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The Travel Expert’s Best Travel Deals – 12th October 2021

Best travel deals

I’ve searched the web so you don’t have to! My best travel deals include last minute holidays, winter breaks, city breaks, cruise deals, early booking offers for next summer, and staycations for couples and families.

 

This week I have a last minute five-star holiday for less than €400, Christmas lights in Malaga City, Christmas on the ski slopes, a luxury river cruise, and early booking offers to Greece for next summer. I also have a post-Christmas family break in Wexford, some Dublin hotel deals for your Christmas party this year, and an Aer Lingus seat sale.
 

 

 
It is important to be aware that each country has their own entry requirements. If you are vaccinated, you will beed to bring your Digital Covid Certificate with you, and non-vaccinated people will need to produce a negative Covid tests on arrival. 
 
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Most countries require passenger locator forms to be filled out in advance of travel – in some cases these have to be done 24 hours in advance. I have some advice and tips in these posts that you may find useful, but please check the latest updates with your airline or travel agent before you travel.

Top 10 tips for booking holidays during Covid-19

Top 10 tips for travelling during Covid-19

Travelling overseas? Make sure you fill out passenger locator forms in advance

Latest travel updates on international travel – your questions answered
 

 

 

Best last minute holiday:

Luxury hotel deals in Greece

Fly off to Corfu this weekend and enjoy a seven-night stay in the 5-star, adult-only, Kairaba Mythos Palace Hotel, for just €385. Price includes return flights and hotel on a bed and breakfast basis, departing 19th October. I stayed very close to this hotel some years ago and there are some super restaurants and beach bars in the nearby resort of Messonghi.
 

 

 
If you prefer to travel at the weekend, the price is just €400 on Saturday 16th October.  Short stays of 3 and 4 nights are also available with Ryanair, just edit the search dates to suit your requirements on the hotel link below.

Search flights here 16th /19th Oct €63pp

 
View hotel here €322pp
 

 

 

Best overnight escape:

Dublin hotel deals at Christmas time

Now is the time to start planning your Christmas party nights out, but why book a cheeky overnight stay too? When you think of the cost of taxi fares, and that you can enjoy a nice cooked breakfast the following morning, its a win-win…

Prices are available from €50pp in Dublin’s city centre, and I have a choice of 20 Dublin hotel deals in this post:

Read: 20 Dublin hotel deals – Overnight Stays in December from €45pp
 

 

 

Best winter holiday:

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Spend Christmas on the ski slopes! Fly off to Sestriere in Italy on the 19th of December and enjoy a seven-night stay in the Residence Tabor in Bardonecchia from €508, based on two sharing.
 

 

 
Families can enjoy a skiing holiday at the Olympic Village Apartments in Sestriere from just €1532, based on 2 adults and 2 children sharing – this includes a discount of €75 by using code TDRQ9LVDP. Prices include return flights to Turin, checked baggage and airport transfers.

See more here 
 

 

 

Best family holiday:

top picks for family holidays

Greece is proving very popular with families, and with airfares set to rise next year, now is the time to secure your family holiday for next summer. I have just published a post with 20 family friendly properties, but this one in Zakynthos caught my eye today, and there is a free child place available.
 

 

 
The All Inclusive Aqua Bay Suites Hotel is located near a waterpark, and if you book a package holiday you are granted free entry to the waterpark throughout your stay. You also have access to Kids Clubs, restaurants and pools at its two sister hotels, and airport transfers and checked baggage are included in the price.
 

 

 
Family Rooms are modern with sliding doors, and you can choose to upgrade to swim-up rooms, or rooms with private pools. Price for a family of 2 adults and 2 children for seven nights on an all-inclusive basis with flights, transfers, baggage, and water park access, is €3,870. If you upgrade to a room with a private pool, the cost is €4,728, departing 26th June.

Read: 20 Top Family Holidays in Greece for 2022

View offer here
 

 

 

Best family staycation:

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Enjoy a post-Christmas break at the 4-Star Riverside Park Hotel in Wexford. I stayed here during the summer, and they have great value family breaks from just €188. With most schools not returning until the 6th of January, this is the perfect way to finish the Christmas holidays in style.
 

 

 
Price of €188 includes a two-night stay with breakfast, dinner on one evening, and a family activity pass to one of 8 family attractions, based on two adults and two children sharing, arriving the 3rd of January. Superior family rooms are available for families of five from €234. You may recall we visited Wells House and Gardens and loved it, this is one of the attractions that is included. 

Read: Top 10 things to do in Wexford with kids

View offer here
 

 

 

Best city break:

Christmas lights in Malaga city

Despite visiting the Costa del Sol many times, I have yet to spend some time in Malaga City. I have heard great things about this city and its Christmas lights are famous around the world. From Friday 26th November the city will be illuminated with 1000’s of lights and it is a great way to kick off the festive season. 
 

 

 
I found return flights to Malaga from €79 on Saturday the 27th of November, and a three-night stay at the 4-star Petit Palace Plaza Hotel is just €169 per person. Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor, this is one of the most popular hotels in Malaga City.

Search flights here €79pp

View hotel here €169pp
 

 

 

Best early booking offer:

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Flights to Thessaloniki in Greece are on sale for next summer. I just bagged myself cheap flights for my own family holiday, but this is an area that is suitable for couples and families alike. Flights are available from €55 each way in June, and there are numerous hotel or apartments to choose from.
 

 

 
The adult-only 5-Star Alia Palace Hotel is just €371 for a seven-night stay, and there are numerous self-catering options available for families. If you want to splash out, choose the 5-star Sani Resort.

Read: My ultimate guide to Sani Resort

Search flights here  €110pp 

View Alia Palace €371pp B&B
 

 

 

Best cruise:

Uniworld's SS Antoinette

Luxury river cruise specialists Uniworld are offering savings of €1,000 per person on selected European cruises in 2022. Enjoy an eight-day, five-star river cruise through Venice the Gems of Italy from €1,899, or trips through Bordeaux, Paris and Normandy, or along the Danube or Rhine from €1999.
 

 

 
Price includes all meals, unlimited premium drinks, shore excursions, gratuities and airport transfers. Excludes flights. Book by 31st October.

