Kate Simon: Happy Easter 2011 – it will be if you book now

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The Independent Travel

What are you doing next Easter? That may not seem like a pressing question – especially for parents, who are just about to cope with this week's October half-term and have the Christmas and February school holidays to get through before the spring break.

But if you want to make the most of your money, you'd be advised to consider answering it right now.

For, that most confusing date of the year, Easter Sunday, lands on 24 April in 2011, creating an unusual opportunity for holidaymakers. By falling so close to May Bank Holiday, it means many working people (those lucky enough to have dodged George Osborne's axe) could string together enough public holidays to ensure that they will have to take only four days' annual leave to benefit from 11 days off. Now, that's a chance not to be missed.

What's more, it seems that not everyone has realised this fact and there is still availability during this peak holiday period. A quick look at Virgin Holidays, for example, reveals there are still good-value breaks for sale from the Americas to Australia.

In fact, look hard and you'll find there are still deals to be had during Easter 2011. British Airways' winter-sun campaign still has packages available on those dates. For example, at the time of going to press, BA was offering return flights and seven nights' all-inclusive accommodation in a four-star hotel in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, for £643, if you book by next Sunday.

Unfortunately, this opportunity isn't one that can be taken up by families. Across the UK, most school holidays end on 26 April, the day after Easter Monday, which means it's back to school with the kids or face a fine. But it's not all bad news. Some companies are increasing capacity at Easter to help more of us get away during what is traditionally one of the most popular holiday periods for families.

Chris Hackney, product general manager for Thomson and First Choice, the leading brands of Tui, Britain's biggest holiday company, says more destinations have been introduced for next April. "[We're] offering families more choice and flexibility while travelling during the Easter holidays," he says. "Six of First Choice's flagship Holiday Villages will be open during April. Thomson will also have seven properties with Kids' Clubs running throughout April."

He adds: "There's increased flexibility on durations, with the option of 10 and 11 nights to places like Gran Canaria and Tenerife."

For the rest of us, it isn't too soon to sort out now where you'll be holidaying once the schools have gone back next Easter. But make sure you book the time off first – and don't just assume you can take all that time off at once.

All workers in the United Kingdom are entitled to 5.6 weeks' paid annual leave (pro rata for part-timers), though bank holidays can be counted within that tally. And nobody has an automatic right to bank holidays: your employer has ultimate control over when you take your leave.

With the cat emerging from this particular bag, there could be a sudden rush to snap up 11 days' leave for the price of four, making the odds on the boss letting you out to play less likely. Book time off now, before everyone cottons on.

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