The great escape: 10 best bargain breaks

Leave behind the lousy British weather and take a late holiday. Sarah Barrell finds plenty of deals now the schools are back


1 Party the night away in Paris

1 Party the night away in Paris

Take a grown-up break in la cité that never sleeps - doesn't, at least, for one night in October. On La Nuit Blanche (2-3 October) Paris's museums, monuments, cinemas, libraries, parks, and tourist sites stay open from sunset to sunrise. The cultural all-nighter brought 600,000 nocturnal revellers into Paris last year, and city restaurateurs opened to serve breakfast to those who lasted through the night.

The Paris Travel Service (0870-191 7282; www.paristravel.co.uk) is offering two-night packages to the French capital, departing on either 30 September, 1 or 2 October, for £145 per person. Prices are based on two sharing a double/twin room at the central, two-star Le Dauphin Puteaux. The same break travelling by air from Manchester costs £174 per person. Travel by Eurostar is also available from £163 per person.

If you fancy a longer stay, Inghams (020-8770 7780; www.inghams.co.uk) is also offering good deals on packages to Paris this October, with four nights for the price of three at selected hotels. The best deal is based on b&b accommodation at the central hotel Ibis Paris Berthier. Four nights, including one night free, costs from £206 per person, based on two sharing and including return Eurostar travel. Valid for travel up to 28 October 2004.

Low-cost airline Jet2 ( www.jet2.com) starts its new route from Leeds Bradford Airport to Paris Charles de Gaulle on 1 September. One-way fares start from £24 (including taxes) and flights are daily.

2 Go leaf-peeping in New England

Urban pleasures not enticing you? Then take a laid-back break on the New England coast. Autumn is by far the best time to appreciate the simple pleasures this region has to offer: Indian summer allowing, days can be spent lazing on the beach, while inland the thickly wooded Massachusetts countryside puts on the autumnal display of colours that makes the East Coast fall so famous.

New England Country Homes (08700 774774; www.indiv-travellers.com) is offering 15 per cent off selected rental cottages this autumn, including Summer Solstice, a two-bedroom white clapboard house set within private gardens near the elegant harbour town of Chatham. Should you feel mildly energetic, the cottage is located just a mile from the sandy beach of Pleasant Bay, a short drive from Cape Cod, and 45 minutes from Hyannis, where you can pick up a ferry across to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Boston is two and a half hours' drive away and the package includes a hotel stopover there. The discounted price for a week (travelling between 10 September and 28 October) is £690 per person, based on four sharing, and includes return flights, one week's property rental, hotel stopover car hire and holiday/travel insurance.

3 Set up home in Greece

Don't want to go that far afield? Discount villa rental can be found across Europe this autumn. Travelling south in pursuit of hot weather, you can bank on Greece for an autumn beach break. Meon Villas (0870 850 8551; www.meonvillas.co.uk) has discounts on selected Greek villas for departures in September. You have to be quick to get this one: departing on 6 September, spend a week in Corfu for £499 per person. Ideal for couples, this deal is based on four sharing accommodation at the two-bedroom Skidi Beach House in south-west Corfu. This five-star property in the village of Halikouna fronts a small sandy beach. Surrounded by large gardens, the villa has its own private pool and the price includes return flights from Gatwick, car rental, a welcome food pack and maid service.

Too lazy for self-catering? Sunvil (020-8758 4758; www.sunvil.co.uk) is offering a week at the Captain George Hotel in the Pelion peninsular (mainland Greece) for £389 per person, departing 17 September. In the small resort of Agios Ioannis, with the slopes of Mount Pelion behind, the hotel has three beaches on its doorstep. Based on two sharing the price includes return flights from Gatwick, transfers and b&b accommodation.

4 Go solo in the Italian Lakes

With the school holidays over, it's safe for singles to venture out into European waters. For just £315 per person, take a five-day guided tour of the Italian lakes with Solo's Holidays (08704 992299; www.solosholidays.co.uk). Sightseeing, cooking classes, walking and wine-tasting are just some of the activities on offer from Albergo Monte Bondone, the hotel base for this holiday located high in the Dolomite mountains. Excursions to Lake Garda, to Venice and to the Ferrai sparkling wine factory are just some of the highlights of this trip, along with fresh pasta cookery classes. The price includes return flights (regional departures available), transfers, accommodation in a single room, daily breakfast, three lunches and two dinners and the services of a guide. The maximum group size is 30 - which more or less takes over this small hotel for the week - and the tour is open to those aged 28-55.

5 Hit the beach in Barbados

For the same price you can get all the way to Barbados. Between 1 and 30 September, British Airways Holidays (0870-243 3406; www.ba.com/holidays) is offering seven nights at the three-star Silver Rock Hotel in a largely residential area on the south of the island. Set on an isolated stretch of Silver Sands Beach, this 70-room hotel is the perfect quiet getaway for couples. New to the British Airways Holidays brochure for 2005, Silver Rock is designed in classical old Barbadian style, with high ceilings and airy, open rooms, and represents good value for money - most rooms have king-sized beds and balconies. The hotel pool and gardens back on to a wide sandy beach backed by dunes and Silver Rock is also popular with watersports enthusiasts. The strong waves here make it the perfect place for windsurfing, kayaking and, the latest aquatic fad to reach the island, kite surfing. Lessons can be taken from local windsurfing champ Brian Talma. One week costs £499 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Gatwick, transfers and room-only accommodation. Selected UK regional flight connections are available for an extra £35 per person.