View offer here
 

 

 

Best seat sale:

Aer Lingus seat sale

Aer Lingus is having a 72 hour flash sale to Europe, with flights to Paris and Barcelona available from €19.99 each way. Book by midnight 14th October for travel between 1st November and 16th December 2021.
 

 

 
The North American sale has also been extended for sale until midnight 25th October, with flights from €149 each way, for travel between 1st November and 17th February 2022.

See more here
 

 

 
Prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change. Please note some of my best travel deals include affiliate links where I receive a small commission if a booking is made.

 

Travel

Ten Autumn / Winter Breaks To Use With Aer Lingus Vouchers

autumn winter breaks

Have you have an Aer Lingus voucher that you want to use? If you want to have something to look forward to, one of these autumn / winter breaks might do the trick.

I know many of you have Aer Lingus vouchers and would love to plan some autumn or winter breaks – well fortunately you can! Aer Lingus offer flexible booking options, so if you wish to book something now, and travel restrictions are still in place later in the year, you can change your booking free of charge. Some fare types are also eligible for refund vouchers – see more here:

Read: Aer Lingus allow free changes for summer 2021
 

 

 
I advise  you to book hotels or apartments with free cancellation, and for that reason I have priced all of accommodation below with refundable rates, in fact most hotels allow you to book now and pay later – so you don’t even need to pay a deposit.

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All hotels and apartments are highly rated on Tripadvisor with great reviews from previous guests. If the dates I have chosen don’t suit you, please click on the links below and edit the search to suit your requirements. 

Note, these winter breaks contain affiliate links, where I receive a small commission if a booking is made, but at no additional cost to you.
 

 

 

 *Prices for Autumn / Winter Breaks include flight cost*

 

1. A week in Lanzarote, 18th November, €298pp

autumn winter breaks

Lanzarote is a great choice for a winter week away. The year round sunshine and long sandy beaches have been attracting Irish visitors for many years. It’s not all about sun and sand though, there is plenty of good sightseeing, as well as some excellent duty free shopping. 

The old town of Puerto del Carmen has some fantastic restaurants. Having a drink at one of the waterfront cafes as the sun sets over the harbour is a lovely way to end your day.

Read: Why Lanzarote is my favourite Canary Island 
 

 

 
I found a great Lanzarote deal staying in the Tisalaya apartments in Puerto del Carmen. Highly rated on TripAdvisor, they are an ideal choice to explore all that Lanzarote has to offer. Fly from Dublin on the 18th of October and enjoy a seven night stay for only €297 per person. 

View flights here €128pp  

View hotel here €170pp
 

 

 

2. New Year Skiing in Austria, 27th December, 2 adults & 2 children, €1871

I have always loved skiing and was delighted to bring my kids skiing for the first time last year. It is not a cheap holiday by any means, but if you have been cooped up in the house for the last year, can you think of anything better than spending the New Year in the Alps?
 

 

 
I found the highly rated apartments Hechenberger available on Vrbo – Expedia’s vacation rentals company. The apartment was awarded with 4 Edelweiss, (the highest categorisation that private rentals can achieve in Austria), and is located close to the town centre and 1000 metres from the nearest ski lift.

Read: Top tips for family skiing
 

 

 
Fly from Dublin on the 27th of December and enjoy a seven night stay in the Hechenberger apartments for less than €2000. I recommend booking the more expensive ‘Plus’ fare because it includes 20kg checked baggage, seat selection and priority boarding, as well as being eligible for a voucher if you need to cancel your booking.

View flights here €184pp 

View hotel here £978 / €1135 
 

 

 

3. A spa break in the Algarve, 12th October from €240pp 

autumn winter breaks in the algarve

With a stunning coastline boasting some of Europe’s best beaches, its not surprising that the Algarve is one of our most popular holiday destinations. There are many resorts to choose from, from the lively resort of Albufeira to the picturesque town of Carvoeiro, and I found great deals in both.
 

 

 
The Sol Aqua is located just ten minutes walk from the old town of Albufeira and boasts an indoor and outdoor pool, and wellness centre. If you are looking for something more luxurious, the 5-star Vale d’Oliveiras Quinta Resort & Spa is an excellent choice. Rated number 1 on Tripadvisor with excellent reviews.
 

 

 
Located just five minutes from Carvoeiro, you can choose to enjoy its fine restaurants, or dine on site in the hotel’s Olive Tree Restaurant, which offers panoramic views over the gardens and pool. Breakfast is also included in this great deal.

View flights here €80 Aer Lingus

View Sol Aqua €160pp

Vale D'Oliveiras here €282pp
 

 

 

4. Christmas Shopping in New York, 4th December, 4 nights, €780!

christmas shopping in new york

I love visiting New York, regardless of the time of year, but there is something magical about visiting at Christmas time. Parting with your hard-earned cash on Christmas presents is also a lot easier when you are doing it in New York – and who knows, you might pick up some bargains for yourself too. I have posts on shopping in New York and things to do in New York so if you need any more inspiration be sure to check them out.
 

 

 
The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Centre is usually illuminated at the beginning of December. With this in mind I have chosen flights with Aer Lingus to depart on the 4th of December and a four-night stay in the centrally located Shelburne Hotel & Suites by Affinia.

Priced at just €780 including 23kg checked baggage based on 2 sharing or even less if three or four share, this is superb value. When you click on the link below you will notice the saver airfare is €100 less but I recommend booking the ‘Smart’ fare because it includes 23kg checked baggage, seat selection and complimentary meal, as well as being eligible for a voucher if you need to cancel your booking.

View flights here €421pp  Smart fare includes 23kg checked baggage

View hotel here €359pp 

Read: 5 More Christmas Shopping breaks to New York
 

 

 

5.  Autumn on the Amalfi Coast: 14th October, 1 week, €413pp

winter breaks in Sorrento.

The four-star Hotel Zi’ Teresa is centrally located in the resort of Sorrento. With sea views from the terrace, and breakfast included in the cost of your stay, this is superb value for a week in Sorrento. Check out the reviews on TripAdvisor if you still need convincing.

