242 220006; THEWOWHOUSECOMPANY.CO.UK. FLIGHTS EXTRA.

ONE, TWO, SKI… IN ANDORRA

The 2012/13 ski season is almost done… almost. You can still book a week away if you choose the right resort, however, and both Topflight and Crystal Ski have several offers to fit.

Andorra comes in cheapest with Crystal, at €1,919 for a family of four sharing the threestar Hotel Patagonia (children under 15), departing March 24.

Alpe D’Huez isn’t far behind, at €1,959 for four sharing at the three-star Horizons D’Huez Apartements, departing March 30. Meanwhile, Topflight had seven nights in Arinsal at Residence Daina, in a one-bed apartment sleeping four, from €1,999. Flights depart March 24, with free lift passes for kids.

CRYSTALSKI.IE; TOPFLIGHT.IE. PRICES DO NOT INCLUDE SKI HIRE.

MUM’S THE WORD… WITH ROYAL CARIBBEAN

Is that 2,500-capacity cruise ship suitable for kids? Is its rockclimbing wall a safe place to leave my teen? And where, oh where, is that free ice-cream dispenser? Family cruises are fraught with dilemmas, so kudos to Royal Caribbean, which has launched a ‘Royal Mums & Dads’ phone line for advice on its Easter and summer holiday offerings.

The phone line (number below) is staffed by parents working for RC from 9.30am- 2.30pm weekdays. Kids’ sale prices kick off at just €142pp, with a seven-night cruise from Dubai on RC’s Serenade of the Seas priced from €1,696 for a family of four (cruise only, with digs in an inside stateroom).

The cruise departs April 1, with calls at Fujairah, Muscat, Oman and Abu Dhabi. 1800 937 631; ROYALCARIBBEAN.IE.

GO MOBILE… IN FRANCE & SPAIN

Can’t afford a fancy hotel or villa in the sun, but don’t feel like camping either? A mobile home holiday could be the niche you need, and Crystal Alfresco has seven nights in Champagne from just €493 for a two-bed ‘Rossini’ sleeping up to six.

The mobiles have their own decking and outdoor spaces, with kitchens, toilets and showers inside, and a sofa doubling as an extra bed for two. In Champagne, you’ll stay at the Croix Du Vieux Pont campsite, close to Disneyland Paris, based on a March 30 departure.

Another option, this time in a two-bed ‘Puccini’ mobile in Spain’s Costa Dorada, costs from €299, sleeping five. Both prices exclude flights and transfers. 01 433-1037;

ALFRESCO-HOLIDAYS.IE.

KIDS’ TIME… IN THE CANARIES

Easter falls early this year, so don’t be surprised to find less-than-scorching temperatures in go-to Mediterranean hotspots like the Algarve or Balearics.

To secure a bit more sunshine, fly further south to the Canaries, where average temperatures hover around 24 degrees in March and April. Sunway has seven nights at a two-star resort in Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote, with flights from Cork at €637pp on March 30.

HolidaysOnline.ie — an online, one-stop shop for Sunway, Crystal, Falcon, Topflight and other tour operators — had seven nights on the same island from €626pp. The package bundled flights from Shannon with seven nights in Lanzarote’s Irish-managed Bitacora Club. SUNWAY.IE; HOLIDAYSONLINE.IE.

EASTER TREATS… IN TUNISIA

Late booking isn’t what it used to be. With capacity chopped way back, holidaymakers leaving things to the last minute run a risk of disappointment. Tunisia consistently crops up as an option for savvy stragglers, however — with lower prices despite the longer flights. 

Cassidy Travel had a week in the North African sun from €499 per adult and €399 per child, with B&B accommodation at the three-star Marabout Hotel Aqua Park, and departures on both March 23 and 30. Joe Walsh Tours, meanwhile, had seven nights at the four-star Kanta Hotel in Port El Kantaoui from €2,050 (plus tax of €48) for a family of four CASSIDYTRAVEL.IE; JOEWALSHTOURS.IE.

CITY BREAKS… IN LONDON & ROME

 Family holidays don’t have to conform to the sun, sea and sand formula. By travelling midweek, you can take full advantage of the school holidays by dodging peak weekend airline and hotel rates, and save money at all sorts of free museums while you’re at it.

In London, Easter egg hunts and other special activities are available at lots of top attractions, including the V&A Museum of Childhood, the Cutty Sark in Greenwich and Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, which has a chocolate treat from the Easter Bunny for participants on Easter Sunday.

For accommodation, check the special offers section on VisitLondon.com. A test booking on lastminute.com also showed flights with two nights at the Grand at Trafalgar Square from €257pp based on a family of four. Staying at a hostel reduced the price to €140pp. Finally, ebookers.ie have flights plus three nights at a four-star Camping Village in Rome from €354pp, departing Dublin on March 28.

VISITLONDON.COM; LASTMINUTE.COM; EBOOKERS.IE.

LAST-MINUTE SUN… IN SPAIN

Easter holidays are selling out rapidly, so don’t hang around if you plan on taking the family for some fun in the sun this year. Special offers should be snapped up fast.

ClickandGo.com has seven nights at the Pins Playa I and II in Cambrils, Selous, from €1,499 for a family of four, based on a March 30 departure. Selous is home to the PortAventura theme park, which is always a hit with kids, and Barcelona is about 90 minutes away by train.

Another option is the Costa del Sol with Flexibletrips.ie, who have seven nights at the four-star Hotel Holiday World Polynesia in Benalmadena from €2,380 for a family of four. The package departs March 30, and includes airport transfers.

CLICKANDGO.COM; FLEXIBLETRIPS.IE. NB: ALL PRICES CORRECT GOING TO PRESS, BUT SUBJECT TO CHANGE AND AVAILABILITY. RATES INCLUDE TAXES AND FLIGHTS, EXCEPT WHERE STATED OTHERWISE.

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