The biggest summer holiday rip-offs – and the bargain flights to snap up instead
It seems the days of bargain flights are behind us, with July jaunts to the likes of Mykonos costing a minimum of £450 with British Airways. Return flights to other Med islands such as Majorca are priced at £551 with Tui, and even city breaks are subject to extortionate price hikes – return flights to Dubrovnik with ostensibly budget carrier Jet2.com come in at £450. And if you’re looking to head to Bodrum at the end of next month, expect to pay £812 to fly with British Airways – or £3,248 for a family of four.
Clearly, many who waited to book a break are now facing being priced out of their preferred destinations. Others may have had their flights unceremoniously cancelled by easyJet (which recently slashed its schedule) and are now desperate to salvage their summer holidays.
Luckily, despite the dramatic price rises and reduced schedules, there are certain European routes where bargain flights are still available.
There are a few general tips for securing cheaper flights. Inevitably, less convenient early morning or late-night flights often provide the best value. You could also consider flying to smaller airports, a little further from your final destination, or trying a multi-centre holiday and getting to grips with the local transport.
Research is key: flying into a city rather than a classic Med island, for example, but finding a sleepy seaside village only an hour away by train could save you hundreds of pounds, not to mention help swerve the crowds. And if you’re open to taking a punt on a new destination, try using the “search anywhere” tool on popular flight comparison websites such as Skyscanner to root out bargain options.
Below are five peak summer breaks that won’t break the bank. Given its high number of cancellations, we’ve avoided listing easyJet routes, though passengers should be advised that other carriers are also cutting flights this summer.
Note that the flight prices listed are for specific dates, but we have selected routes for which decent value options are available throughout the summer.
Five bargain breaks to book now
Flights: £80 return (August 4-11; departing from London City Airport with Swiss Airlines)
If you’ve been priced out of a classic resort holiday, why not try Switzerland’s second city, which has recently styled itself as a “resort city”, trading on its lake, balmy weather (temperatures hover around the mid-20s in the height of summer) and proximity to the Alps.
The city is committed to the idea. From July until the end of August, every tourist will receive a complimentary Geneva Resort Pass, which provides discounted or free access to more than 100 activities, from vineyards to wild swimming, together with a free unlimited travel card to use for the duration of their trip. Meanwhile, Swiss Air flights from London City Airport (which recently topped The Telegraph’s ranking of Britain’s best [and worst] airports) are reasonably priced throughout the summer holidays, regularly coming in at under £100.
In terms of where to stay, splurge on one of the grand hotels set on the lake – the 26-suite Woodward is particularly spectacular. More affordable (and still only a 10-minute stroll from the lake) is the Tiffany Hotel, an ode to Art Nouveau in Geneva’s bohemian district. Doubles from £168.
Flights: £83 (August 15-23; departing from Stansted with Ryanair)
Book a summer trip to Bordeaux, which unlike most French hotspots has decent value flights available in July and August. The stately city has upped its energy levels in the past few years, and its riverfront is now lined with buzzy bars and cafés. For wine lovers, the six-storey Cité du Vin museum is a must – finish with a tasting on the top floor. A five-minute stoll (or stagger) away is the futuristic-looking Seeko’o Hotel, which offers doubles from £100 in July.
Bordeaux also has the benefit of being a rather well connected city – the beaches of Basque beauty Biarritz can be reached in two hours via high-speed train from the attractive station. For something a little more under the radar, try the seaside village of Guéthary (15 minutes further along on the same line), which charms with its whitewashed houses and little cliffs. Stay at the family-run 10-room Hôtel Briketenia, which has the benefit of possessing a Michelin-starred restaurant downstairs (doubles from £97).
Flights: £88 (July 20-27; departing from Gatwick with Vueling)
Opting for northern Spain as opposed to the Costa del Sol, Barcelona or the Balearics could provide better value this summer. Bilbao makes for a brilliant city break in its own right – its Frank Gehry-designed titanium-clad Guggenheim museum is a big draw, as are the meticulously constructed pintxos (Basque tapas) found at unassuming neighbourhood bars. Book a room at Caravan Cinema, where each of the 11 rooms is inspired by a different film director (doubles from £90).
The city is also the best starting point for a road trip through the Basque region – the foodie capital of San Sebastián is only an hour away. Alternatively, head west for Galicia, where the rugged coastline hides some of the best beaches in Spain. Punctuate the trip with stays at simple guesthouses.
Flights: £105 (August 2-9; departing Luton with Wizz Air).
Somewhat surprisingly, flights to Split can still be snapped up for around £100 throughout the summer holidays. The seafront city is a good jumping off point for a Croatian island-hopping trip – spend a few days exploring its medieval alleys before catching a boat from the palm-lined Riva waterfront. Most visitors make a beeline for the always-buzzy Hvar or Brac, but it’s also worth heading further to explore the verdant pine forests and salt water lakes of Mljet and other lesser-populated islands.
On Brac, book a room at Hotel Lemongarden, which is as fragrant as it sounds, set in a garden full of Mediterranean trees and flowers just steps away from the seafront (doubles from £273). Back in Split, check into Hotel Park, the city’s oldest hotel, which is located by the sea, just outside the Old Town, and feels suitably summery with its open-air restaurant and pool (doubles from £102).
Flights: £44 (July 20-27; departing from Stansted with Ryanair)
Part with just £44 and you could soon be sipping an Aperol spritz in a quiet Milan courtyard. Italy’s always-chic fashion capital is less overrun than Rome in summer, though bear in mind that temperatures can prove sweltering. Spend a day perusing its air-conditioned boutiques or art galleries before a cooling aperitivo at a canalside bar. After dinner, retire to Palazzo Segreti, a suitably stylish option, which offers slick design touches in a renovated 18th-century palazzo (doubles from £168).
If a city break is too stifling and a body of water is essential for your summer holiday, Milan has the benefit of being just an hour and a half’s train ride from Italy’s Lake District. While the Clooney-land of Como can prove rather costly, there are a number of guesthouses and family-run hotels that keep pricing sensible. Hotel La Darsena has simple rooms but a lovely location right on the water in the town of Tremezzo. Doubles can be found for just £81 in July.
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