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InFocus: The insider's guide to 2021 staycations, from pre-booking pool slots to packing coins

9 meals and breakfast scrums are out, but pre-booking is definitely in. Here's the expert guide to home holidays this summer

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After more than four months of lockdown, summer is tantalisingly close.

Bookings have surged since the announcement that holiday accommodation can reopen from June 2, but what will our Brave New World of staycations look like?

Can we go to the pool? Are buffets in or out? What about kids' clubs?

Is indoor dining likely to return, and can we finally enjoy a pint without a €9 meal chaser?

"When you go on holiday, you want to plug-out, to relax and have a break; that's what holidays are," Travel Editor Pól Ó Conghaile tells the Irish Independent InFocus podcast.

"Clearly we can't go out and party like it's 2019," he adds, encouraging holidaymakers to think about pre-booking everything from breakfast slots to bike hire this summer.

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"Irish people like to show up when the notion takes us; we don't necessarily like to say, 'Well my swim is from 12.15 to 12.45', but we're going to have to do it. That may be the price of holidaying this year."

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Hotels have been pleasantly surprised to get an earlier-than-expected start, and the race is now on to recruit staff and prepare outdoor tents and terraces for the first wave of guests.

"We have a June as well as a July," says Neil Grant of the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery, Co Cork.

This will be a summer without handshakes at the B&B door, and with facemasks, social distancing decals and strict new safety guidelines in place.

"It takes a lot longer to get a place first of all cleaned, and then sterilised," says Máire Ní Mhurchú of ActivityDays.ie and the Irish Self-Catering Federation, who advises guests to be ready for 10am checkouts.

But there's lots of good news too.

Availability is still out there, and Pól, Máire and Neil share their tips on how to bag the best summer bargains, what to pack, and the rare summer weeks when prices dip.

Oh, and don't forget to pack your haggling skills.

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