View flights here €99pp
 

View hotel here €314pp  
 

 

 

6. Disneyland Paris with Park Tickets, 27th October, 3 Nights, 2 adults & 2 children, €2099

halloween festival at disneyland paris

Halloween is a great time to visit Disneyland Paris. The parks are transformed for their annual Halloween festival. Scary attractions like Phantom Manor and Tower of Terror have some spooky surprises in store, while Main Street U.S.A is full of pumpkins, flickering lights and creepy sounds.
 

 

 
The impressive Illuminations Show at Sleeping Beauty’s Castle takes on a Halloween theme, and will surely leave you feeling bewitched.  Read my dedicated blog post on this offer with more information.

View offer here
 

 

 

7.  October bank holiday weekend in Croatia, 5-star hotel, 3 nights, €499 

autumn winter breaks in croatia

If you are looking for a luxury weekend away in beautiful surroundings, look no further than this. The 5-star Hotel Croatia is located in the pretty resort of Cavtat, just a ferry ride away from the hustle and bustle of Dubrovnik. I stayed here a few years ago and loved it. Cavtat is located close to the airport too, so it is a great option for a weekend break.  
 

 

 
Dubrovnik is very busy during the day time, but you can catch the ferry from Cavtat early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the crowds have dissipated.

Cavtat is also located close to the border of Montenegro. We visited the medieval town of Kotor during our stay. Normally I would highly recommend you do the same, but the Hotel Croatia is a beautiful hotel and offers stunning sea views from the terrace, so you may find it difficult to leave….

Read: Visiting Croatia and Montenegro
 

 

 
Fly from Dublin on the 23rd of October and enjoy a three-night stay with breakfast for  just €499 per person. A deposit of €30 secures the hotel booking with flexible amendments available until 27th of September.

View flights here €189 

View hotel here €310pp
 

 

 

8. Christmas market break in Berlin, 3rd December, 3-nights, €192pp

Berlin Christmas Market breaks.

Believe it or not, Berlin has over 50 different Christmas markets to choose from. The Winter World at Potsdamer Platz offers ice skating and tobogganing, while the traditional Christmas Markets at Alexanderplatz and Charlottenburg house wooden stalls and beer houses. And lets not forget the market in Spandau that has rock concerts every Friday!
 

 

 
Of course with so many other sights to see and some great nightlife, Berlin is a great city to visit at anytime. I found a super deal in the centrally located Titanic Comfort Berlin Mitte hotel. This receives great reviews on TripAdvisor and is a great choice for a festive break.

Read my city guide to Berlin here.
 
Check flights here €105pp

Check hotel here €87pp
 

 

 

9. Winter week in Gran Canaria, 20th January, Gloria Palace Amadores, €678pp

winter breaks in the canary islands.

Perched on a cliff with stunning views of the sea, and only 300 meters from the beach, it is not surprising why the Gloria Palace Amadores Hotel and Thalasso is very popular with Irish holidaymakers.
 

 

 
Situated between Puerto Rico and Mogan, this hotel offers the best of both worlds – a relaxing holiday with the option to travel to nearby resorts if you fancy a livelier scene. Renowned for it’s high quality cuisine, attentive staff and for having one of Europe’s top thalassotherapy centres, can you think of a better way to beat the January blues?

View flights here €176pp

View hotel here €502pp
 

 

 

10. New Year in Washington, 3 Nights, 30th December €634

Washington break for New Year's Eve.

Washington is one of my favourite American cities. You don’t have to be a lover of politics to be impressed with Washington’s monuments and memorials, and I dare you not to be a little star struck when you see The White House for the first time. Washington has some great shopping options too, as well as vibrant nightlife and a lively atmosphere.  

 

 
I found a great deal staying in the university neighbourhood of Georgetown. The Hyatt Place receives excellent reviews on TripAdvisor and it is close to Washingtons most popular landmarks. I have priced this with the Aer Lingus ‘Smart’ fare which includes 23kg checked baggage, a complimentary meal on board and is also eligible for a voucher if you need to cancel your trip.

View flights here €438pp Smart fare includes 23kg baggage

View hotel here €196pp
 

 

 
Prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change. Please note some of these autumn winter breaks include affiliate links where I receive a small commission if a booking is made, but at no additional cost to you.

 

Sarah

 

travel deals

Family HolidaysHolidays in Ireland

Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs – Why You Should Visit & My Top Tips

alex-christmas-tree-center-parcs-compressor (1)

With 57,600 fairy lights, 90 Christmas trees and 3 tonnes of snow, you can imagine the excitement when we arrived to Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs Longford Forest. 

 

‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’ was on repeat on my Spotify playlist, and despite the fact that it was only the 8th of November, I was as excited as the kids! We were fortunate to be invited to Center Parcs Longford Forest for the opening in July, and after a fabulous few days we couldn’t wait to return. Temperatures in July were over 20 degrees. During Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs the average was only 4 degrees, but surprisingly that didn’t matter.

 

instagram center parcs

 

The outdoor swimming pool reminded me of the Blue Lagoon – the combination of the hot pool (29.5 degrees) against the crisp cold air was invigorating. Cycling around the resort was just as enjoyable as it was during the summer time, once we were wrapped up with hats and gloves. Even the biodegradable snow suited the temperatures perfectly!
 
winter wonderland at center parcs
 
All we could see from 5pm was thousands of fairy lights lighting up the resort. The whole village was illuminated – it was an amazing sight. Garlands filled with twinkling lights lined the lake, and massive Christmas baubles beamed in the village. The Christmas tree at Santa’s Woodland Workshop is 10 meters tall and has 4,450 lights! The whole experience was magical and one that all of us throughly enjoyed. It was, to coin the phrase from Center Parcs – Epic Family Time. As I write my my 12 top tips for visiting Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs, I am already planning my next visit…

winter wonderland at center parcs
 

 


 

** Edit – Please note this review was written in December 2019. There may be restrictions to activities including the swimming pool due to Covid-19. Please check if there are any updates to activities with Center Parcs directly, before making a booking. 

