IT’S getting closer to festive family time so how about escaping on an adults-only break.
It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, there are budget getaways to suit everyone – from soaking up the sun to walking or biking in the hills, shopping at a Christmas market or relaxing in a spa.
Trisha Harbord selects ten bargains breaks at home and abroad . . .
LET your hair down on a Butlin’s Big Weekend for couples and friends.
Big Weekenders include accommodation for all budgets and access to pool parties, live performances, silent discos, comedy clubs and more.
During the day, zoom down the flumes in the Splash pool complex, visit the fairground or try go-karting.
GO: Three-nights’ self-catering, including at Minehead from December 2, is from £65pp.
Include breakfast for £8.95 or breakfast and dinner for £29.95 per day. See bigweekends.com.
GET on your mountain bike for a self-guided ride through the Welsh hills.
MTB Trail Thrillogy offers routes in northern Carmarthenshire, including fast runs, forest roads and cross-country trails. Along the way, you’ll find pubs and cafes.
A two-day break starts at Crychan Forest, near Llandovery. After a 12-mile circuit, you can ride another eight miles – and that’s just the morning.
Head to Cwm Rhaeadr for a rock ’n roll ride, promising spectacular views.
The next day takes you to the Gorlech Valley. Finally, tackle the Raven – an 11-mile track in the Brechfa Forest. Celebrate with a Raven burger and pint at the Forest Arms.
City by coach
SEE a world-leading attraction in Belfast on a short coach tour.
The £97million Titanic Belfast Experience has nine interactive galleries telling the story of the doomed ship from its construction to its tragic end.
Entry is included in the three-night tour, which also includes seeing Stormont Castle, the Peace Wall and murals along the Shankhill and Falls roads.
There’s an optional excursion to the Antrim coast, home to the Giant’s Causeway – 40,000 basalt columns on the sea shore.
GO: Three nights’ B&B at the four-star Holiday Inn, including flights from Manchester on November 27 and coach travel, costs from £345pp (saving £114).
Other departure airports available. See newmarketholidays.co.uk.
SKI into Andorra for an affordable holiday on the slopes.
Grandvalira, in the heart of the Pyrenean mountains, has 130 miles of pistes, three snowparks and freestyle lessons.
There are circuits for novice and experienced skiers, plus fun activities including snowshoe excursions and snowmobile rides.
The newly renovated Hotel Austria is half a mile away and there’s a bus to the ski area.
Shopaholics should visit nearby Pas de la Casa, where every street is packed with tax-free stores and local restaurants.
GO: Seven nights’ room-only at the three-star hotel is from £272pp. See pierreetvacances.com.
Flights from Gatwick to Toulouse are from £53 return. See easyjet.com.
Car hire is from £52 a week. See travelsupermarket.com.
COMBINE a cosy cottage stay in stunning countryside with visiting a sparkling Christmas market.
There’s no shortage of festive food and drink – including vodka made with Dartmoor spring water, hot cocktails and craft beer.
Head back to your cottage in the village of Sandford and light the wood burner after dropping in at the local Lamb Inn.
You are also near the Jurassic Coast and Exmoor and Dartmoor national parks.
GO: Three nights’ self-catering at 2 Gosses Cottage, for two people and up to two dogs, from November 25 or December 2, costs £316. See holidaycottages.co.uk.
SOAK up winter sun at a beachfront hotel in Tunisia, where temperatures are in the 70s.
The 4-star all-inclusive Occidental Marco Polo Hotel is perfect for rest and relaxation, with heated pools, a hammam and a sauna.
There’s a range of sporting activities including football, table tennis and volleyball.
The town of Hammamet has a mix of old and new – traditional architecture including the 15th-century Great Mosque, cobbled streets and a buzzing nightlife with shisha bars, restaurants and clubs.
Head to the bazaars for local goods at cheap prices. Excursions include boat cruises and guided tours.
IF your boots are made for walking, there’s no better place than the Lake District.
And The Yan at Broadrayne is a great hotel to put your head down at after a long trek.
It’s also known for wholesome food, including shepherd’s pie and sticky-toffee pudding.
From its door, you can climb Helvellyn and the less strenuous fell Helm Crag.
Grasmere, which William Wordsworth described as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found”, is a short stroll away, brimming with coffee shops and boutiques.
There, you can visit Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage and museum.
GO: One night’s B&B in afor two people this month and December, including a three-course dinner, in a glamping pod, costs from £125pp. Or in a chic bedroom it is from £140pp. See theyan.co.uk.
Theme park thrills
BUCKLE up as popular Blackpool Pleasure Beach extends its season until the end of this month.
The theme park is open today and for the next two weekends so thrillseekers can ride Icon, the UK’s first double-launch rollercoaster – and The Big One, the tallest.
Nickelodeon Land and the Ghost Train are also open and attractions such as Adventure Golf have a Christmas theme until the 26th.
Blackpool’s famous illuminations, a six-mile display along the promenade, have also been extended until January 2. There’s no time wasted hitting the rides if you stay nextdoor at the 4-star Big Blue Hotel.
GO: Park ticket costs from £30. See blackpoolpleasurebeach.com.
Double room at the Big Blue Hotel, on November 20, is from £80. See bigbluehotel.com.
ESCAPING to a spa is just the tonic before Christmas shopping begins.
Take a loved one or friend for a Bubbles & Bliss break at the award-winning Stoke-by-Nayland resort, near Colchester. It includes B&B, a day using the spa facilities, a reserved lounger, treatment, towels, flip-flops and a bottle of bubbly for your room.
Peake Spa has a pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room and a range of treatments, including its signature mud therapy.
The 4-star resort, home to two championship golf courses, has a fitness centre and restaurants. Enjoy afternoon tea while overlooking Constable country, from £19.95.
GO: Spa break including B&B in late November/early December is from £115pp, based on two sharing. For details see stokebynayland.com.
TREAT yourself to an early Christmas present by flying off for a touch of luxury in the Canary Islands.
Lanzarote has temperatures of 75F in December, with at least six hours’ sunshine to top up your tan.
The 4-star Seaside Los Jameos has fabulous lagoons and pools, a palm garden and balconies in the lobby.
Food is made from local produce and the buffets are lavish, so choosing half-board is a good option and great value.
Work off some calories in the fitness centre or wind down in the spa.
Play golf on the nearby courses or go trekking to explore the island’s unique volcanic landscape.