Escape the January gloom and top up on Vitamin D with the aid of our pick of the hottest travel specialists.

We’ve all grown to love the staycation – for logistical, environmental and financial reasons. Sure, a UK beach at the end of July is a wonder to behold. But there is a certain breed of person who, come January, really cannot handle the cold in Blighty. That’s OK. There should be no shame in it. Indeed, recent research shows that a third of Britons plan to take a winter break this year. The first step is admitting you need a holiday in the sun. The second is figuring out whether you can afford one. The third is booking it.

Here, we recommend the sites that’ll lead you to that all-important burst of sunshine.

I-ESCAPE


This award-winning site offers some of the best prices on the web. Whether you are after a boutique hotel, a stylish guesthouse, an eco-retreat, a safari lodge or a beach extravaganza, i-escape promises unforgettable travel experiences. The team visits every hotel and writes totally honest reviews, plus there’s free travel advice and truly brilliant provision for kids’ travel, too.

SCOTT DUNN


This exceptional travel agency won Conde Nast Traveller’s Readers’ Choice Award for Top Travel Specialists in the World this year. It has been creating top-notch, tailor-made holidays for clients since 1986. Everything about the site – from its photography to its usability – screams quality. But you can also pick up the phone and speak to a travel specialist at your convenience. Don’t miss its exquisitely produced ‘Featured Videos’, whose content ranges from a guide to gorilla trekking to the wonders of wildlife in the Arctic.

TRAVEL SUPERMARKET


These guys are the UK’s leading price-comparison service for package holidays. The site also compares prices for holiday extras like car hire, flights, hotels, cruises, travel insurance, airport parking, airport lounges and car-hire excess insurance. Straightforward and unfussy, Travel Supermarket does just what it says on the tin.

LOVE HOLIDAYS


One of the fastest-growing travel agencies in the UK, Love Holidays launched in 2012. It has thousands of short and long-haul holidays on its books and, with low deposits, price-match guarantees and monthly payment plans, is an excellent budget-friendly option. Its FEEFO ratings are through the roof, which may be because of its clever search function. They say: ‘We offer a bespoke way of searching for your next holiday, ensuring that all your needs are catered for in one place. Not sure where or when to go? With us, you don’t have to search by date or destination; you can search by what matters to you the most such as budget, board basis, star rating and even temperature. Not completely convinced which hotel is the right one for you? You can search our holidays by TripAdvisor rating until you find the ideal accommodation.’

BRITISH AIRWAYS


Beset by troubles it may have been over the years, but you can still trust BA for a great-value holiday. (Anybody out there who thought it was still just an airline really needs to get with the programme.) The slick, easy-to-use website – with its truly inspirational photography – offers deals that have to be seen to be believed. Plus, its destination experts are available on the phone all day long.

MR AND MRS SMITH


This site has been the go-to resource of discerning holiday-makers since it began life in 2003. Calling itself a ‘travel club for hotel lovers’, they say: ‘Every club has a purpose. Ours is to knock your socks off, with help from the world’s best bedrooms. We don’t want this to be a one-night stand or a quick fling; we’re in it for the long-haul.’ With current deals on glorious winter sun everywhere from Singapore to Laos to Sri Lanka to New Zealand, it is well worth a look.

ICE LOLLY


Another simple comparison site, Ice Lolly offers a surprisingly personalised service. They say: ‘We put personality and fun into shopping at the holiday supermarket, while always ensuring that every customer interaction is the best it can possibly be. We try our best to engage with as many people as we can through both traditional and modern channels. We are always open to receiving live-chat messages about our services, have a strong following on our social channels and also run a bi-annual masterclass for bloggers.’

LASTMINUTE.COM


There is so much information and choice on this website, which was among the earliest pioneers of online travel when it started in 1998, that it can be a pretty exhausting ride. What you will get out of it, though, is some super-hot last-minute rays. You could pack your bags and jet off on a seven-night, all-inclusive break in Thailand next week if you felt dynamic enough…

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By Becky Ladenburg
November 2019