1. If price is a factor, book a Woodland Lodge. 

All of the lodges in Center Parcs are modern, spacious and well equipped. We stayed in a Woodland Lodge during the Winter Wonderland experience and an Executive Lodge during the summer. I found very little difference between the two, especially if you are staying for a short break. The executive lodges have house-keeping services, TV’s in all rooms and all bedrooms are ensuite – but otherwise they are very similar. 

woodland lodge at center parcs ireland
 

 

 

2. Book a lodge close to the village centre

With rain being a common occurrence during Irish winters, I would recommend paying an additional €49 to stay in a lodge close to the village centre. Although we loved cycling, it is nice to walk to the village and the swimming pool if the rain is heavy – wet saddles are not very pleasant either! This is also a great solution for anyone who doesn’t want to rent bicycles.

winter wonderland center parcs

 

 

 

3. Enjoy a cosy night in

Pop down to the Parc Market when you arrive and pick up some supplies and some fire logs – you can buy three for €6. Treat yourself to dinner from the extensive Dining In menu and light the fire! We did this the night we arrived and it was a great success. We ordered four different types of cuisine: Pizza, Thai, Indian and Asian, and all meals were delivered to our lodge at the same time. The pizza was a big hit, and I loved the prawn rogan josh. Prices were reasonable too, you could even order a bottle of wine to your lodge for €13.95! Make sure you order early, as popular delivery times get booked out. 

dining in center parcs
 

 

 

4. Book a Santa Visit

You need to book the Santa Experience separately. The cost is €18 per child and parents are free. Each child receives a gift and a free photograph afterwards. We thought this was great value. Envelopes will be left in your lodge, one for children to write their Santa letters, and another for parents to help keep the Christmas magic alive… There is a post box in Santa’s Woodland Village where the kids can post their letters before their visit.  

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Depending on the age of your children, try to book a Santa visit at night time. The Woodland trail is all lit up and it adds to the experience. If the night time slots happen to be booked out, don’t panic. Santa’s Woodland Village is lit up every night and you can walk through it anytime. The Santa visit lasts about 10 minutes, so if you are booking a restaurant, book the time for a half hour after your scheduled Santa visit.  

winter wonderland at center parcs longford

 

 

 

5. Pre-book restaurants

I tried to book restaurants two-weeks in advance, and still only managed to get 9pm slots. You don’t have to pre-book the Sports Cafè, but it can be quite noisy and I didn’t think the food was as good there as it was in other restaurants. If you have young children it is vital you book restaurants in advance, especially if you want early sittings. The restaurants are extremely family friendly, with kids play areas and great kids menus.

There isn’t evening entertainment in the resort, with the exception of live music in Cara’s Restaurant every Saturday and Tuesday at 8.30pm. We booked Cara’s for Saturday night and really enjoyed listening to The Dixie Micks. The menu was limited, but the food was very tasty.

caras restaurant at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 
We also enjoyed Bella Italia. We dined there twice and found the food great, and reasonably priced. There is a wide selection of pasta dishes, and not just the typical spaghetti bolognese. The Cacio e Pepe pasta: a mix of roast chicken, pancetta and pecorino cheese in a tasty wild garlic and black pepper sauce, is delicious. I had this during the summer too! I also love that they have a Piccolo kids menu for 3-6 year olds (€6.95) and a Grande kids menu for for 7-11 year olds, (€8.95).  I’ve been told that the Carbonara isn’t great so maybe avoid that! 

winter wonderland at center parcs

 

 

 

6. Pre-book activities

Popular activities like the Aerial Adventure, where you Zipline across the lake at Center Parcs, get booked out very early. We did this during the summer and loved it – well it scared the hell out of myself and Cormac, but the kids loved it! Luke and Alex wanted to book it again but it was booked out throughout the weekend – I can’t say I was too disappointed…

center parcs longford forest ireland
 

 

 
Festive activities like the Festive Pony Rides and Festive Chocolate Chefs (age 3-7) are particularly popular with younger children and also need to be booked in advance. You don’t need to pre book too many activities though, one or two activities should be ample on a short stay, as you will probably spend a lot of time in the pool.

winter wonderland at center parcs longford
 

 

 
We really enjoyed the Festive Treasure Trail. It is a super family activity and one I would encourage all families to do. We were given a map with nine wooden markers to find around the forest. There were clues on each one and once we had all nine, we had to report back to the booking desk to collect our prize. We were competing against lots of different families and I was surprised how competitive we all were. However despite racing around the forest in just over an hour, we came 4th! It was a simple but very enjoyable family activity and a great way to explore the whole resort. Price is €5.50 for children under 12 and €6.50 for 12+years.

treasure trail at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 
Luke and Cormac loved the Laser Clay Shoot. It was Luke’s first time to try this and he was a natural. He not only came first place within the group, but he set a new record score for Center Parcs Longford Forest – he was delighted with himself. I have no doubt it was due to too much Fortnite, but it was a great achievement nonetheless! Price €27 per adult, €23 per child.

laser clay shoot at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 
Myself and Alex opted for the Festive Roller Skating. It is a handy indoor activity if the weather is bad. I didn’t find it particularly festive, but I was delighted that despite being 30 years since I has last on skates, I was able to keep up with Alex! Price €9.50 per person.

roller skating at center parcs longford forest

See more info on activities and restaurants in my Ultimate Guide to Centre Parcs Longford Forest

 

7. Don’t miss the Light and Sound Show

The Winter Wonderland light and sound show takes place over the lake every Sunday and Wednesday evening during Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs. Unfortunately it was lashing rain during our visit, but nevertheless, the 9-minute animation was really impressive. There are animals, fish and even snowmen projected on to the water, with the North Pole and Santa Claus in the finale. It takes place right outside The Pancake House so it might be an idea to pop in for one of their delicious ice cream sundaes before it starts! I am told they have mulled wine and mince pies too.

pancake house at center parcs longford forest

 

 

 

8. Check out the shops

I was really surprised by some of the prices in the shops. Luke picked up a Harry Potter Lego set in JustKids that was cheaper than Smyths. I bought a lovely Christmas decoration in The Store Room – it wasn’t particularly cheap, but was a lovely souvenir. You may not have considered it, but you may pick up some Christmas gifts in Center Parcs. Ask about the 10% off promotional evening – this is on twice per week.

