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According to travel agents and operators, prices are on plunge for the six weeks running up to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend in early June.

Last year saw a 10 per cent fall in bookings as millions of families were yet again forced to tighten their purse-strings. But if you’re determined to have your holiday this year, now’s the time to find the best deals.

Mark Attwell, managing director at Dealchecker.co.uk (0844 477 1037), which scours the web for the best prices, says booking at short notice usually secures the best deal.

“You’ll get the cheapest price on a package holiday if you can hold off booking until one month before (although you run the risk of your holiday selling out).

“For example, an average seven-night break to Spain in May costs £300 if you’d booked last November. Now the same holiday is available for £200.”

Maria Whiteman, chief executive at Directline Holidays (0800 408 6324; www.directline-holidays.co.uk), which puts its own packages on sale beside those from operators, says: “There are some amazing prices in May, some made possible by bed banks working with local carriers offering cheap flights. Trading has been depressed during the last month, so you can get seven night all-inclusive deals in four-star resorts in Corfu and Turkey for around £300, and great value self-catering weeks in places like Greece, Majorca and Ibiza in the £150-£170 bracket.”

They have also seen rising interest in “nearby” city breaks with Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Dublin and Amsterdam doing well, typically in the £150-£170 range. Whiteman says bookings jumped as soon as they introduced a staggered deposit system. Customers pay £25 and the rest of the deposit five weeks later, with final payments made within 10-12 weeks of departure, adding: “Our system allows people to take the deposit from two successive monthly pay packets. That is pretty important for people who have really seen their budgets stretched by rising bills and virtual pay freezes.” Even if you don’t want to travel just yet, it could still be worth booking now while prices are competitive.

“For families tied into school holidays, now is the time to book,” says Attwell. “Prices for holidays in July and August are slightly cheaper than they were if you booked in February.”

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