Making a break for it

Piazza Navona with the Fontana del Moro in Rome
Piazza Navona with the Fontana del Moro in Rome
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Want to travel this autumn and winter? Do your homework and you could bag a bargain, says Jeremy Gates

Summer may be over, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a year-long wait for your next overseas break.

“Many people have annual leave they must take before the end of the year. It’s a great opportunity to fix a cheap weekend away – if you steer clear of half-term,” says Bob Atkinson, travel expert at Travelsupermarket.com.

“Airline sales will come and go for short periods, generally for departures within the next three to four months. Think outside the box, and about seeing the less obvious places for a break,” he advises.

In fact, autumn and winter short breaks can be far cheaper than you may think – especially if you do your homework first.

“I’ve just paid £58 one way for a train ticket from Euston to Manchester,” adds Atkinson. “Compare that with Ryanair flights available to Rome, £29 each way, Malaga, £39 each way, and returns to Seville and Madrid, two really exciting Spanish cities, for around £60.”

Indeed, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary recently admitted that the budget airline’s suffered a plunge in bookings for September and the rest of autumn, but raised hopes that further trimmed fares are in the pipeline.

However, he also confessed that the airline’s reputation for less-than-glowing customer service may finally be proving problematic, with flyers fed up with hidden costs, unfair excess baggage charges and the general “abrupt culture”.

In the meantime, if you can abide the “abruptness”, Ryanair may be worth a look if you’re after a bargain break.

“Ryanair will take some of its 300-plus aircraft out of use in the winter months, but will still want to get bums on seats in the rest of its fleet,” says Atkinson.

“They’ve already begun offering cheaper fares, including 25 destinations from Stansted from £14.99 one way between October 1 and December 18.”

Elsewhere, early-October breaks from lastminute.com include two nights in Barcelona from £119, in Amsterdam from £139, and in Prague from £159, all including flights and four star hotels.

“Put careful planning in short breaks,” adds Travelzoo city break-deal expert Christina Bracewell. “Be flexible on dates and destination, and look for deals in the shoulder season – early summer and early autumn – outside school holidays, with midweek departures rather than the weekend, as you can cut costs.

“If you go over a weekend, consider a hotel in the financial district – these are often luxurious, but because they serve business customers they’re empty over weekends, meaning you can get a brilliant deal.”

However that also means checking with the hotel to ensure you don’t get a view of the car park.

Travelzoo offers include a four-night two-centre break, through Citrus Holidays, in Rome and Venice from £199, with return flights ex-Stansted, two nights’ B&B at four-star hotels in each city, and a train journey through the Tuscan countryside.