christmas at center parcs
 

 

 

9. Come early and stay late

Although the official check-in time to your lodge is 3pm, you can access the resort from 10am. Similarly on the day you are leaving, you need to vacate your lodge by 10am, but are free to stay and enjoy the facilities as long as possible. We did the later and enjoyed a fabulous day at the pool…

swimming pool at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 

10. Spend your last day at the pool

We loved the subtropical swimming pool during the summer, but it was equally as good this time. We tried all the slides numerous times but our favourites were the Wild Water Rapids (need to be a competent swimmer), and Tropical Cyclone – a tube ride that we could all go on together, (minimum height 122 cm).

winter wonderland at center parcs
 

 

 
Once you have checked out, you can leave your suitcases in your car, return your bikes and walk down to the pool. The pool is quieter on changeover days too. You can shower afterwards, dry your hair in the vanity room, and leave for home feeling refreshed. There is a cafe beside the swimming pool so you can even pick up lunch there. The chicken wraps and burgers were tasty – as fast food goes, it was pretty good. 

cafe at center parcs longford forest

There are large cabanas in the Subtropical Swimming Pool. These are equipped with TVs, towels and soft drinks. Priced from €50 for three hours, they can be a great help if you have a small child who needs a nap, and older children who want to stay at the pool. 

cabana at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 

11. Bring warm clothes and a back pack.

Remember just because you are on holidays, don’t forget you are in Ireland! Gloves and hats are a must if you are cycling, and don’t even think about wearing skirts on a bike…Most people tend to dress casually, even in restaurants. Backpacks are a Godsend for the pool and are easier than hand bags when cycling.

winter wonderland at center parcs

 

 

 

12. Just book it!

If you haven’t already booked it – do it! Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs is an amazing family experience and one that all the family will love. If price is an issue, check out the prices for midweek (Monday – Friday) rather than weekend, (Friday – Monday).  Winter Wonderland short breaks start from €459 for a family of four in a 2 bedroom Woodland Lodge. Christmas and New Year short breaks are also available – you can dine in the resorts restaurants, or even cook a turkey in your own lodge! However if you are unable to go this year – all is not lost! You can book Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs for 2020 already. For availability and prices visit CenterParcs.ie

winter wonderland at center parcs lights
 

 

 

Like this post? You might like:

How to claim money back with the Spend & Save scheme

Ultimate Guide to Center Parcs Longford Forest

How to save money at Center Parcs Ireland

 

** Edit – Please note this review was written in December 2019. There may be restrictions to activities including the swimming pool due to Covid-19. Please check if there are any updates to activities with Center Parcs directly, before making a booking. 
 
 
Note we were guests of Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs, but all views, as always, are my own. 
 

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

 

 

 

Travel DealsTravel Deals Abroad

5-Star Winter Wellness Break in the Algarve, 1st November, 4 Nights, €224!

Real-marina-compressor

Treat yourself to a wellness break in the Algarve this winter. Spend four nights in the five-star Real Marina Hotel & Spa, with breakfast included, for only €224!

 

With a stunning coastline boasting some of Europe’s best beaches, its not surprising that the Algarve is one of our most popular holiday destinations. With regular flights throughout the winter months, the Algarve attracts many visitors looking for a relaxing holiday with warm temperatures. Winter is also a popular time for golfers and walkers, so it is an ideal time for a wellness break in the Algarve. 

wellness break in the algarve
I found a great deal staying in the five-star Real Marina Hotel & Spa, which includes breakfast, and offers free cancellation. Located just 15 minutes from the airport, you can be relaxing by the pool within a few hours of leaving your own home.
 

 

 
Overlooking the Ria Formosa National Park with a luxurious spa onsite, the superb Real Marina Hotel is the epitome of a wellness hotel. As well as an indoor heated swimming pool, steam room, Turkish bath, sauna, jacuzzi, Vichy shower and gym, it has nine treatment rooms offering a wide range of Hydrotherapy treatments and massages.

wellness break in the algarve
 

 

 
Fly from Dublin to the Algarve on the 6th of November and enjoy a four-night stay in the Real Marina Hotel & Spa for only €224 per person, including return flights. This hotel rate includes breakfast and free cancellation.  The Real Marina Hotel is rated as ‘Excellent’ on Tripadvisor – making this wellness break in the Algarve superb value.

 

View flights here €98pp

 

View hotel here €126pp
 

 

 
Prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to change. Note some of the links in this wellness break post contain affiliate links, where I receive a small commission if a booking is made, but at no additional cost to you.

 

Sarah

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Travel

Weekend in Rome, 21st March, Flights & 4 Star Hotel, 3 Nights, €198!

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A weekend in Rome is a great idea at any time of year. No matter how many times you visit you can’t help but marvel at its beauty. 

 

You would want to be made of stone if Rome did not impress you. There are ancient wonders at every corner: the Vatican, Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain – need I go on? I love admiring the stylish Italians on the Via Veneto, as well as spotting the locals hanging their washing on their side street balconies. There are Italian trattoria’s serving fresh pasta on every street and the aroma of fresh coffee fills the air – a weekend in Rome is a feast for the senses.

weekend in Rome
 

 

 
I found a great deal flying out on Saturday the 21st of March, a great time to enjoy a weekend in Rome. Fly from Dublin and stay in the 4-star Hotel Milton Roma. Highly recommended on TripAdvisor and ideally situated to explore this marvellous city, it is a steal at €198 for flights and three nights accommodation!
 

 

 
View flights here €72pp

View hotel here  €126pp

 

 

Prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to change. Some links in this post are affiliate links where I receive a small commission if a booking is made.
 

 

 
Sarah

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Travel

Weekend in Iceland, 30th March, Flights & Hotel, 3 Nights, €297!

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Scratch one of the bucketlist and enjoy weekend in Iceland! This super deal includes direct flights and three nights in the city centre hotel.

