MAKING CENTS: Winter sales a summer holiday for Irish families

Forget winter coats and computers — for many Irish families, the biggest buy in the January sales will be their summer holiday, writes Grainne McGuinness

After all, what better way to block out storm Barbara than to book a trip to the sun?

And with travel agents and tour operators keen to fill seats, there is value to be had.

Your options when booking are to either do it yourself or go to a travel agent.

With the advent of TripAdvisor and Airbnb, more and more of us are doing the work ourselves.

But there are benefits to booking through a travel agent, not least flexibility regarding both pay and bookings.

If you book flights yourself, you will pay immediately.

When booking accommodation yourself, there might be a choice between paying upfront or paying when you arrive — but there won’t usually be a facility for you to pay it off gradually.

By contrast, your travel agent will take a deposit to make the booking and then allow you to pay the balance in stages.

They are also useful for sorting out packages for varying family sizes.

Many deals on offer directly from websites are geared toward families of two adults and one or two children, whereas your travel agent will work with whatever combination of adults, children and/or extended family you have in your party.

If you do choose to book the various elements of your holiday yourself, be prepared to do some research first.

It is very easy for scammers to create authentic-looking sites with beautiful pictures, but check them out thoroughly before booking.

Don’t rely on the site itself, search for the name of the accommodation on independent sites like TripAdvisor.

Yes, reviews on that site can also be manipulated — but look at the overall picture.

If there are a decent number of reviews for a place, judge it on the majority opinion rather than one superb or terrible rating.

Also, check the security of the site itself before entering payment details; a lock symbol and “https” at the start of the URL indicate that the site is secure.

When it comes to flights, check out skyscanner.net to compare prices before booking.

And if you are planning on using a car while abroad, it is worth sorting the car rental early; there are major discounts available.

We asked some of the big names in Irish travel for their January offers and expectations.

Falcon have added destinations like Croatia and Italy, but said that when it comes to families with young children, the traditional destinations remain popular.

“Year after year, Majorca leads the way with its short flight times and resorts and beaches that are ever so child friendly.

"Majorca is that reliable choice, one of those places you can book year after year, safe in the knowledge you are on to a winner especially if you have young children.”

They offer an all-inclusive package from Dublin to Majorca in August at the five-star Holiday Village for €2,679 (2+1). Prices are valid at time of going to print and are subject to change.

If you were thinking of heading to France this year, Brittany Ferries have an offer running at the moment for bookings made before February 7.

If the ferry and accommodation in France are booked together, customers receive a 15% discount off both. The company recommend Brittany in particular for families on a budget.

“Generally, our customers go on a two-week holiday, but if the budget doesn’t stretch that far, we would recommend a one-week break in Brittany.

“Staying within Brittany will mean they won’t have much driving to do and can make the best of their time in France.

"Brittany offers a milder climate than that further south and has beautiful beaches and lots of picturesque medieval towns.”

The website of the Irish Travel Agents Association (itaa.ie) is also worth checking out for special offers.

One final tip — check everyone’s passports as soon as you book to avoid any last-minute drama.

Remember, it’s not enough for them to be valid until the end of the holiday, some destinations require them to be in date for at least six months after the time of travel.

DEAL OF THE WEEK

Christmas is over but it will be another few weeks before most of us feel ready to start coming out of hibernation.

For those of us planning to spend the long nights of January tucked up at home, Sky have brought out some new offers in their January sale.

For existing Sky TV customers, Sky Fibre will be on offer at just €39 per month. This deal comes with an unlimited usage allowance so the gamers in the house can enjoy their Christmas presents while others curl up in front of the latest boxset.

The offer gives customers first-year costs of €468, saving €192 when compared to the usual price over 12 months for Sky Fibre Unlimited (€660).

For new customers joining Sky, the January offer is €49 per month for Sky Original TV, Sky Fibre Unlimited and Sky Talk Freetime.

Customers stand to save €426 in first year costs compared to usual price (€1,014 for 12 months).


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