6 Look east for luxury

You'll have to move quickly to make the most of Magic of the Orient's bargain luxury breaks to south-east Asia, this autumn. Book by 31 August for travel from 1 to 31 October and Magic of the Orient (01293 537700; www.magicoftheorient.com) is offering a 15 per cent discount on a luxury, three-centre holiday to Malaysia (Penang and Kuala Lumpur) and Bali. First stop, Penang, with a three-night stay at the all-suite Eastern and Oriental Hotel in Georgetown, where guests can enjoy a taste of the city's colonial past without even leaving Persian carpeted confines of this landmark hotel. In Bali you have eight nights at the Nusa Dua Hotel & Spa, where treatments include the mandatory Balinese massage. Complimentary extras at the hotel include daily breakfast, complimentary soft drinks throughout the day, cocktails each evening, plus 24-hour butler service. The Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, is the final stop, where rested and revived you should be ready to tackle the plentiful shops, selling everything from cut-price designer shoes and bags to crafts, herbs and spices in the city's old Indian, Chinese and Malay sectors.

Thirteen nights costs £1,188 per person, based on two sharing. The price includes all flights, transfers, three nights' accommodation with breakfast at the E&O Hotel, with complimentary room upgrade, eight nights at the Nusa Dua Hotel & Spa including breakfast, two nights room-only at the Shangri-La, Kuala Lumpur and the services of Magic of the Orient's local agent.

7 Visit the quiet side of Ibiza

The end of the summer holidays sees the end of Ibiza's silly season - or at least its really silly season. With the main clubbing calendar running from the beginning of June to the end of September, autumn is the best time for the erstwhile clubber to see why this island is still the best place to party - and then beat retreat back to their quiet villa to recover. The crowds have gone and the clubs are gearing up to their legendary closing parties, most of which take place over the last week in September/first week of October.

James Villa Holidays (0845-458 4757; www.jamesvillas.co.uk) is offering discounts on selected departure dates this autumn for villas in Ibiza. Es Moli is located in the village of San Jordi, a few miles from Ibiza town, in the Ses Salinas beach area. Perfect for two couples holidaying together, the two-bedroom villa has its own private pool and enclosed gardens. The beach of Playa d'en Bossa is a five-minute drive away and the village centre five minutes on foot. Departing 3 October, a week at Es Moli costs a total of £249. Flights and car hire are not included but can be arranged.

8 Take a city break in Cape Town

Long-haul city breaks are all very well, but you spend much of the weekend recovering from jet lag. Not so with South Africa. With just an hour's time difference, Cape Town is the perfect spot for an exotic city break that doesn't leave you feeling as if you need another holiday. Trailfinders (020-7938 3939; www.trailfinders.com) has extended its current South African seat sale, with exclusive deals on flights with South African Airlines, until 7pm Tuesday. Direct return flights to Johannesburg are down from £612 to £529, and Cape Town direct down from £713 to £579. All fares include taxes and are based on flights out of Heathrow and must include a Saturday night stay.

Trailfinders is also offering a selection of hotel packages, including a five-night break to Cape Town, for £714 per person. This price is based on two sharing b&b accommodation at The Park Inn, Greenmarket.

9 Watch out for whales

Just in time to catch the humpbacks and minke whales before they move to warmer waters, Wildlife Worldwide (020-8667 9158; www.wildlifeworldwide.com) is adding a new whale-watching tour to its programme. Discount introductory offers are available from September up to the end of the feeding season in mid-October. The waters around southern Iceland are among the world's hot spots for whale-watching with good probability of sightings such varied species as humpback, fin, sei, minke and blue whales, as well as harbour porpoises and white-beaked dolphins. Expertly guided boat excursions go out in search of the island's rich cetacean population, aboard one of two vessels equipped with hydrophones in order to track the mammals.

The cost of a three-day tour is £645 per person, based on two sharing, including scheduled flights from Heathrow, two nights' accommodation with breakfast at the Viking Village, a traditional hotel just outside Reykjavik, transfers, three whale-watching excursions and a visit to the Blue Lagoon. The trip can be extended to seven nights to explore the surrounding countryside. Optional excursions include trekking on one of the country's Icelandic ponies, or hiking trips to some of the region's numerous geothermal pools and volcanic landscapes. A seven-night break costs £1,295 per person, based on two sharing, and includes accommodation and travel as above.

10 Beat the crowds to Sri Lanka

With Sri Lanka's monsoon season (May-August) over and the peak winter travel season yet to get under way, autumn is a fine time to visit this part of the Indian Ocean. Even better when it's a bargain luxury break to the island's acclaimed Taj Exotica Hotel. Gateway Holidays (0871-222 8379; www.gatewayholidays.co.uk) is offering more than £500 per person off the brochure price for a 13-night holiday to this hotel, located on Sri Lanka's southwest coast, departing 16 September.

About two hours' transfer from the commercial capital of Colombo, the Taj Exotica is set on a huge granite outcrop, overlooking the wide golden beaches of the south-west. This five-star hotel is set in tropical gardens, which tier down to the coconut palm-fringed Indian Ocean. The hotel is famed for its postcard-perfect sunset panorama, filtered by the gardens' myriad tropical trees, frangipani, oleander and hibiscus. And should such indolence not appeal, the nearby lagoon is open to guests who want to try out windsurfing and other water sports. The price for 13 nights is £749 per person, based on two sharing and includes return flights from Heathrow, transfers and b&b accommodation.

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