Destination 2018: How to plan that holiday!

Planning a holiday used to be such a simple process;

going to your local travel agent, picking up a brochure, making a choice in the comfort of your own home and then making that booking.

Recent years have have changed all that,

with Consumers being bombarded by online message and e mails from companies promoting their wares, whilst the High Street is engaged in a battle against this digital onslaught. Like it or loath it, the internet has also brought forward greater opportunities of destination and individual choices; my 5 top-tips will help you navigate how to get the best from your holiday choices:

  1. Package vs DIY Holiday: This is an important question to answer before you make your choice. Buying a Package Holiday provides you with the convenience of having everything organised for you with the added bonus of strong Consumer Protections under the Package Travel Regulations. A DIY Holiday is really only for the well-seasoned traveller or for those who are confident that they can personally deal with any travel problem because you currently don’t have the same Consumer Protections as a Package (this changes in July 2018, when the new Regulations come into force);
  2. Mix & Match Holiday Types: Whilst you may be someone who likes the security of a Package, you should try to organise your own holiday - it can provide a greater flexibility, choice and unique experiences along the way! I use the ‘Mix & Match’ option, flitting between a Package and DIY Holiday; the important thing to do is if you choose a DIY Holiday, understand your rights in contract and make sure you have a ‘cancellation’ bolt-on to your Travel Insurance, should travel arrangements fail;
  3. Agent vs Online: I use both! Agents are potentially a good source of information when choosing your destination, for example, I recently booked a holiday for 2019. The Agent gave very clear advice about poor hotels and sickness and guided us toward ‘safer’ destinations on that island. By comparison, some online sites provide very comprehensive information about a destination whereas others are quite basic. If you decide to use an online travel company, call them first and ask them questions about your intended destination and use the same tactic if you use an Agent; their skills will become clearer whichever route you take and this will help you understand that destination;
  4. Compare & Contrast on Price & Quality: Whenever I am booking my travel, I will compare information from Travel Agents along with information I find online. I will often have several tabs open on my computer and when determining quality, I will also visit several Travel Review websites to see what real holidaymakers say about a destination (don’t be persuaded by the 'positive only' reviews you see on websites - investigate!). On the question of price, watch out for phrases like ‘from’ ‘prices extracted from’ ‘supplier’ as these could indicate that it is a DIY Holiday and the price might not be the headline price you see; you should always check the terms and conditions because that small print will reveal extra charges you might have to pay; when you have done all this, then you can begin to make that final choice!
  5. Go for a Google Walk: It’s surprising how many Consumers simply rely on the photographs and description in the hard-copy or online brochures. Wherever I go, I will always go for a ‘Google-maps’ walk around my intended destination. Whilst the ‘map’ may be slightly out of date, it will give you a good feel for a destination, for example the conditions around the hotel, the state of the beach or whether the hotel is really in a built up area without good views! Take that walk before you finally decide!
  6. My Hot Destinations for 2018: In recent years, travel to destinations has been limited by travel-bans and fears about terrorism. As a result, UK holidaymakers have returned in their thousands to the destinations of yesteryear, however even though this will no doubt happen again this year, I think that a number of other destinations are going to prove good possibilities this year: 
    • Italy: Its beach destinations are under-rated - try the coastline just outside Rome at Ostia for a couple of days, if you are tired of all that sightseeing (they have a bit of a way to go in attracting tourism but the beach plots are generally of a high quality), or go further south to Sorrento and beyond - you will be captivated by the glittering Mediterranean and the Italians’ love of summer! 
    • The Wild Atlantic Way - Ireland: I make no apologies for highlighting this vastly underestimated area again this year. Stretching from Cork to Donegal, the Atlantic Way will introduce you to some of the best beaches in Europe, fantastic scenery and yes, that real Irish hospitality! My highlights are many, but the ones that stand out for me are taking a trip out to Luke Skywalker’s island (Skellig), the wonderful landscape of Connemara and Achill Island, taking a Seaweed Bath in Enniscrone and taking in the delights of the great beach at Strandhill; I almost hate making these as the exceptions because all along the route you will not be disappointed!
    • South-West France: The last couple of years have seen a greater influx of tourists to the spectacular beaches of South-West France. If you are a beach lover and enjoy the drama of the Atlantic, then from Biarritz to Royan, long sandy beaches, sand-dunes and miles of forest areas will tick all the boxes. If lazing on the beach is your favourite past-time or you want to hire and pilot your own boat, you will find your desires satisfied; but don’t forget, in amongst the wide-array of holiday accommodation, you will be at the heart of a culinary delight and in a wine-tasters paradise!
    • Cape Verde Islands: Recent years have seen a decline in its popularity, however, this year I have detected an increase in UK holidaymakers either thinking about this destination or actually going there; 2018 may well prove to be a revival year. The Islands have undergone a rapid development in recent years, but now resorts await, bordered by spectacular beaches, bathed in brilliant sunshine and warm winds from Africa. The Islands have worked hard to develop tourism and I would expect to see it rise amongst UK holidaymakers shortlists!
    • Mexico: This is my wild-card for 2018. Whilst it has been a popular destination for many on the American continent, it has not yet proven to be that big attraction amongst UK holidaymakers. Mexico is energy and vibrancy; colour pervades everywhere and whilst resorts cater for luxury, the real Mexico beckons. Try resorts south of Playa del Carmen and instead of taking that mega-bus tour, choose an eco-tour which will get you to the heart of this fabulous country, its history, archeology and its people - you will not be disappointed if you choose to explore differently!

All my destination predictions will offer good value for money and potential savings, particularly if you follow my tips on how to organise and book that holiday. Take the time to make that choice; its all part of the experience and it will ensure that you become an empowered and confident Consumer!