 

I went to Iceland in last year and I loved it. It was everything I hoped it would be and so much more! The scenery, the people, everything about the trip was amazing, even though we had crazy snow storms! We saw the Northern Lights, something that was on my bucket list for years. Winter time is the optimum time to see them, so fingers crossed you will too. We also swam in the Blue Lagoon. Bathing in the steamy waters of the Blue Lagoon with snow all around us was something really special. In fact the whole island looked like a Winter wonderland! You can read all about my adventures in Iceland here.

iceland after christmas

I found a great deal staying in the popular City Centre Hotel. Situated in the heart of Reykjavik, this is a great option for weekend in Iceland Fly direct from Dublin on the 30th of March and enjoy a three night stay for only €297 per person.

View flights here  €127pp

View hotel here  €170pp

 

Prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to change. Note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links, where I receive a small commission if a booking is made.

 

Sarah

 

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Travel

Weekend In Bilbao, Flights & 4 Star Hotel, 13th October, 3 Nights, €299!

48 hours in Bilbao

One of the world’s finest art museums, some of the best Spanish cuisine and a bustling old town, spend a weekend in Bilbao and enjoy one of Spain’s best kept secrets.

 

We spend a weekend in Bilbao last year and loved it.  The city is so easy to navigate on foot but there are trams, buses and a metro too. The old town is full of character with pintxo bars (similar to tapas) on every corner. Locals spilled out of bars enjoying a glass of Rioja and light bites, the buzz was electric. Prices are great too, with a glass of wine from €1 – €2 and pintxos from €1 – €5.

For a great view of the city, take the three minute funicular to Mount Artxanda at a cost of only €2!  If like us, you manage to get nice blue skies, you can also pop down to one of Bilbao’s many beaches. Shoppers will love the Gran Via and make sure you visit the Plaza Neuva to chill out when you are done. This old square is packed with tourists and locals enjoying the Spanish culture. Of course no visit to Bilbao would be complete without a trip to the famous Guggenheim museum. Even if you are not an art lover you can not help but be impressed with the stunning architecture. For more details on my weekend in Bilbao, read my blog, 48 hours in Bilbao.

If you fancy going further a field you could rent a car ( prices from only €40) and visit the wine lands of Rioja (75 minutes away) or the Game of Thrones stunning location, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, 50 minutes away.  We visited both as we took a week long road trip of the basque country, visiting Rioja and San Sebastian too.

I found a great deal to the highly rated 4* Barcelo Bilbao Nervion. Ideally located in the heart of Bilbao, only a ten minute walk to the old town and the Guggenheim, this is an excellent choice to explore this great city. Fly from Dublin to Bilbao with Aer Lingus on the 13th of October and enjoy a three night stay for only €299 per person.

Click here to book flights: €119 per person

Click here to book hotel:  €180 per person

 

All prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to availability. Note some of the links in this post are affiliate links where I receive a small commission if a booking is made.

 

Sarah

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Travel

Weekend in Iceland, 17th February, 3 Nights, Flights & 4* Aparthotel, €373!

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Looking for a short break with a difference? Try a weekend in Iceland.

 

I went to Iceland in February of this year and I loved it. It was everything I hoped it would be and so much more! The scenery, the people, everything about the trip was amazing, even though we had crazy snow storms! We saw the Northern Lights, something that was on my bucket list for years! February is the optimum time to see them, so fingers crossed you will too. We also swam in the Blue Lagoon. Bathing in the steamy waters of the Blue Lagoon with snow all around us was something really special. In fact the whole island looked like a Winter wonderland! You can read all about my adventures in Iceland here.

weekend in Iceland

I found a great deal staying in the highly rated Room With A View Aparthotel. Situated in the heart of Reykjavik, these hotel apartments are superbly situated to enjoy all that Reykjavik has to offer. The modern interiors, spa tub, steam room, rooftop terrace and free WiFi have made them very popular with guests.  Fly from Dublin with WOW air on the 17th of February and enjoy a three night stay for only €373 per person.

 

Click here to book flight: €130pp

Click here to book Aparthotel  €243pp

Prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to change. Note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links, where I receive a small commission if a booking is made.

 

Sarah

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Uncategorized

3 Christmas Market Breaks, Budapest, Berlin or Krakow, 3 Nights, €199 or Less!

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Some cities are best seen in winter. Christmas decorations are everywhere, market stalls sell the perfect stocking fillers and aromas of roasted chestnuts and mulled wine waft through the crisp cold air. Of course winter time offers the best value too! Take your pick from my Christmas market breaks – all €189 or less!

 

Budapest

Budapest has several Christmas markets with Vörösmarty Square, being the most popular. Gerbeaud House is transformed into an enormous Advent Calendar and a new window opens daily at 5pm. Street artists perform, Santa makes an appearance and there are plenty of places to relax and take it all in. St Stephen’s Basilica, is lit up at night time and resembles a Disney like castle – it’s quite spectacular!  Most markets are open from the 27th of November to the 2nd of January but Vörösmarty Square opens from the 11th of November. Take time to visit the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue which are all UNESCO world heritage sites!

Christmas market breaks

Fly from Dublin to Budapest on the 11th of December and enjoy a three night stay in the centrally located Agape apartments for only €198 per person.

Click here for more details.

 

Berlin

Berlin has a staggering 50 Christmas markets to choose from with some starting in early November so it’s a great choice for anyone who can’t travel in December. Winter World at Potsdamer Platz offers ice skating and tobogganing and is perfect for families.  Alexanderplatz and Charlottenburg have traditional wooden stalls and beer houses and open late November. Don’t miss the Spandau market where rock concerts every Friday and there are over 500 stalls! Try to make time to see some of Berlin’s top sights too, the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate – the list is endless. For more info on Berlin, read my blog here.

Christmas market breaks

Fly from Dublin to Berlin on the 14th of December and enjoy a three night stay in the Ivbergs Hotel Charlottenburg for only €189 per person.

Click here for more details.

 

Krakow

The old town of Krakow has Europe’s largest market square, and is the picture postcard of Christmas markets. This enormous square is full with market stalls selling local hand crafts and hearty food, and is full of Christmas cheer. The city comes alive at night time with live bands playing in trendy basement clubs. Take time to visit the stunning Wawel castle, walk through the Jewish quarter to see Oscar Schindler’s factory and if you can bear it, visit nearby Auschwitz . Krakow’s Christmas Market is open from the 27th of November to the 23rd of December.

