WWith energy bills and mortgage costs soaring, we are facing a bleak and dark winter. It’s no surprise, then, that more and more people are hoping to get away from all this by traveling to the sun for long holidays in January.
Travel companies are pushing all-inclusive three- and four-week breaks for tourists, young and old, as a way to escape the horrific realities of home – with prices starting from £23 a day. But is it easy to get away in the winter?
What is shown
EasyJet is the latest company to offer four weeks of sun rest during January. The Escape the UK package comes to £650 per person in an all-inclusive stay at Stella Gardens Resort in Egypt.
Touted as an alternative to winter in the UK amid the cost of living crisis, the company says the trip is “ideally suitable for those who can work remotely”.
It’s not clear how many stays were on offer, and easyJet says a “limited number” was available. It sold out on the first day of release, with no confirmed details on whether the show will be reintroduced.
Travel giant Tui also offers cheap all-inclusive deals. Four weeks at the three-star Port Vista Oro in Benidorm, Spain costs £898 per person for full board – or £32 per day for all meals and flights from Gatwick, beginning in January.
Toei says that, so far, there has been an 18% increase in the number of people wanting three and four weeks of vacation this winter, compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
How can it be so cheap?
It’s no surprise that vacation in winter is much cheaper than in peak times in summer. The Stella Gardens Resort, shown above, will cost £4,585 for the same vacation in August.
Toei says prices are dictated by when and where people want to travel, as well as how they book.
Tim Hentschel, CEO of HotelPlanner, a hotel booking site that specializes in group rates, says it’s possible to get “incredibly cheap” deals during the off-season as companies try to make some money off rooms that might otherwise be empty, even if Doing so does not cover all of its costs. “So the hotel is still losing money but…not the same amount of money,” he says.
He adds that extended vacations have been increasingly popular since the pandemic, with people wanting to move out of city centres. “The traveler is more accustomed to booking long stays at discount prices, and with the energy crisis, he is looking for the same option and thinks he can save.”
The end of pandemic restrictions has led to an increase in holiday bookings as people have embraced tourism once again.
But recent months have seen new doubts emerge as the reality of the dire economic situation creeps in, says Water Gerts, director of research at travel industry website Skift.
“With inflation rising and talk of a possible recession, we see in our surveys that people are starting to change their travel plans — either canceling or postponing flights, or at least choosing a hotel and cheaper transportation,” he says.
“After months of extremely high demand, these companies may start to see lower demand for the winter months as people tighten their belts. Offering package deals is an attractive option in these situations, especially since travelers do not need to worry about exchange rates and pound fluctuations.”
But will you save money?
A month in the sun will let you get away with some things, most notably the cold of the British winter, but others will stay and you’ll have to pay for it.
EasyJet claims its £650 vacation means people will save on broadband and gym membership – but since many people have subscription plans, and can’t simply stop out direct debit due to contracts, it’s unlikely to be a realistic saving.
“Although it is an interesting marketing tactic, the idea that living for a month in Egypt is cheaper than in the UK is just a little nonsense,” says Gerts. “The way I calculated that is based on the current costs of the mortgage, energy, subscription services, etc.
But the banks will still expect mortgage payments even when you’re on a sun lounger in Egypt. It is a good marketing tool that plays a role in the current zeitgeist.”
One area where there will be savings is on energy bills during the colder part of the year. Typically, more than half of your gas bill is caused by heating your home in the three coldest months of the year. If you have a large home, you can save £200 a month on bills by traveling abroad.
However, couples will have to find out if spending close to £2,000 on vacation is worth the savings they will make. All-inclusive deals will also mean that you save food, and sometimes you drink.
Things to watch out for
Supposedly, the growth of remote work driven by the Covid pandemic has led to an increase in the number of “digital nomads” – people who can, in theory, work from anywhere simply by having a laptop and an internet connection.
Airbnb said an increasing number of people using the platform are staying for longer periods, with one-fifth of stays lasting 28 days or more, which Geerts says is a reflection of flexible working trends.
But working remotely may not be as simple as taking a trip and opening your computer. Working from abroad can claim visa and tax obligations for UK nationals.
If you are traveling to an EU country, you will not need a visa for stays of less than 90 days in a 180-day period. However, if you wish to work, you may need a visa or permit. Prospective digital backpackers should check entry requirements before traveling.
World Cup travel warning
Football fans planning to travel at the last minute for the World Cup in Qatar have been warned to beware of booking agents and fake deals. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has advised travelers to ensure that the company they are booking with is part of the Atol scheme, which means they will be in good hands if their vacation is canceled, or stranded abroad.
CAA’s Paul Smith says that if England and Wales do well in the competition, some fans may be tempted to rush in at the last minute to Qatar. However, he warned them that they should research their chosen travel company to avoid “loss”.
The number of holiday scams deceiving consumers jumped by up to thousands of pounds earlier this year as the end of pandemic restrictions sparked a resurgence of overseas travel. Under the Atoll scheme, if the travel company stops trading, you will get a refund for your holiday, alternative flight or transportation.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) advises fans to use a credit card for reservations until their purchases are covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. If something goes wrong, your credit card issuer should be able to refund you for amounts ranging from £100 to £30,000.
Also, you must obtain travel insurance. Consumers can check if the travel company they use is part of the Atol scheme on the CAA website.