Plan Your Summer Holiday
Even the most winter-centric person might be thinking of their summer hols once January arrives and the warmth of the sun seems like a distant memory. Suddenly those December nights in, wrapped up and cosy in front of a roaring fire, or sipping cinnamon spiced hot drinks begin to get a bit, well, boring, and the need for a break from the dreary darkness becomes an all-consuming dream. Christmas is done, the decorations are put away for another year, the sales are over, we’re back at work and the jolly good cheer that abounded last month seems to have disappeared along with the last of the turkey. It’s time to book a summer holiday.
But where to go and what to do? There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored, and it can feel a little overwhelming when you really begin to delve down into your choices. This far from exhaustive pick of the best holiday destinations might just help you narrow down your options…
Whether it’s the familiar golden beaches of Europe or the more exotic sandy stretches of further flung destinations, there’s nothing quite like a beach holiday. This type of getaway is what 29% of British holiday-makers booked in 2015*, and the trend looks set to continue. So where can you go to soak up the sun, sea, sand, and suitable cool beverages this summer?
Spain has always been a popular choice for us Brits. It’s a short flight and the weather is pretty much guaranteed to be spot-on. Although busy, the beaches are beautiful, and if you want to do a little more exploring then the major cities in Spain are bursting with culture and entertainment. If you want a vibrant and fast-paced atmosphere, head for the Costa del Sol. For something a little quieter, try the Costa Brava.
The Algarve in Portugal can be totally authentic or utterly geared towards tourists depending entirely on where you decide to hang your holiday hat. If you want to discover the ‘forgotten Portugal’ then beaches such as Praia Verde or Porto de Mós would fit the bill, but if you prefer to be pampered and you like your share of the fun and frenetic nightlife, then try Praia da Rocha or central Algarve instead. Or why not hire a car and go for a drive, exploring as you go? You’re sure to discover the perfect place to relax.
Thailand is becoming more and more popular as a beach holiday destination. The islands here (notably Phuket, Koh Phangan, Phi Phi, and Koh Samui) are exotically gorgeous, and you will find impressive views, crystal clear waters, thundering waterfalls, and some of the best places to go snorkelling in the world. Thailand sounds like a dream, but remarkably it’s all true.
The south of France has some spectacular beaches, and the weather down there is hot, hot, hot. This is the playground of the rich and famous, so who knows who you might bump into when holidaying in style in Cannes or Monte Carlo. The Cote d’Azur is magnificent, with beaches that stretch for miles and the most wonderful feeling of glamour and sophistication abounds.
We know that beach holidays aren’t to everyone’s taste and the idea of lying about doing nothing at all is anathema to some, so if that’s the case for you, you should book yourself onto the adventure of a lifetime. You’ll certainly be doing something, no matter where you choose to go!
Burma in Southeast Asia is a tourist hotspot for those who like to live life on the wild side. The most popular way to explore this stunning country is by bike, and by booking into hotels along the way (book in advance if possible, as some of the larger cities are busy places); this way you can cross discover the culture, history, and splendour of Burma. You can book through a specialist travel operator, or you can travel independently – just how adventurous do you want to be?
The Azores might be a Portuguese archipelago (an island chain) in the Atlantic, but it’s 900 miles away from its mother country, and doesn’t look much like the beach and city filled Portugal we all know. This is a wild and romantic place to visit, a place that is all rugged volcanic landscapes and forests, and where a pirate’s galleon sailing over the horizon would certainly not look out of place. It’s also where you can let your adventurous spirit run free. Abseil down waterfalls, jump off cliffs, slide down naturally formed water chutes, and climb back up again using your wit and skill. And there’s much, much more besides.
If the idea of spending up to eight hours a day on a horse and sleeping in a shepherd’s refuge, or making your own camp when there is nothing else to hand appeals, you will want to follow the Andorra Trail. This is a 350-kilometre journey from the Mediterranean and into the Pyrenees. At your highest altitude you’ll be 3,000 metres up, and you’ll visit Spain, France, and Andorra as you go. The trip only runs from June to September, as it becomes too tricky at other times (some places are only accessible by horse even when the weather is hospitable), and it is highly recommended that you do this in a group with a knowledgeable guide!
The summer holiday might be the only time of the year when you can really spend some quality time together as a family, and if that’s the case then you want it to be special. Doing things together, discovering new places, making memories that will last for a lifetime… that’s what a family holiday is all about.
Disney is, of course, the ultimate family destination for kids of all ages. Depending on your budget, your timetable, and your preference for a plane or a train, you can visit Orlando, Florida, USA and immerse yourself in the original Disney World, or you can stay closer to home and opt for the Parisian version. Either way, Mickey, Minnie, Anna, Elsa, and hordes of other Disney characters will be on hand to ensure your stay is a once in a lifetime, never to be forgotten, utterly spectacular family holiday.
Sardinia is another excellent place to take the children. Choose between the family friendly beaches or perhaps life on the farm where you can really get stuck into the day to day running, feeding piglets, wild boar, sheep, lambs, donkeys and more.
Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands, is a wonderful destination for families. With lovely beaches, a good choice of food (including more familiar fare for the less adventurous diners), and plenty of activities this is the island that has it all (including beautiful weather in the summer months!).
Jamaica is a nature lover’s paradise, and it’s an ideal place to bring the family, no matter what their ages. It’s laid back and beautiful, and you can enjoy paradise beach time, go exploring (where else can you feed hummingbirds or travel down the Rio Grande on a bamboo raft?), or learn about the country’s fascinating history. Make your time away from home something special.
Two weeks away might not work for everyone, and if you can’t get away from it all for that long and want a shorter break, it is well worth checking out the fabulous city breaks on offer. Soak up the atmosphere on a weekend away.
New York is packed full of things to do from zoos to museums to some of the most famous landmarks in the world. See a show on Broadway, climb to the top of the Empire State Building, visit the Statue of Liberty, or stroll in the acres and acres of greenery that is Central Park.
Rome is another excellent cosmopolitan city break destination. It’s a breathtakingly magical place, full of wonder and splendour, and the food can’t be faulted either! The sights and sounds of Rome are something that everyone should experience at least once, and as a city break destination it’s ideal.
Budapest might not be the place that springs to mind when thinking of the best city break destinations, but it should certainly be looked into. A city of two halves – literally, since it is divided by the River Danube – there are spas, museums, cafés, bars, parks, and goosebump inducing views. With a past as exciting as its future, Budapest needs to be added to your holiday to do list.
*survey conducted by Travel Supermarket
It’s always easier getting around another country when you know the local lingo. Before you frolic through France or stroll through Spain, why not start your trip on the right foot by learning some basics of the language, or maybe spend a few wintery months learning enough to order your entire dinner, dessert and even your taxi home?
We’ve tried plenty of online courses, and our favourite is Rocket Languages. The interactive audio lessons feature full conversations between two people, broken down so the learner can follow along, speak aloud and learn the way the language is really spoken. Offering Spanish, French, German, Italian, Hindi, Portuguese and more, this is your one-stop-shop for your pre-holiday language lessons.