Save thousands on your summer holiday by booking this month
Find a bargain by staying away from traditional Spanish and Portuguese hotspots or jetting to new long-haul destinations
Booking your summer getaway in January can save you thousands - particularly if you're a family wishing to travel in the peak summer months.
Early booking discounts of as much as 25pc are up for grabs this month but some are set to run out in a few days so act quickly. "Book as early in January as possible if you have to travel in July and August," said Sarah Slattery, founder of the travel website, thetravelexpert.ie. "Even at this stage, the popular holidays will be gone."
Britanny Ferries is offering a 15pc discount on all holidays in France - including chalet camping, apartments, cottages, hotels and the return sailing with your car. To take up this offer, you must book by February 6 and for at least four nights' accommodation.
Irish Ferries has a 25pc discount off sailings to Britain - as long as you book by midnight on January 23. You must sail by the end of August to qualify for the discount.
Aer Lingus has a January seat sale with discounts of up to 50pc off European fares. The airline is also offering flights to North America from €209 each way - as long as the flights are booked as part of a return trip. To qualify for the deals, you must book by midnight on January 16 and travel between April 1 and September 30.
KelAir Campotel (an Irish company which offers camping holidays in France and Spain) has a discount of up to €50 off the cost of holidays booked by January 26 - as long as you have previously travelled with the company since 2014.
The travel company Clickandgo.com said that savings of up to €150 per person on the cost of accommodation are available for those who book their holiday early. It is advising people to book by January 16 to get the best deals.
Some of the recent offers available from Clickandgo for a family of two adults and two children include a week's holiday in the Algarve in June for from €1,399 per family (based on four-star, self-catering accommodation) and a week's holiday in Lanzarote in June for from €1,269 per family (based on three-star, self-catering accommodation).
Read more: Ten ways to get the best holiday deal
All of these prices include flights from Dublin, transfers and seven nights' accommodation - but they don't include checked-in baggage.
One of the January family deals recently advertised by Sunway was a week's all-inclusive Club Med holiday in Sicily in May for from €2966 per family (starting at €899 per adult and €599 per child) - based on two adults and two children sharing. There are free child places for children under the age of six, depending on availability.
The price of the Sicily holiday includes flights, transfers, accommodation and 15kg of check-in baggage per person.
Another Sunway offer recently advertised was a week in a three-star hotel in Orlando in May for from €1,796 per family - based on two adults and two children sharing at rates starting from €449 per person. The Orlando price includes flights, taxes, accommodation and check-in baggage of 20kg per person.
Be sure to compare like with like before choosing a deal. The cost of check-in baggage and airport transfers can easily add a few hundred euro to the price of a holiday. Be careful too about paying upfront for hotel rooms so that you get the best deal. "A hotel's cheapest rates are often non-refundable," said Slattery.
Cheaper sun spots
The price of a summer holiday in traditional Spanish and Portuguese hotspots has soared in recent years. A family of two adults and three children could pay €5,000 or more for a two-week package holiday in Spain's Costa del Sol this July, or more than €4,000 for a holiday in Portugal's Algarve - based on four-star accommodation.
"If you're looking for a bargain in Spain, move away from traditional playgrounds such as Malaga - and consider Bilbao or Vigo in northern Spain instead," said Eoghan Corry, editor of the monthly travel publication, Travel Extra.
Ryanair flies from Dublin to Vigo and to Santander Airport (near Bilbao). Aer Lingus flies from Dublin to Bilbao, as well as to Santiago de Compostela (near Vigo).
Catalonia could also be an option. "The situation [political unrest] in Catalonia could have an impact on the price of holidays in Tarragona [a port city in Catalonia]," said Corry. "Catalonia may work out cheaper than the rest of Spain."
Corry recommends the Portuguese coast between Lisbon and Porto as an alternative to the Algarve. "The price of beer and meals along that coastline is a fraction of what you'll pay in the traditional Portuguese hotspots," said Corry. Ryanair flies from Dublin to Porto and Dublin to Lisbon; while Aer Lingus flies from Dublin to Lisbon.
Even though Ireland failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the tournament could work in favour of Irish holidaymakers this year because there may be less competition for resort accommodation. "Tens of thousands of beds in Spanish and Portuguese holiday hotspots - which are usually taken up by Germans - could now be free," said Corry.
So don't assume that it is too late to get a good short-haul deal if you only get around to booking your holiday after January. "Last year, there were a lot of last-minute deals," said Slattery. "It looks like the trends are that more and more people are going long haul - which means there may be more short-haul deals."
In recent years, there has been a big increase in the number of direct flights to long-haul destinations, making it easier to get to a number of far-flung spots. The soaring cost of holidays to popular spots in Spain and Portugal also means that a long-haul holiday may be only slightly more expensive (or even cheaper) than a European one.
There are a number of new flights in the pipeline this year which will open up new destinations to Irish holidaymakers. Aer Lingus begins direct flights from Dublin to Philadelphia on March 25. These flights will initially run four times a week - with a daily summer service running from May 18. The airline will also fly direct from Dublin to Seattle from May 18. The Seattle flights will run four times a week.
Air Canada will fly direct from Dublin to Montreal, and from Shannon to Toronto this summer. The flights will run four days a week from June 2. The airline already flies direct from Dublin to Vancouver, and from Dublin to Toronto.
This June, Cathay Pacific will start flying direct from Dublin to Hong Kong four times a week. This will be Dublin Airport's first ever direct route to the Asia-Pacific.
The increased availability and choice of flights to North America has helped to bring down the cost of travelling to the US - however on-the-ground costs can be high. "America can be horrendously expensive but parts of it are very cheap," said Corry.
"Orlando, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas are expensive to visit. Instead, consider using San Francisco and Los Angeles as a gateway to get to Salt Lake City and rural Nevada."
Asia can be a cheaper alternative to the US as on-the-ground costs (particularly in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam) are usually much lower.
"Try Thailand or South America if you are looking for good value on-the-ground," said Slattery. Thinking outside the box with long haul can save you at lot of money so don't be afraid to try somewhere new.
Sunday Indo Business