Easter is one of the most popular times of year to travel - whether you prefer to sunbathe, ski or see some city sights. So you need to plan carefully to get the best deal to the best destinations
This year Easter comes early - Easter Sunday is on April 4 (compared with April 12 last year and April 24 next year). If you are hoping to take a holiday this can affect both the best destinations and the best time to travel during the holidays. So to help you plan the perfect spring break, here’s our ten point plan.
1. Be a savvy sunseeker
April is a tricky time of year for finding reliable sunshine - especially early in the month. Although tour operators start to market the traditional Mediterranean beach destinations with glossy pictures of sun-soaked beaches, it can be cool and unsettled in places like Majorca, the Algarve and even the Costa del Sol.
For reliable heat, my recommendation would be to head further south: Cyprus (21C), the Egyptian coast (Sharm el Sheik at 28C) or the Canary islands (21C) all have decent average temperatures and good sunshine records in April, plus a flight time of five hours or less.
2. Time it right
Because of the early Easter, most schools don’t break up until a day or two before Maundy Thursday, which means that departures on or around Saturday April 3 are already very heavily booked, prices are higher and there are very few good deals left.
If you haven’t booked already, consider instead the following week - departing on or around April 10. This still falls in the holidays for most schools, but prices are lower and the airports will be less hectic (if you aren’t tied to the school holidays, see point 10 below). The only downside to this strategy is that BA cabin crew have threatened further industrial action after April 14 if its dispute with the airline is not resolved before Easter. It is therefore probably best to avoid booking BA flights until the strike threat is over.
3. Break for the city
Timing is also important for getting the best value out of a city break. It also might pay to think about some alternatives to the classic destinations of Paris, Venice or Barcelona. Istanbul is a European Capital of Culture in 2010, so there is a lot going on there, and it is also a good time to visit Marrakesh or Cairo - before the summer heat starts to build up. If you enjoy festivities however, there is only one place to be - Seville, for its extraordinary Holy Week processions.
4. Ski high
The same advice on holiday timing applies to skiers. Departures on the weekend of April 10/11 are a much better bet than those on the Easter weekend itself, especially this season - there has been so much snow in the Alps that it looks as though the good conditions will last well into spring.
5. Watch the weather
If you don’t want, or can’t afford to commit to an overseas holiday, you could always play things by ear and - if the weather is looking reasonable - have a break in the UK instead. Of course, this means leaving the booking until the very last minute. Your best bet for finding such late availability is the website www.cottages4you.co.uk, which offers a choice of some 10,000 self catering properties all around the UK.
6. Book car hire now
Since the recession began, car hire companies have dramatically decreased the stocks of cars they hold - partly to cut costs, partly to keep prices higher. Last Easter, at some airports including Malaga, they actually ran out of cars. The signs are that a similar thing might happen this year; so book now if you haven’t already - our money-saving guide will ensure you get the best price.
7. Bag your seat
Many planes will also be fully booked over Easter, and since so many travellers are savvy enough to book their seats in advance, it is crucial that you do too, at least if you want to sit next to your travelling companion/s. Most airlines charge for this however, and if you don’t want to pay, make sure you check in online as soon as that facility opens. For airlines, such as Ryanair, which don’t offer pre-allocated seating, there isn’t much you can do except get to the airport early and make sure you keep a place in the queue.
8. Book your airport extras
Fully-booked flights mean busy airports. So, to make your travel as smooth as possible, and to keep costs down, it’s worth booking any services you may need such as car parking or an airport hotel sooner rather than later. Note that many airport hotels offer good deals which combine a room on the night before you fly with car parking while you are away. Try www.holidayextras.co.uk or www.parkbcp.co.uk.
9. Insure for the year
If your Easter holiday is likely to be one of two or three overseas breaks that you are planning during the year, consider buying an annual, multi-trip travel insurance policy which will cover all of them, probably save you money, and certainly save you the hassle of having to keep buying policies every time you book a new trip. Price comparison websites such as www.travelsupermarket.com are a useful tool for finding the best-value policies.
10. Delay your trip
If you aren’t tied to the school holidays, May is an excellent month for finding the best possible value to Mediterranean destinations. Planes are flying half empty, and hotels are never full, so prices always drop - especially for last-minute departures.