Providing a precious tonic https://bestofbritishva.com/ during the year’s chilliest months, winter sun holidays have long appealed to Brits.
According to Abta’s latest Holiday Habits report, almost three quarters of respondents to the survey said the cost of living will affect their future travel plans. Among other things, they said they would book cheaper accommodation (21 per cent) to make sure they could still take a holiday.
Happily, hotel prices in destinations such as Florida and Phuket have all either decreased or plateaued in the second half of 2023, while bargains await in the Middle East, Africa and even the Caribbean.
Accordingly, none of the following 10 sunny winter breaks will cost you more than £1,000 per person for a week – including flights.
The top 10 of this year’s Post Office Travel Money’s “Long Haul Holiday Report” – an annual resource ranking 30 travel destinations beyond Europe for affordability – included Thailand’s largest island.
Visitors to its north-east coast will, admittedly, find fewer beaches, but also thinner crowds.
Complete with a pool, the garden-hugged Leam Sai Resort’s 12 modern rooms come with fridges so you can prepare picnic lunches, with a shop close by. Boats from Bang Rong, seven miles south, sail to the idyllic, powdery speck of Koh Yao Yai.
In early November – when the mercury reached 33°C in Phuket last year, amid intermittent sunshine – seven nights’ room-only costs from £678pp, including flights via Shanghai and airport transfers (sno.co.uk).
Renowned for its extensive sandy shores (and hippie atmosphere in towns such as Anjuna and Palolem), Goa can be superbly cheap. You can easily eat delicious seafood or vegetarian dishes for £2 and then spend little more on sarongs or statuettes at excellent markets.
All the while, daytimes rarely dip below 20°C during winter, and the sun blazes.
Arabian Sea-facing bars and a Saturday bazaar await in the likeable town of Calangute, as does a four-mile beach. Ten minutes inland are the BloomSuites. Clad in a distinctive yellow-white palette, these swish modern digs and their rainfall showers flank a pool, gym and café. Seven nights’ later this month cost from £735pp, including Manchester flights and transfers (firstchoice.co.uk).
In this slender West African nation’s holiday CV are averages of 25°C throughout winter, no jet lag from six-hour flights thanks to the shared GMT timezone, golden beaches and great prices.
Take the cheerful Senegambia Beach Hotel. Just a coconut’s throw from the bar-lined “Strip” of resort town Kololi, it is shrouded in tropical gardens where monkeys play. Sunbathe right by the sea or enjoy the two pools and their restaurants. Easily arranged tours visit megalithic stone circles and sacred healing crocodile pools.
A week’s B&B departing on a Tuesday or Friday between 28 November and 15 December starts from £799pp, with Gatwick flights and transfers (gambia.co.uk).
Cape Town, South Africa
South Africa’s capital also figures in the Post Office’s latest long-haul top 10, ranking in third place. Collectively, 10 typical tourist staples – including bottled water, sunscreen and a three-course evening meal for two with drinks – are reckoned to cost just an average £61.58 in total; for context, that figure is down almost a tenth on 2022.
Despite flights tending to be expensive, this makes for unusually affordable package holidays, too – even during the South African summer, when you can expect highs of 35°C.
Based at Antrim Villa, an old Victorian home turned chic, homey eight-room guesthouse in the affluent area of Three Anchor Bay, seven nights’ B&B beginning on 22 January will cost from £986pp, including Gatwick flights via Doha and luggage (thomascook.com). Wholly relaxing thanks to its salt-water swimming pool flanked by citrus trees, the hotel is 20 minutes’ walk from the buzzy V&A Waterfront and a 15-minute taxi from Table Mountain’s cable cars.
Three hundred and fifty miles west of the African mainland, Cape Verde is a tropical arc of 10 islands. Tropical, and handy: direct, jetlag-free flights take six hours from various UK airports.
