Looking for a Christmas gift that could help with a holiday? Pól Ó Conghaile has a selection box of travel gifts.
Ireland's Blue Book has launched its 2017 edition, with 50 members now including The Tannery, Belleek Castle and Hilton Park House. Vouchers start from €100 (irelands-blue-book.ie), and they go surprisingly far off-season.
The Tannery has B&B with dinner from €100pp midweek, for example.
Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) does flight vouchers in euros, dollars and sterling with denominations from €25-€500. Ryanair (Ryanair.com) sells vouchers from €25, and WOW air (wowair.ie), which is set to fly directly from Cork to Iceland from €59.99 each way next year, has gift vouchers for any amount.
Afternoon tea offers the atmosphere of a top hotel without the expense of an overnight stay... for a few hours at least.
The Park Hotel (parkkenmare.com) in Kenmare has afternoon tea for two from €79, for instance, while Dublin’s five-star Merrion Hotel (merrionhotel.com) has an ‘art tea’ based on its art collection from €45pp.
For an afternoon tea with a difference, try Vintage Tea Tours (above) - which serves its tiered-tray treats over the course of a Dublin city tour on a 1961 Routemaster bus! Treats range from Guinness brownies to Vanilla Panna Cotta with forest berry compote, and tours cost from €40pp (vintageteatours.ie).
The Westbury Hotel (doylecollection.com) has a festive afternoon tea from €47pp. Twists on traditional Christmas flavours include a winter berry parfait with meringue snow, and Mandarin Tart with a Mulled Wine Ganache.
Most Irish tour operators and travel agents do gift vouchers, and a good one-stop shop for special offers is itaa.ie/offers.
For something a little different:
ClickandGo.com is offering free bonus vouchers for every voucher over €100 purchased. If you buy a €100 voucher before December 23, you get a free bonus voucher worth €25. The amounts rise to €50 (for a spend of €150-€299), €75 (€300-€999) and €100 (€1,000+). See clickandgo.com/xmasvouchers.
Budget Travel (budgettravel.ie) has discounts on its vouchers for Christmas – 40pc off €50 and €100 vouchers (i.e. costing €30 and €60). The vouchers need to be redeemed against a 2017 package holiday worth €799 or more.
Instead of snapping selfies, why not sketch your way around a city break? Rob Merrett's Doodle London has 100 landmarks and is packed with imaginative ideas to sketch out your own take on the city. marksandspencer.com; €13.50.
Spa and beauty treatments can start from as little as €25, and most hotels and beauty rooms will offer vouchers for varying amounts.
In Wexford, Monart’s detox programme is its most popular use of Christmas vouchers (monart.ie). Its three-day ‘Monart Life’ version includes all food, treatments ranging from massages and sauna rituals, individual evaluations and a personal trainer from €479pp. A five-day version is priced at €1,095pp. It’s all about “working towards inch loss”, apparently.
Hayfield Manor (hayfieldmanor.ie) has a ‘Revival Day Package’ including a choice of two treatments and afternoon tea from Sunday-Friday from €159pp.
The Radisson Farnham Estate in Cavan (farnhamestate.ie) has a half-day pamper package from €95pp. It includes a 30-minute treatment, your choice of a dry flotation, hydrotherapy bath or Serail mud chamber and access to the health spa, its pools and relaxation rooms, with a light lunch included.
Gift vouchers with irelandhotels.com range from €25 to €1,000, offering recipients the pick of 700 hotels and guesthouses around Ireland.
Heard of Captain Cillian? Created by husband and wife team Carina Ginty and John O'Connor, he's the swashbuckling star of a series of bi-lingual (English and Irish) books set along the Wild Atlantic Way. Four titles are now available (O'Brien Press; €6.99), and they're suitable for children aged 3-9. Ocean facts, puzzles, key words and more make it ideal bedtime reading for parents and kids, too. captaincillian.com.
Monaghan-based Cloud 10 Beauty (cloud10beauty.com) does everything from niche brands to celebrity faves, with travel sets including an Anatomicals ‘Jet Set Saviours First Class Must Haves’ pack with body wash, lotion, hand sanitiser, lip balm and other goodies from €17.95. A Jack Black ‘Jet Set Traveller’ pack including three daily skin care products for men costs €27.50.
The travel publisher has a 12-day sale with a different offer each day – 25pc off all titles, for instance, or buy one book and get another free. It runs November 28 to December 10. See lonelyplanet.com/Christmas.
Pickpockets can be a pest for travellers. RiutBags (£89/€98; riut.co.uk) offer some peace of mind, however, in that they zip up completely. They're new, they look good, and the zips are hidden... making work a lot harder for thieves.