Bargain of the week: Spain without the plane
Brittany Ferries (0871 244 0439; brittanyferries.co.uk ) has a neat idea to fill its Pont Aven ferry from Portsmouth and Plymouth to Santander once the school holidays end. You can buy a package comprising the best part of a week away for as little as £239 per person, based on two sharing. This basic price buys two nights on board with an en-suite cabin, and three nights at a three- or four-star hotel – the actual property will be allocated when you book. A higher rate of £286 applies for trips from Portsmouth – partly because it is a longer crossing, but mostly because you get an extra night in Santander. The Cantabrian capital is one of the most appealing cities in northern Spain, with excellent beaches and a vibrant cultural life; it is featured in The Independent Traveller film, Tale of Two Travellers, (see independent.co.uk/travel ) about train travel through northern Spain.
The offer applies for travel from 7 September to 18 November.
Destination of the week: Siberia, the easy way
How big is Siberia? Well, if this vast land mass east of the Urals were to detach itself from the rest of Russia, it would become the biggest country in the world. The closest many travellers get to Siberia is seven miles – flying over it at 38,000 feet en route between the UK and Tokyo, Hong Kong or Singapore. More hardy passengers board a Trans-Siberian train in Moscow and get off, somewhat less fragrant, a week later in Vladivostok or Beijing.
But the news that Russia's biggest airline, S7, has joined the Oneworld Alliance means there are now many more ways to reach Stalin's promised land. The number of round-the-world journey options using the Oneworld Global Explorer pass has multiplied.
"S7 flies to lots of way-out places," says Haydn Wrath of the round-the-world specialist agency, Travel Nation, "Including Vladivostok, Yakutsk (in the far north-east of Siberia), Yerevan and Baku, But I would mention a 'Trans-Siberian cheat's RTW' using S7 to cut out nearly 3,000 miles between Moscow and Irkutsk. Fly from London to St Petersburg, and take one of the many trains to Moscow. Fly to Irkutsk, close to Lake Baikal, avoiding four days of unrelenting pine trees. Hop on to the Moscow-Beijing train to Ulan Bator and on to Beijing."
Warning of the week: Passport prices rise on Thursday
Have a look now to see when your passport expires. If it is due to run out before 3 June 2010, it is worth applying by next Thursday, 3 September – when the latest inflation-busting increase in passport prices takes effect. If you get a valid application in by Wednesday, you will pay the present price. The price of a standard 10-year passport is to rise by nearly 8 per cent from £72 to £77.50 (in weekly terms, it represents an increase of one penny from 14p to 15p a week over a 10-year period). By applying now you will earn full value on the remaining months – a passport due to run out on 29 May 2010 will be renewed to 29 May 2020.
Tip of the week: Hotel du Repos Val d'Illiez, Switzerland
This hotel, on the edge of the Portes du Soleil ski area, was featured in Five's Hotel Inspector series, and prices are likely to increase as a result. Book now for next winter at hoteldurepos.com .