The main island is Sal, whose desert interior – including lunar-like salt pans that you can easily visit – is fringed by miles of idyllic coastline. Note that winds blow steadily all year, and markedly in November –good for surfing, but less so swimming. The rest of winter is gentler, and slightly cooler, yet still deliciously mild. Out to sea, lava caves, wrecks and tropical critters make for terrific diving, too.
Stay beachside in the southerly, restaurant-crammed village of Santa Maria at the four-star Budha Beach boutique hotel, whose pool routinely offers splendid sunset views. In early December, when you can expect 25°C as a norm, a week’s B&B costs from £819pp, including Gatwick flights (awayholidays.co.uk).
In a hotel pricing report by hospitality analyst OTA Insight, room rate increases are tailing off in the US, including in winter sun favourite Florida. No coincidence, then, that Orlando is the best-value US city in the Post Office’s recent holiday money report.
Complimentary shuttles to the Universal and Walt Disney World theme parks mean the low-key Ramada Plaza Resort & Suites is especially good value. In early December, seven nights here cost from £790pp, including flights from Gatwick, luggage and transfers (tui.co.uk).
While that is on a room-only basis, the location just off International Drive puts you close to many restaurants.
If you want to see more of the Sunshine State, America As You Like It has an eight-night fly-drive holiday starting and ending in Orlando from £995pp in January with flights from Heathrow and motorhome hire with 1,000 miles included – you could comfortably cover the return journey between Orlando and Key West (early December last year brought highs of 27°C here), or to Pensacola in the Panhandle (americaasyoulikeit.com).
About 800 miles south-west of the European mainland and parent country Spain, Tenerife and its fellow Canary Islands can still enjoy 31°C days in November – as it did last year – before cooling slightly.
Around the resort of Playa de las Americas – miles south from where this summer’s terrible wildfires have left their mark – tax-free shopping, nightclubs and prolific whale- and dolphin-watching trips (£24pp, tenerifedolphin.com) all vie for attention with sandy beaches.
Visit this late in the year and terrific prices also await. Seven nights’ half-board – go big on the buffet breakfast and dinners, and you can swerve lunch entirely – at the Spring Hotel Bitacora, which comes with multiple pools and spa treatments, costs from £856pp. That’s departing Gatwick on 28 November (olympicholidays.com).
Holidays to Kenya have something of a split personality: while wildlife safaris to the Maasai Mara reserve or Amboseli National Park can be trip-of-a-lifetime expensive, fly-and-flop breaks to the country’s idyllic coastline are surprisingly affordable and consistently warm, with November averaging 28°C for the past two years.
The best bet for anyone on a budget are the sugar-white shores either side of the city of Mombasa (this cosmpolitan city of Mijikenda, Swahili and Kenyan Arabs was highlighted as the second-best value destination for winter sun-seekers by the Post Office). Diani Beach, 15 miles to the south, is part of a particularly long stretch, backed by thick, tropical greenery.
Try the Southern Palms Beach Resort, which has a traditionally thatched, open-sided dining dome plus pools galore.
Prefer some outings with your repose? Tennis, diving, deep-sea fishing and cycling trips to see colobus monkeys are all on offer. If you are able to act quickly and book by 13 November, seven nights’ half-board – breakfast and dinner daily – departing anytime between 15-23 November costs from £995pp, including flights from London (southalltravel.co.uk).
When it comes to the Caribbean, value-seekers are firmly directed towards the Dominican Republic, where Puerto Plata offers particularly good package value. Early December is the clever clogs’ time to go: hurricane season is over and sunny days are likely, yet peak-season prices have yet to take hold.
Venture 40 miles southwest of busy Punta Cana to Bayahibe, a small, more authentic town where the extensive white-sand beach is sandwiched by swaying palms and turquoise water.
Five minutes’ walk inland is Albergo el Pulpo, a 12-room guesthouse where the tasteful balcony rooms include dining areas and refrigerators so you can eat in. Scuba-diving outings, catamaran tours, bicycle hire or spa treatments can all be arranged, as can airport transfers.
With flights from Heathrow, a week from 3 December costs from £767pp (expedia.co.uk).