Warning of the week: last chance to stay

Some of the most appealing youth hostels in England and Wales have only 10 more days of life. The Youth Hostels Association is closing loss-making properties; the aim is to make the charity viable in a market with so much low-cost competition. One group of 15 hostels shut their doors permanently at the end of September, and another eight will be culled at the end of this month - including the hostels in Hastings and Kirkby Stephen. More information: 0870 870 8808; www.yha.org.uk.

Some good news: the Ravenstor hostel in Derbyshire (0870 770 6008) is offering families a kind of "Polar Express" Christmas experience on the weekend of 8, 9 and 10 December, with a trip on a steam train, a personal appearance by Father Christmas and, for the grown-ups, mulled wine. The adult price is a very reasonable £50, and the rate for children £40; under-threes cost £25.

Bargain of the week: Cape Verde

One of those destinations that fell off the airline map many years ago is now back in business, with cheap winter-sun packages. Sal, in the Cape Verde Islands, is being re-connected with the UK by Astraeus from November - the start of the dry season in this former Portuguese colony off the west coast of Africa. Tour operators are offering a wide range of holidays to the islands, plus flight-only deals. For example, Holiday Options (0870 420 8372; www.holidayoptions.co.uk) has holidays departing 14 December at £639, including flights from Manchester, transfers, accommodation at the Hotel Odjo d'Agua and breakfast. Flight-only deals are available from £328 to £459, depending on demand.

Flights from Gatwick and Manchester to the islands are expected to take six hours, although coming home the Manchester flight may have to stop to refuel.