10 easy steps to summer holiday happiness

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In the current climate of shrinking budgets, deciding on a family getaway can be a challenge. SANDRA O'CONNELLhas found a range of great-value breaks, with everything from camping in France to relaxing by the sea in Croatia

FOR ANYONE who hasn’t lost their job, taken a pay cut or ended up doing a full-time job in a three-day week, it must be festival time. Prices for everything from bread to buildings have plummeted.

Travel has also come down in price. Fuel surcharges are a distant memory, and favourable exchange rates are encouraging us to the UK and the US. Even in euro destinations the upshot of the downturn is that prices have fallen faster than German towels on a sunlounger.

For the rest of us, if we could just loosen our grip on our piggy banks long enough to do the sums, we would see that family holidays are better value than they have been for years, possibly ever.

Yes, it’s hard to spend money when people keep saying things will get worse before they get better. But, on the other hand, some things are sacrosanct. Like the family holiday.

It is, after all, a much more finite resource than mere money. Just how many do you think you’ll get before the eldest decides she’s not coming with you any more?

With that in mind, we have rounded up 10 of the best-value family holidays this summer.

1 Barmy about BracWith its golden beach extending into the Adriatic like a beckoning finger, the Croatian island of Brac has been attracting discerning holidaymakers since Roman times. And with good reason. Carpeted in green and boasting the highest point of any Croatian island, it is paradise for nature lovers and sun worshipers alike. The relaxed feel makes it a great option for families. Concorde Travel has an offer for three-star-standard two-bedroom apartments in a new complex on the seafront in the beautiful village of Mirca. The price for a one-week stay for a family of six, including flights, transfers and accommodation, is €2,199, with Saturday departures on June 20th or 27th. 01-7759300, www. concordetravel.ie.

2 Smile, you’re paying less in SpainFalcon Holidays is offering summer deals for a family of four from €1,436. Departing from Dublin or Shannon in June, this will get you a week’s fun in the sun at the Puerto Marina aparthotel, on Spain’s popular Costa de Almeria. A great base for families, the accommodation has a children’s pool and a Falcon kids’ club and is near the beach. 1850-453545, www. falconholidays.ie.

3 Potty about PortugalTopflight has been negotiating lower prices with accommodation providers across Europe this summer. It means that Portugal, always a great-value family destination, is cheaper than ever. If you can get away early in June, Topflight is offering a week’s package for two adults and two children to the three-star Club Praia da Oura. The resort is right on Golden Beach at Albufeira and has a kids’ swimming pool and playground, too. Depart on June 7th for €1,559 or later in the month, on June 21st, for €1,999, both from Dublin. 1890-240170, www.top flight.ie.

4 Camp it upWhen it comes to keeping families happy at a great price, no one does it better than French campsites. And this year the value is better than ever. Not only have ferry companies been cutting fares off at the knees, but holiday providers have been devising amazing deals. Canvas Holidays is offering hundreds of June breaks – perfect for families with senior-school kids – for less than €300 per family. The deals include some of the country’s best sites, such as Camping Ty-Nadan, in Arzano, in Brittany, which offers horse riding, quad biking and a spaghetti junction of waterslides. And if you need to wait until July, don’t despair; prices start at €424 for seven nights in a two-bedroom mobile home for two adults and up to four children. How chouette is that? 01-2421901, www.canvas holiays.ie.

5 Lanzarote luxuryIf there’s one thing Irish families love more than a holiday in Lanzarote – the nation’s favourite Canary Island – it’s a holiday in Los Fariones in Lanzarote. The good news is that you can get an upgrade at the four-star hotel – reputedly beloved by Bertie Ahern – right on the beach in Puerto del Carmen. Not only do visitors get complimentary wine and fruit baskets in their room, but arrivals until the end of June get an upgrade to a junior suite. Cork travel agent Foreign A Fares will bag you a week’s stay, departing on Monday, for two adults and a child for €1,538, with flights and breakfast. 021-4278999, www.foreignafares.ie.

6 French adventureThe thing about group adventure holidays is that they don’t accommodate kids. Except that now they do. Explore!, a leading small-group adventure company, has just launched its Pyrenees Activity Adventure tour for families. It features a range of activities designed to thrill older kids and terrify their parents, including kayaking, white-water rafting, abseiling and mountain trekking by jeep and even, saints preserve us, on foot. Buckets and spades it ain’t. The eight-day tour runs from July 9th and costs £723 (about €820) per person, including accommodation in a family-run hotel but excluding flights to Barcelona, the nearest airport. 01-6795700, www.explore.co.uk.

7 Villa valueFor those who like to book their holidays independently, Holiday Homes Direct, an Irish website that links holiday hunters with private villa owners, has a shedload of offers, with summer prices up to 50 per cent off last year’s. With more than 1,400 properties worldwide on its books, the hook here is that you deal directly with the property owner. Right now you can get Casa de Suenos, a three-bedroom villa with private pool in Fuerteventura, which can sleep up to eight people, for €580 per week, a saving of €610 on last year’s price. 01-2846653, www.holidayhomesdirect.ie.

8 Disney dealsIf you’re less keen to take a full two-week holiday this year – possibly for fear your job won’t be there when you get back – you can still enjoy fun for all the family with some great-value short breaks at Disneyland Paris. Book any break there with Abbey Travel by July 15th and get 40 per cent off your hotel and entry costs. A two-night stay at the cowboy-themed Cheyenne, with three days’ park entrance, for two adults and two under-sevens, will cost €318 per family. Abbey Travel is also offering a package from €1,172 per family that includes direct flights with Air France, transfers, two nights’ bed and breakfast at Cheyenne hotel and three days’ park entrance. Keep your eyes peeled for seat sales and you should be able to pick up flights to Paris for bottle tops. 01-8047120, www.abbeytravel.ie.

9 Amazing AlgarveHere’s one that will be hard to beat. Book a junior suite at the four-star-standard Vila Gale Lagos Spa Hotel, on the Algarve, in Portugal, and up to three kids stay for free. The deal includes not just BB at the newly reopened hotel but five days of surf lessons for the lot of you in June. There are still some cheap flights left for next month, and, as arrivals are not restricted to the weekends, availing of them should be easy. The price is €1,904 for two weeks or €1,045 for a week. The hotel is on Maia Praia beach, in the heart of Lagos. There are also swimming pools, tennis courts, games rooms and a spa centre. 01-4822828, www.surf holidays.com.

10 Back-up planEqually, if you choose to staycation and it rains all summer at home, it might be nice to have a back-up plan for the October midterm break. US prices are even better value right now, not just because of the exchange rate but because plummeting US demand has hoteliers and airlines slashing prices. If you like the sound of Orlando, in Florida, Sunway has a week’s hotel accommodation on International Drive, close to all the theme parks, for a family of two adults and two children. The price, which includes return flights, hotel accommodation and all taxes and charges, is €1,786. Can’t wait? Relax. The same company can get you a seven-day break on the same basis for €1,899, for departures after June 18th. 01-2311888 or www.sunway.ie.

Please bear in mind that all deals are subject to availability

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