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News & Advice

School holidays special: Last-minute deals

It's still not too late to bag a bargain family holiday. Sarah Barrell rounds up the best for all budgets

If you've yet to book your summer break you're not alone.

This year, travellers have left it late, with many operators reporting a spike in bookings over the past four weeks. Availability is patchy, but there are still good deals out there. Self-caterers will find discounts in the bigger, more expensive villas (try agents including scottdunn.com, villas4you.co.uk and cvtravel.co.uk), while private holiday home agents (such as holidaylettings .co.uk and homeaway.co.uk) still have a good range of economical summer lets, with many owners running special offers to entice late shoppers. And there are savings to be made in Alpine resorts: great for hiking, biking and lake/river activities (try inntravel.co.uk or ernalow summer.co.uk).

If you fancy a short break close to home, lots of British seaside hotels are doing mid-week specials or offering good discounts for accompanying children (visitbritain.com/en/accommoda tion). More summer staycations are offered by operators including Toad Hall Cottages (toadhallcottages.co.uk), which has some great self-catering deals in the West Country. Save 25 per cent at Grade II-listed Lime Cottage (sleeps four), in the seaside village of Minehead, Somerset, where seven nights cost from £390.

Book up to three weeks before you go, and Cumbrian Cottages (cumbrian-cottages.co.uk), along with its sister agencies Yorkshire Cottages and Scottish Cottages, will give you 15 per cent off hundreds of self-catering properties in Scotland and the north. Low Moor House (sleeps nine), an 18th-century country house near the Solway coast, costs a total of £880 per week.

And there's 10 per cent off stays at a new camping "pod" (little wooden cabins) at Woodovis Park (woodovis.com) on the Devon and Cornwall border, in August: £45 per night for a family of four. For holidays afloat, Waterways Holidays (waterwaysholidays .com) is cutting 10 per cent off narrowboat hire across the UK. A week's rental of a 56ft boat (sleeping four, plus a pet) on the Rochdale Canal, Yorkshire, costs £1,296, including fuel.

Cross to Ireland, and a week's self-catering between tomorrow and 22 August at Glenbeg Point Holiday Homes, within walking distance of Ardamine Beach, Co Wexford, costs a total of £700 for two adults and up to three children, including car ferry crossings (irishferries.com/holidays).Take the ferry to Holland, Belgium, Germany or France with DFDS and get discounted rates at Center Parks and Sunparks. Villas cost from €89 (£136) per night and ferry crossings for a car and four passengers cost £159. Or head across the Channel for a week's hiking, biking and swimming in Alps D'Huez, where a self-catering chalet (sleeping eight) is now half price, at £144 per person, including Eurotunnel crossings for two cars, with zenithholidays.co.uk.

Simply Perigord (simply-perigord .com) is offering discounts of up to 15 per cent on selected properties, from châteaux to cottages, across the Dordogne. Among them, a week's stay at a barn conversion, with private pool and games room, in a hill-top hamlet between St Alvère and Le Bugue costs £198 per person for eight sharing. Availability on P&O Ferries from Dover to Calais is still good, returns from about £80 per car.

Cheapflights.co.uk has identified a 35 per cent drop in Corsica bookings on last year, so late deals to this French island are fairly plentiful. The company is currently offering flights from £79 return and Direct Corsica (directCorsica.com) has savings on coastal and inland villas, with a week's stay from €850 (£724), based on accommodation at Chez Therese, a two-bedroom apartment (sleeps four) in Calenzana, northern Corsica.

Single-parent families are offered 10 per cent savings on group activity holidays in France this summer with Mango Holidays (mangoholidays.co.uk). Book by this Friday and a five-night break at a 17th-century château close to the beaches of Picardy costs £449 per adult, £349 per child (£309 under 12), departing 22 August, including full-board accommodation and all activities, from canoeing to volleyball.

In Spain, camping and mobile home specialist Vacansoleil (vacansoleil .co.uk) has peak-season savings in the Costa Dorada, including Camping Els Prats, where a seven-night stay in a fully-equipped tent now costs £458 per family (for up to six). Check online for regular deals with Mallorca Farmhouses (mallorca.co.uk), which is offering discounts of up to 45 per cent during the holidays. Save £407 on a week in Pollenca at Burgues, a villa with three bedrooms (sleeping six) and a pool, close to the beaches of Puerto Pollenca. From £1,222, departing 28 August.

Casas (casas.co.uk), which specialises in northern Spain and Portugal, has some good late-availability deals, including £100 off Le Casa de Manolin (sleeps six), a traditional-style stone/wood house with a little plunge pool and a spectacular location in the Picos de Europa mountains, from £730 per week. Don Toribio, a traditional Andalucian farmhouse (sleeps eight) with pool in Gaucin, costs £1,195 per week with CV Travel (cvtravel.co.uk).

PCI Holidays (pci-holidays.com) has cut the cost of villas and apartments in some of the Costa Brava's best blue flag resorts. Sa Guilla, a spacious three-bed apartment with gardens and pool, costs €950 (£796) departing 24 August, down from €1,250 (£1,048). Flights to Gerona/ Barcelona are currently around £80 with Ryanair. Lowcostholidays.com is having a 50 per cent sale on select destinations, including mainland Spain and its islands. Seven nights in Menorca cost from £1,713 for a family of four staying all-inclusive at the four-star Carema Club Playa, in Playa De Fornell. It includes flights from Gatwick, departing 18 August.

Think Sicily (thinksicily.com) is offering big savings. Book a week's break, departing 28 August, and high-season prices drop with discounts of up to €500 (£426) on a vast selection of villas. Try Il Gabbiano, a three-bedroom villa with a dramatic hillside setting and private beach access in Cefalu, down from €5,000 (£4,261) to €3,800 (£3,238).

Large parties can make large savings, too, in Tuscany (to-tuscany .com). Villa San Romolo (sleeps 10), south of Florence, has a private pool and has been reduced from £2,426 per week to £1,529, departing 28 August. Also in Tuscany, you can stay at Sangiovese, an old farmhouse (sleeps six) on a 450-acre Chianti Classico wine estate (tours and tastings offered). It has a private garden and shares a large outdoor swimming pool and extensive grounds with two other properties, available 14 to 27 August. Seven nights is reduced to £1,384, saving £346 with invitationtotuscany.com. Flights to Pisa with easyJet are currently around £200 return.

The four-star Hotel del Faro, within the family-friendly Pugnochiuso Resort (pugnochiuso.com), on the beach in Puglia costs €115 (£98) per adult per night half-board and children stay free when sharing their parents' room. Offer valid 21 to 25 August – quote "Independent Offer". Get savings of 20 per cent with Holiday Homes in Italy (holidayhomesinitaly .co.uk). A two-bedroom apartment (sleeps four) in Casa di Pietra, a stone house with private pool near Assisi in Umbria, costs £570 per week.

Following Goldtrail Holidays going into administration, there's been a 150 per cent seasonal increase in searches for flights to Turkey and Greece, according to skyscanner.net, as people clamber to make alternative plans. But there are still some deals. Sunsail (sunsail.co.uk) is offering good rates at Club Vounaki, a modern family beach club with a traditional Greek vibe offering water sports and sailing lessons. One week costs from £1,099 per person, departing 15 August, and includes flights, transfers, accommodation, half-board, free kids club for children aged two to 17, and a large choice of water and land activities.

And there's 20 per cent off a family adventure holiday in Turkey with GapAdventures (gapadventures.com). Take a multi-activity, eight-day group trip from Istanbul overland out to the mountains and coast, from £552 per adult and £520 per child (minimum age five), departing 15 August.