Christmas Markets Weekend in Krakow by The Travel Expert

Fly from Dublin to Krakow on the 6th of December and enjoy a three night stay in the centrally located Leone apartments for only €199 per person.

Click here for more details:

So the only problem now is, which one of my Christmas market breaks will you choose?  Please note that if the above dates don’t suit, check DEALFINDER to find the best possible prices for the dates you want to go.
  
Prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change. This post was sponsored by ClickandGo.com but all views, as always, are my own 🙂
Sarah

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In The Media

Winter Breaks As Seen on TV3’s Saturday AM, 24th September 2016

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Thinking of a winter holiday this year? Check out my top picks for winter breaks as seen on TV3’s Saturday AM.

 

If you are looking for some winter sun this year, the best advice I can give you is – book early. There is a massive shortage of accommodation in the Canary Islands as a result of people not wanting to travel to Egypt, Tunisia etc. We tend to forget that it’s not just Irish people who want to go to the Canary Islands for winter sun. There are 60 million Britons, 100 million Germans as well as other Europeans, all looking at the same destinations. You will probably find cheap flights with Aer Lingus and Ryanair but finding apartments and hotels to go with them at the last minute will be extremely difficult. So don’t say you haven’t been warned…  With that in mind, I have some good winter sun options that are available now if you can book your holidays in advance.

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Canary Islands

Lanzarote is the most popular of the Canary Islands with Irish holiday makers. The combination of low rise buildings, just the right amount of nightlife and some excellent beaches means Lanzarote ticks all boxes. I found a great deal flying out on Valentines Day to a popular ‘adult only’ property in the centre of Puerto del Carmen.  The Panorama apartments receive great reviews  on tripadvisor and are perfect for couples who don’t want any kids jumping in and out of the pool. Fly from Dublin to Lanzarote on the 12th of February and enjoy a seven night stay in the Panorama for only €299 per person. Click here for more details:

Winter breaks as seen on TV3's Saturday AM

Cruises

There is some excellent value in winter cruises this year. Thomson Cruises are offering a free upgrade to all-inclusive on their Canary Islands cruises. You can fly to Tenerife or Gran Canaria and cruise the Canary Islands, Madeira and Morocco from only €859 in January and February. Prices include flights, transfers, baggage a seven day cruise including all meals, drinks and entertainment. Click here for more details:

WInter breaks as seen on TV3's Saturday AM

Another cruise destination that is great value is Dubai and the Emirates. With guaranteed sunshine and now direct flights from Dublin, this is a very appealing alternative to the Canary Islands. Royal Caribbean are offering flights and a seven night cruise around Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman from €899 in January on Vision of the Seas.  Click here for more details.

Winter breaks as seen on TV3's Saturday AM

City Breaks

There are plenty of great options for city breaks.. Flights and hotels are inexpensive during the winter time so if you don’t necessarily want sun, you can pick up a city break in Europe from €149 or even Las Vegas from €465!  I like this deal to Prague on the 21st of November. Price for flights and three nights in the 4* Union hotel is only €164. Click here for more details on this offer and other city break deals, all less than €169 per person.

Winter breaks as seen on TV3's Saturday AM

Ski holidays

Travel trends have changed over the last number of years and people are looking for more authentic holiday experiences. Winter breaks to see the Northern Lights, Lapland and of course ski trips are becoming more and more popular. Within the ski market there has been a huge increase in demand for chalet holidays. Topflight now have over 50 chalets in the French Alps alone. Chalets can accommodate from 6 – 19 people depending on the chalet you choose so if you have a few families travelling together they are ideal. Couples like them too from the social aspect. They can chat about their skiing exploits that day and pick up tips from fellow skiers. The host is very important too as they will be able to offer local information on the resort and provide tips on the best places to go etc. Chalets usually have cosy fires, comfy couches and offer a home away from home type of experience. Skiing holidays in general are more expensive than sun but once you try it once, you will be hooked, and a chalet is a great place to start.

Fly from Dublin to Les Arcs in France and spend seven nights in the Chalet Bouquetin from €849 per person on the 14th of January. Price includes flights, transfers, checked baggage and meals throughout your stay. Click here for more details:

Winter Breaks as seen on TV3's Saturday AM

Iceland

If you fancy a short break but still want the winter wonderland feel – try Iceland. WOW air are flying five times per week to Reyjavik from Dublin and prices are quite good if you are flexible on your dates. You can take a swim in the Blue Lagoon, try snow mobiling, hiking on a glacier, go whale watching and hopefully get to see the Northern Lights while you are there 🙂 Fly from Dublin to Reyjavik on the 19th of January and enjoy a three night stay in the centrally located Apartment K for only €377 per person. Click here for more details.

Winter breaks as seen on TV3's Saturday AM

 

All prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change.

 

Sarah

 

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In The Media

Staycations and Short Breaks on RTE’s Marian Finucane Show

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As the summer draws to a close why not grab a last minute getaway. I have city breaks in Madrid, Lisbon and Rome, and Irish breaks in Kilkee, Belfast, Enniscorthy, Enniskerry and Westport. Here are my recommendations for staycations and short breaks as discussed on RTE’s Marian Finucane Show this morning.

