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ARTICLE: Planning your next break?

Heading on holiday during the winter is a great way to escape the cold and get some of that much needed Vitamin D.

 Whether it’s relaxing on the beach or exploring a new city, enjoying some much-needed sun during the winter months is a tempting prospect. It can be difficult to know exactly where the best spots are during the cooler months so we spoke to Claire Winiarski, an independent travel agent from The Holiday Village, (who are a part of the Midcounties Consortia) who has 27 years’ experience in the travel industry about her winter sun recommendations.

Where are the most popular winter sun destinations this year?

Africa is consistently a No1 long haul winter sun destination.  A country with so much on offer; whether its South Africa, beginning your holiday in Cape Town and then driving along the Garden Route or a safari in Kenya, sleeping under the stars in luxury tented accommodation and being amazed at the sights of the animals in their natural habitat; followed by some R&R in Zanzibar, the perfect beach destination. With so many options for both families and couples, it’s definitely a bucket list holiday for everyone.

For complete rest and relaxation, the Caribbean is another very high contender for some winter sunshine and is the best time of the year to visit these beautiful islands. Budgets to suit all however the Caribbean does luxury very well! There are some stunning 5-star world class spa hotels offering luxury packages to clients, you’ll be surrounded by stunning white beaches, crystal-clear waters and a butler if you are very lucky! If you fancy something different, a cruise is the perfect way to experience the Caribbean and see for yourself how different the Islands are – again something very special.  The flight prices are obviously more expensive over the Christmas period, so bare this in mind when booking, especially if you prefer to fly in Business or Premium Class.  These are always the first seats to get booked up, so be organised and plan at least a year in advance if you’re looking for an affordable business class holiday.

With climate change affecting weather patterns and sea levels, are there any locations that we might not have long left to see?

With the recent flooding, I would definitely recommend Venice. Predicted to be completely underwater in the next 100 years, the city is full of culture is a great place to enjoy a city break. Prepare for plenty of walking, this city is a great location for a couple’s weekend away with plenty of 5-star accommodation on offer.

For those looking for more of an adventure, why not consider an Arctic cruise? With the ice melting and polar bears declining in numbers it could soon be could be your last chance to marvel at this breath-taking continent. If the cold isn’t for you, then Australia is at the beginning of its summer months with temperatures ranging from 20-30 degrees. With 90% of the Great Barrier Reef having already been affected by climate change, time is running out to pay it a visit.

Do you have any travel predictions for 2020?

Recent trends have shown that holiday-goers now want to experience a combination of exciting cities and relaxing beaches all in one trip. With this in mind, America or Canada could be a great option for hiring a motorhome and planning your very own road trip.

For short haul, Turkey is a perfect destination for families and couples, either a small B&B style traditional hotel, a luxurious all inclusive hotel or a Gulet Cruise; Turkey has something for everyone with glorious sunshine, spectacular scenery and not being in the euro is a very big bonus to! Turkey is perfect. With more and more tourists visiting each year, Turkey is a great place to enjoy the beaches and experience various cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean and Central Asian region. If you’re looking for a bit more privacy, a villa can be a great solution for family trips.

Brexit has had a huge impact on travel and as a result long haul holidays have become even more popular. With travellers now enjoying beautiful destinations such as Bali, Sri Lanka or Thailand and soaking up what they have to offer; truly unforgettable bespoke holiday memories.

Are there any key things people should look out for when booking a holiday?

Without doubt financial protection is the key element when booking your holiday, making sure your holiday is ATOL & ABTA bonded. This way the money you have spent on your holiday is financially secure especially in the event of an airline or tour operator collapse. The easiest way to think about it, is the more protection the company offers, the safer it is for the customer.

 What is the most significant difference between using an online travel company and booking through a travel agent?

The relationship formed between myself, as a personal travel agent and my client is invaluable. I will understand your every expectation on each element of your holiday and because of this, will be able to provide you with a holiday that won’t disappoint.  You just wouldn’t have the same experience, same advice or same knowledge if you booked through an online company without speaking to someone.

Another huge benefit of booking with a travel agent is the professional relationship we have with hotels and tour operators. Unlike booking online, where you just simply select a room (normally from a dropdown box), a travel agent may well have a contact for the hotel, or hotel chain, ask for specific room numbers and make special requests on behalf on the client.

It is also reassuring when booking with an agent to know that someone is on the end of the phone 24/7 should you need any advice or assistance even when you are actually on holiday. Clients who require more of a tailor made holiday to include adventure, culture and beach, creating a bespoke itinerary can be time consuming and complicated especially when you aren’t sure of the best places to go or top things to see. Having a travel agent relieves a lot of that pressure.

How important is travel insurance for holidays?

Vitally important! Travel insurance doesn’t only protect the client when they are holiday but right from the time their holiday is confirmed – cancellation, delay, emergency medical costs, injury, repatriation, delay, lost baggage, flight cancellation – the list is endless.  Yet according to ABTA as many as 10 million holidaymakers travel without the right insurance or none at all.  I know it’s the first thing I arrange once I’ve booked my holiday!

For those that travel frequently, considering an annual policy could save you money and time in the long run.

If you’re travelling to more than one place in the same time frame, be aware that your travel insurance may not cover both locations. Multi-trip insurance is vital for people considering more than one location. It’s also important to read the fine print and find out what activities are included in your policy. Water sports or cruises may require a certain type of cover.

Travellers can often get caught out by not ensuring they have the correct travel insurance for their trip. Whether you’re jetting off to enjoy some winter sun or looking for a festive city escape, the earlier you book your insurance the better. Avoid leaving things to chance should anything go wrong.

To find out more about the top winter sun destinations or to book your next holiday, Claire would be delighted to help. You can find her on Facebook at Claire Winiarski – The Holiday Village

or email clairew@theholidayvillage.com

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