If you are allergic to pudding, mistletoe and prickly relatives at Christmas the good news is that the choice of getaways is greater now than it ever has been.
The bad news is that prices climb outrageously in the days approaching Christmas and don’t die down again until after the children have returned to school.
In the days coming up to Christmas you can pay three times the price you did a week earlier for a traditional sun break in the Canaries.
There are four peak days from Friday, December 21 to Monday, December 24 – Christmas is on a Tuesday this year – when up to 90,000 people will try to scramble through Dublin airport.
The problem with Christmas is that airline and hotel supply cannot be turned on and off, planes are chartered months and sometimes years in advance.
That means planes that were empty on the departures of December 1, 8 and 15 and on sale at less than €300 will be full and cost €800 on December 22.
Most of the schedule airlines will turn up full on outgoing flights to sun destinations, interestingly enough you can get home cheaply between Christmas and New Year.
If you depart early, on Tuesday, December 15, there are lots of €40 fares still available on the Aer Lingus website.
There are ways around the problem, and it doesn’t mean the Ibis in Frankfurt for Christmas. Go to the quieter Canaries for instance.
Even departing on the pre-Christmas flash flood flights, there are cheap fares for those who think laterally opt for Gran Canaria instead of Lanzaorte, travel form Cork and Shannon instead of Dublin (planes have been slower to fill than form the capital), Washington and Philadelphia will be cheaper than new York, London is one of the cheapest places of all to fly to at Christmas and Paris is surprisingly inexpensive.
Steer clear of the big name holiday companies that fill first. And stay away from expedia and hotels.com and go direct to hotel websites where unsold rooms are likely to appear first. Your travel agent comes in to his own in these situations – so make sure to drop in.
The story of Christmas has been the bargain Christmas week breaks available in France, Austria and Andorra – from under €300 in some case when booked online but expect to pay €800. Late snow last year has hit the market badly, despite a good dump of snow on the Alps last week. That means the resorts which were untouchable at Christmas a few years ago are now offering specials. Air fares drag the price up considerably, but have a peep in to the six main charter operators www.topflight.ie , www.panoramaholidays.ie , www.directski.com , www.sunway.ie , www.inghams.ie , www.crystalholidays.ie and slopeside.ie , and highlife.ie for a high end chalet experience.
Forget those overpriced Lapland specials, a Christmas in any of the northern countries will change your life, with snow, lights and a real sense that hits is a long standing folk tradition and not something invented by Coca Cola. The fares cost half the price of flying to Malaga and smaller, boutique hotels are still available in the Scandinavian cities. Prices are high by southern European standards, but hey, we come from Dublin. See www.aerlingus.com , www.ryanair.com , www.flysas.com and look to an Irish site such as 1800hotels.com for hotel only deals.
Get yourself a nice hotel in the outskirts and London, and enjoy a bright lights big city Christmas. At the time of writing the last available one euro fares on Christmas Eve were from Dublin to Heathrow, from aerlingus.com.
The second most popular Canary still has availability for around Eu700, Large and hospitable with African style sand dunes and the lively resorts of Playa del Inglés and Maspalomas. See your agent for the best bargains, but first have a look at prices and availability online at www.budgettravel.ie , www.falconholidays.ie , www.panoramaholidays.ie , www.slatterysun.com , www.steintravel.ie , www.sunway.ie , www.sunworld.ie , www.topflight.ie
Quietest and second-largest of the Canaries is also the slowest to fill at Christmas, it has excellent beaches, particularly around Jandía in the south. You can get there fro Christmas for around €875.
Largest of the Canaries, and original wintersun destination, has been going out of fashion. It is a wonderful island with probably the best terrain, dominated by Pico del Teide, the central mountain range and several spectacular valleys.
Spectacular hilly destination ridding itself of “newly wed or nearly dead” reputation with family attractions and a theme park. Panorama are the tour operator which specialises here, see www.panoramaholidays.ie and www.visitportugal.com . Keep an eye on the new Aer Lingus service thought try to clear some days before Christmas for this one, a flight that costs €40 on Tuesday 15th becomes €320 one way on Saturday 22nd.
Cheapest ground prices you can find with activity based holidays on the Red Sea and culture-laden cruises along the Nile. Most of the action doesn’t start here until January. www.budgettravel.ie , www.falconholidays.ie , www.panoramaholidays.ie
Developed by Sunway many years ago with desert safaris, historic Berber towns and fly’n’flop facilities at the Spanish style sun resort of Agadir, now served by Aer Lingus with a year round service. www.sunway.ie
Another place we couldn’t go in Christmasses past without having to transfer, direct flights to Istanbul make this an option. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and while the weather can turn surprisingly wintry, it is a good place to shake off the over exposure to Christmas.
Most Irish people chose to visit Florida when it is most uncomfortable. A year round service from Aer Lingus was launched at the beginning of November. A well kept secret is that the cheapest time to fly long haul in the season is by flying overnight on New Year’s eve. People don’t like to miss the Auld Lang Syne, when the Auld Lang Haul might be a better option because it costs half the price.
Northern Ireland’s hotels have great euro rates if you book through the Baggot St office of the Northern Ireland tourist board. Groups such as Hastings do special offers.1850-230230 www.whereni.com Increasing numbers of hotels here are offering special packages. It usually involves a visit by the fat red man from Finland on Christmas Eve, log fires, mulled wine and a Christmas dinner. Prices vary – watch especially for hotels which are new to this market.: Failte Ireland 1850-230330 www.discoverireland.ie (Discover Ireland brochure available tourist offices). 1800-66866866 for bookings. A good generic website is www.myholiday.ie ,