Flying south for winter sun

Whether it’s a family Christmas in The Canaries or a winter wellness retreat in Saint Lucia, there’s plenty of winter sun options for groups, families and solo travellers

Holidaymakers who have chosen to avoid the summer disruptions – or simply stay at home and soak up the unusually hot summer – might now, more than ever, be hankering for a winter sun break. 

By winter, flights should have returned to pre-chaos frequencies, while prices should slip down from the summer swell. But where will be popular this year, and what does this mean for the family, solo and group travel markets?

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Up in the air?

Despite carriers cancelling hundreds of flights this summer, the winter market looks promising with more lift being added to meet pent-up demand. 

Wizz Air will commence twice-weekly flights to the popular Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh from Luton from October; the airline will also debut flights from Gatwick to Morocco’s Agadir and Marrakech this winter. 

EasyJet is launching new routes from Gatwick to Madeira’s Porto Santo this winter, as well as new routes from Manchester to Fuerteventura, while Jet2 has announced new flights to Majorca, Malaga, Alicante and Faro from Belfast International and Bristol Airport from November.  

For long-haul winter sun, Cape Town’s reversed seasons and negligible time difference make it an attractive winter sun destination, bolstered by Virgin Atlantic’s decision to return to the South African city from Heathrow, resuming from November to March 2023. 

“Travel is recovering and global demand for holidays to sunny, premium destinations is returning at pace,” says Juha Jarvinen, Virgin Atlantic Chief Commercial Officer.

“We’re expecting a high proportion of leisure travellers to take advantage of the winter sun, explore the world-renowned wine regions and soak up the rich culture.”

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We are family 

If the thought of a long-haul flight with young ones seems like a recipe for disaster, there’s plenty of closer options that offer winter sun during October and February half terms. 

Alan Cross, Jet2holidays Head of Trade, is already seeing strong winter demand for Spain and the Canary Islands, with resorts such as Playa de las Americas and Costa Adeje in Tenerife as well as Playa Blanca and Costa Teguise in Lanzarote selling well.

“The Canary Islands are a fantastic option for families looking to soak up a dose of winter sun,” he says. 

“Temperatures still reach up to 21C during the winter months, and hotels and resorts are fully operational outside peak season, meaning there’s a wealth of activities available for the whole family to enjoy. In terms of where to stay, we’d recommend the BlueBay Lanzarote for families looking for a break on a budget. 

“We have many free child places available, too, making a family holiday affordable even during the half term.”

Long-haul countries that are too hot for families during the summer, such as the Middle East and Indian Ocean, tend to come into their own during the shoulder months, too.

Oman offers plenty of action and adventure as well as year-round sunshine. 

The newly-opened Dusit D2 Naseem Resort has a kids club, playground, games room, and an arts and crafts room, as well as babysitting services. It also has an 8,000 square metre adventure park with climbing frames, obstacle courses and a rock climbing wall. 

“The Maldives and Mauritius are on trend over the winter months for families,” confirms Rachel O’Reilly, Kuoni Director of Communications.

“The Caribbean is also proving popular with Saint Lucia among our top selling destinations.” 

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Going solo 

One of the biggest issues facing solo travellers is the single supplement – a pesky additional cost that clobbers holidaymakers for travelling without a companion. Companies looking to scrap or freeze these fees are worth looking at for winter sun breaks. Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines is encouraging solo travellers to take advantage of a single supplement freeze on selected grades and sailings this winter, including journeys to the Azores and the Canary Islands.

“We don’t want travelling alone to be a barrier to exploring the world,” says Clare Ward, Fred. Olsen Product Director.

“Our smaller ships provide a warm, welcoming environment, and our crew always make sure our solo guests feel at home.

“Solo travellers will find resorts like the BodyHoliday in Saint Lucia ideal for a winter sun break combined with wellness,” adds O’Reilly.

“For the ultimate relaxation and wellbeing holiday, the tiny Kagi Maldives Spa Island also caters for solo travellers seeking all things wellness, but with fantastic food and drinks thrown in.”

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The more the merrier 

For those that may not have family close during the festive months, an escorted tour provides an easy way to escape the gloomy weather and be surrounded by likeminded people. 

Intrepid says that winter is the best time to join its Madrid to Marrakech tour, with just four places left on a 15-day trip departing November. The operator points out that cooler temperatures, less busy hotels and cheaper prices make this an attractive winter sun holiday.

Meanwhile, G Adventures will return to Australia and New Zealand from September, tempting clients looking to escape the northern hemisphere winter.

Shearings has launched new coach tours with departure dates stretching into 2023. These can currently be secured for £1pp until February 28. Winter sun options include the17-day Highlights of Portugal with stops in Porto, Lisbon and the Algarve.

Where to book it

Sandals Resorts offers 16 – soon to be 17 – resorts in the Caribbean, designed exclusively for couples. Agents can book the newly-opened Sandals Royal Curaçao in November from £2,786pp including flights from Heathrow.