The Travel Expert, Sarah Slattery on RTE's Marian Finucane ShowFollow me on facebook

August break to Madrid

Late August is always a good time to get a deal and this year is no exception. Kids are ready to go back to school and those looking for a September break tend to overlook late August, when in fact, prices are much lower. ClickandGo.com have matched the low airfares with some good city breaks. I like this deal to Madrid, it combines sightseeing, sun and shopping all in one! You can take a tour of the Royal Palace and shop till you drop on the Gran Via – one of Europe’s finest shopping streets. Madrid is also home to Europe’s largest Penneys so there is shopping here for everyone! There is over 3,000 restaurants, so its safe to say it’s a foodie destination and there is enough bars and clubs to satisfy any night-owls. Fly with Aer Lingus and enjoy a three night stay in the four star Via Castellana hotel for only €240 on the 28th of August. Click here for more details.

short breaks at home and abroad as discussed with marian finucane

Lisbon break with river cruise in September

Although the Algarve is one of our most popular holiday choices, the capital, Lisbon is often overlooked. You can choose to go for a holiday (which I did) and stay in one of the beach resorts, or take a city break and stay in Lisbon itself. Temperatures rarely get higher than 25 degrees in Summer and lower than 14 degrees in Winter so it is a great choice for city break. The old style trams are the best way to get around the city and there are numerous sights to see, including The Belem Tower (defence tower), the Castelo de Sáo Jorge  and the Cristo Rei, which is a large statue of Christ that you can climb and see great views of the city. There are some great restaurants, cafes and music clubs, all very reasonably priced. I went with my kids and there was lots for them to do too. The Aquarium is Europe’s largest and well worth a visit. If you have time take the train to the ancient city of Sintra and some of the nice beach resorts along the coast. Theholidayshop.ie are offering a three night break in a central four star hotel from €339 on the 25th of September. They are also including a free river cruise too. Click here for more details.
short breaks at home and abroad as discussed with marian finucane

Cheese & Wine Tasting Weekend in Rome in November

Rome is a great city break destination at any time of year, but personally I think it’s better to go in the winter time, as it’s less crowded. There is so much to see in Rome it doesn’t matter how many times you go, you will always find something new to discover. I found a great deal on travalue.ie where they offer a FREE cheese and wine tasting evening, when you book a two night stay. The price for flights and a two night stay in the popular three star Galileo hotel in November is only €199 per person. They also have offers in September and October from €326 per person. Click here for more details.

short breaks at home and abroad as discussed with marian finucane

Christmas Market Breaks in December

Christmas markets are very much back in vogue. Ryanair and Aer Lingus have added extra capacity to many cities throughout the winter with lots of low priced airfares available. I like Berlin as it has over 50 markets to choose from and something to appeal to everyone. Sip some mulled wine while enjoying Christmas carols at the traditional markets of Charlottenburg Castle or enjoy one of the Christmas Rock concerts at the Spandau Old Town market. Europe’s largest mobile toboggan run and ice rink are at the lively Potsdamer Platz market, so there is plenty of choice for everyone. For more info on Europe’s top Christmas markets read my blog here. The price for flights with Aer Lingus and a three night stay in the 4* Park Inn by Radisson Alexanderplatz is only €249 on the 7th of December. Click here for more details.

short breaks at home and abroad as discussed with marian finucane


City Breaks

For those who wish to stay closer to home, there are plenty of options here in Ireland.

 

August family break: Feather Down, Loop Head, Co Clare.

Recently I had the pleasure of glamping in Ireland’s first Feather Down tents. They have sites all over Europe and have only come to Ireland this year. They are in the grounds of a popular glamping site, Purecamping in Loophead. It is the perfect escape from a big city, you really switch off and it’s a great family experience. The ‘tents’ if you can call them that have 3 bedrooms, a private toilet, shower, stove and also a BBQ if you are lucky to get the weather. They still have availability in August, the price for a three night stay is €599 on the 12th or 19th of August. If you want a cheaper option the Purecamping furnished bell tents are pretty cool too and are priced at €75 per night. You can also choose an unfurnished tent from €35. No matter which option you choose you can avail of the excellent facilities on site, including yoga classes, sauna and a wood fired pizza oven. For more details, read my blog here.

short breaks at home and abroad as discussed with marian finucane

Spa breaks

The difference between Monart and other luxury hotels is that Monart is Ireland’s only destination Spa property. It offers a unique adults-only environment and is situated on 100 acres – you will feel utterly relaxed here. Monart was recently awarded ‘runner up best spa retreat worldwide’, by Conde Nast Traveller. It was also named as Ireland’s best destination spa for four years in a row. If you are looking for a spa break, there is no doubt – Monart is the best!  They have a three night midweek break from €329 per person, on the 29th of August, other dates are also available at a slightly higher price. This special offer includes breakfast each day plus dinner in their renowned restaurant on one evening. You will have unrestricted access to the thermal suite and they are also including a 30 minute spa treatment. Monart is situated on 100 acres – you will feel utterly relaxed here. For more details click here.

short breaks at home and abroad as discussed with marian finucane

If three nights seems too long, the Rainforest Spa in Enniskerry ( Wicklow) have an excellent offer for a one night stay at the Summerhill House Hotel You will receive a glass of bubbly and petit fours on arrival, an hours use of the spa facilities, a treatment of your choice ( see website for exact choices), breakfast and evening meal – and all for €129 mid week or €149 at the weekend, available in August. Click here for more details.

Operation Transformation at Hotel Westport

If you have over indulged during the summer months and want to get in shape for Christmas, then the Hotel Westport’s Operation Transformation package might be just what you need! You can choose a three day break from €199 or a five day break from €309 from the 9th of October. This four star family run hotel have been running this program, twice a year for four years and they have proved very popular. You will receive breakfast and dinner each day ( where light options are available) and you can join in the many aerobics and wellness classes that are provided free of charge. There is entertainment nightly and no single supplement – so it’s a great way to meet new people. There is no pressure to participate in all the activities, it is very much a laid back approach, in fact if you do not wish to be assessed, that’s fine too. If you fancy a night out in Westport, he hotel is located only five minutes from the centre. Click here for more details.

short breaks at home and abroad as discussed with marian finucane

Belfast overnight with Game of Thrones Tour

For any Game of Thrones fans, this is a must! The 4* boutique hotel, Tara Lodge is offering an over night stay with breakfast, and an action packed day visiting filming locations across Northern Ireland. Start your journey along the Causeway Coastal route visiting famous sites from the show. Stop for lunch before visiting the Giants Causeway. The price is only £72 per person and it is still available in August. Weekends are busy but check out their website for more details. The Tara Lodge is rated number 1 of 45 Belfast hotels on tripadvisor and receives excellent reviews. It is a family run guesthouse / hotel and offers friendly service and excellent value. Click here for more details.

short breaks at home and abroad as discussed with marian finucane

 

Prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change. For my reviews and city break deals click here. To listen back to my chat with Marian, click HERE.

Sarah

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