With seasonal variations in prices and the high costs of going away during school holidays, not to mention the ups and downs of exchange rates, knowing exactly where to head for the best value can leave even the most seasoned veteran of the luxury break market shaking their head and wondering where to begin.
If you can travel in shoulder season (the window between peak and off-peak season) , you'll always find value whether you are looking for a city break or luxury hotel accommodation with all meals and drinks thrown in. Take this week-long holiday in Croatia, a destination we don't see deals for nearly as often as we'd like. For £499, you get a 5-star hotel stay, daily breakfast and dinner, a balcony room overlooking the Adriatic Sea, a gala dinner on one night, access to the hotel's pools, saunas, steam rooms and gym, and a discount on spa treatments. This deal is available in September and October for £250 less than it costs in August. This deal on a week in a Travellers' Choice Award-winning hotel in Malta also has September departures
You might also consider how being flexible with your destination could offer you better value. Jamaica, Barbados and Antigua have long been popular locations for sun-soaked Caribbean resort breaks. But St Vincent and the Grenadines are every bit as beautiful and make a great lower-cost alternative. This 7-night all-inclusive holiday on St Vincent -- an island of volcanic mountains, waterfalls and tropical rainforests, as well as the old-world cobbled streets and market squares of the capital, Kingstown -- includes all those little extras that make a holiday truly luxurious: a room upgrade, a sunset cruise, free spa treatments and a session with a personal trainer.
If you can schedule your trip around the availability of the deal rather than looking for deals departing on specific dates, that can help, too. Recently we've published several peak-season 5-star holidays at great prices -- but with very limited departure dates. This "full-board-plus" package to North Cyprus is less than half the normal price and is for Saturday departures in July, but there are only two dates to choose from. If you can make yourself available to leave on either of them, you can get a cracking deal.
But is there a reliably high-yield destination, offering great-value luxury all year round? Deal Expert Laura Summers reckons so. "I’d go Greece," she says, adding that there are some "amazing 5-star resorts with all-inclusive à la carte dining, often for under £500 per person". She adds, "Greece’s economic problems could have impacted pricing, but I think it’s just that short-haul travel is always going to represent better value for money -- why add expensive airline taxes and charges when Greece is only a 3- or 4-hour flight away? Plus, with the weather a lot more seasonal, you can get some great prices during shoulder season when the weather is a little cooler, but still in the 20s." She particularly recommends "ultra all inc" and "all inc plus" deals, for the widest variety of dining options and premium-brand drinks.
But Deal Experts Amy Lindsay, Chris Webber and Maire Bonheim all said the same thing when I asked them: South Africa. Maire explains: "South Africa is expensive to get to, but Lufthansa has some brilliant flights for under £450, return, at the moment. These fares are valid for travel from November-January, which is spring/summer in SA, so temperatures should be in the 30s. Once you get there, the exchange rate is ridiculous at the moment -- over R18 to the pound, which is the best I've ever seen it. That means your pounds will go so far that you can stay in nice hotels and eat in top restaurants for a lot less than usual."
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