Christmas holiday plans


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Between here and Oz

I am seeking some advice for a two-week holiday over Christmas. We are a family of five (children aged five, three and one). My husband is Australian and we thought we might try to meet his elderly parents half way, somewhere like Thailand or Mauritius.

Our requirements are to be beside a beach and I think self-catering would be better than a hotel. We don’t need the extras such as spas. Also, I would like to avoid resorts. – MB, Dublin

With the parents in mind, and thinking about distances and direct flights, it might be good to consider Bali, a popular Australian holiday destination. Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam or, travelling the other way, South Africa, California, Dallas and Hawaii all have services from Sydney.

The prices at Christmas are higher than at other times of the year and near destinations from Australia will cost in the region of AU$1,500–AU$2,000 return. Low-cost carriers such as, virginaustralia.comand jetstar.comoperate in this market to some of those destinations. If you like the sound of Bali, you can travel direct from Amsterdam to Denpasar for around the same price as your relatives will pay from Australia.

I have seen a selection of self-catering rentals on flipkey.comthat would be suitable for you and with prices around €1,000-€1,500 per week. Most have pools and on-site staff for cleaning and catering.

Malaysia would also be a good destination; there are one-stop flights to Kuala Lumpur with,,, and The resort areas of Langkawi, Kota Kinabalu and Penang are good-priced destinations with sun, sand and sea. The Malaysia Tourism representative in Ireland is Isabel Oliviera and she can give advice on getting there and places to stay. Email her at or tel: 01-2376243.

Dubai as a base

My wife and I are both retired, and we have a son who lives and works in Dubai. He has been home a couple of times since moving there, and we have been out to visit him. He has suggested that, rather than him coming home for Christmas, we meet up with him and explore the wider region for a new experience. – PD, Dublin

The best thing about being based in Dubai is that you have considerable choices of places to go – the Emirates network is huge. When booking flights, use the multicity option as it allows you to stop over. So here is a choice you have to make: do you want a Christian-style Christmas, or are you open to something completely different?

If you want a Christian-type of holiday with decorations, religious ceremonies and the usual festivities, think of places such as South Africa. Cape Town is particularly nice at Christmas, with gorgeous weather and BBQs on the beach. Durban is a lovely city with great beachside life and a chance to explore the Eastern Cape.

Other destinations in Africa that are accessible include Nairobi, Lusaka, Dar es Salaam and Zimbabwe. The islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles have populations that are a mix of religions and you would get a hybrid Christian experience along with a sun holiday.

Heading east, Emirates has a huge amount of routes into India and it would open up the whole of the Indian subcontinent for your exploration. The province of Kerala is a mix of Christian, Hindu and Islam and a very beautiful place. It is also quite well developed for tourism and there are a good variety of places to stay, and it is very reasonable; see

Beyond India, Vietnam beckons and the city of Ho Chi Minh would be a good starting point to explore Vietnam and maybe take in Cambodia too.

Beijing is cold in winter but you can stay in four- and five-star hotels for very reasonable prices at this time of the year. Just to warn you, the Christmas tree and decorations find their way into the most unexpected places.

Happy non-Christmas

I’m planning on spending Christmas in a non-Christian country where I hope life continues without the Ho, Ho, Ho fuss. I’ve arranged a house swap for some of the time in Ceuta, in the north of Morocco. However I was a bit put out to discover that Ceuta is a Spanish enclave. To avoid the hassle of busy airports I am considering setting off on December 14th. As the flat is in “Spain” I am thinking of arranging a home-stay in a town in Mediterranean Morocco for Christmas Day to ensure I get the cultural experience I am looking for. I could also explore Tetouan, which I’ve heard is beautiful. (I’ve heard Tangiers is quite dangerous.)

I’d like suggestions on where to spend a week before Christmas and at the beginning of January. I am on a very low income, female and travelling alone. I could hire a car for some of this time. Ideally I’d like to stay around one place that I could explore rather than driving about and maybe drive when going a distance. Flights are very expensive, any suggestions? – DH,Galway

Getting to Morocco is not going to be too much of an ordeal as Aer Lingus has direct flights on Saturdays to Agadir, but at around €450. You can fly to Malaga, take the bus to Algeciras and from there take a ferry to Ceuta, Melilla or Tangiers. Tangiers is an edgy place and I would not recommend staying there.

If you fly to Agadir with Aer Lingus, the outward flight is cheaper than the return, and you could work your way up the coast to Ceuta via Essaouira, a laid-back surfer town; Safi, one of the oldest towns in Morocco; famous Casablanca, where there really is a Rick’s Cafe, and Rabat, the former home of the Barbery pirates. You could spend the week after Christmas in Tetouan, and explore the Mediterranean coast and the Rif mountains.

For the return journey, take the ferry back to Spain and make your way home from Malaga. The trip through Andalusia would be lovely.

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