Will the latest temper tantrum by Iceland's truculent volcanoes put us off our foreign holidays this year?
I doubt it, not least because last year's eruption of Eyjafjallajökull has tempered the shock of the current activity at the rather more pronounceable Grimsvotn.
I'll certainly jump at the chance to pack the Factor 30 if at all possible. Indeed, my sun cream is already sitting waiting in my suitcase for the next opportunity for some foreign sun, along with the other crucial travel paraphernalia that I always have to search around the house for every time I go away.
In this attempt to turn over a new leaf in my packing habits, I've gathered together a tidy little haul of holiday essentials: a photocopy of my passport, my driving licence and my emergency healthcare EHIC card, a spare phone charger, worldwide plug adaptor, beach bag, hat, sarong, shawl, and laundry bag.
Since my trip last weekend to Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos (see page 81), I've something else to add to this stash – a new Deet-free eucalyptus-based mosquito repellent, sent to me to test by its manufacturer Incognito.
Mosquitoes like to eat me for breakfast, lunch and dinner – I once endured 30 (count 'em) bites on one leg alone. I've tried various preparations, backed by burning coils and special plugs, but have never beaten these irritating critters. So, I tried this new stuff one night – no bites – followed by the local Deet-filled spray the next – about four bites. Then again, it might have been because Parrot Cay spends thousands injecting its sands to nuke biting insects. So I'll have to reserve final judgement until I visit somewhere that's less attentive to its guests' wellbeing. But if, like me, you spend your holiday trying not to scratch yourself stupid, give this stuff a go.
While we wait to find out whether the latest volcanic eruption will put people off flying this year, the other big question this summer is whether we will see a surge in self-catering ahead of hotel stays as holidaymakers endeavour to make their money go further.
An interesting new report, "Self-catering on a Shoestring", from Post Office Travel Money in association with Meon Villas, says the cost-effectiveness is all down to the destination you choose, because prices in the eurozone currently vary by about 68 per cent.
Majorca is the cheapest place to self-cater, according to the report, which surveyed the price of a basket of 16 food and drink staples – from bread to beer – across 13 destinations in Europe with the help of Meon Villas' reps. Portugal's Algarve comes in second and Spain's Costa Blanca takes third place. Cyprus is named as the priciest destination, followed by Italy. Britain's Brighton didn't do too well, in 10th place.
But the survey also revealed that the flexibility and freedom a self-catering holiday offers, compared with a hotel stay, beat cutting costs as the main motivators for going it alone. As a frequent self-caterer, I concur – no need to dress up, no need to be at the dinner table by a certain time. The irony is, I always forget just how much of a self-catering holiday I spend in the very places I'm supposed to be escaping – the supermarket and the kitchen.
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