Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: We want an Oriental Christmas with our son

Every day our travel guru answers your travel questions

Q Our son is working in Shanghai. We want to meet him somewhere in Asia for Christmas, but fares are very high and accommodation seems in short supply in places like Bali. Where would you recommend?

ND, London NW8

A Wherever you go, prepare to pay a fortune. Christmas is the time of heaviest demand for travel from the UK, with routes to Asia particularly expensive. Leaving a few days before 25 December and returning a week later will cost more than £1,000 return to pretty much anywhere, and is likely to involve a circuitous journey unless you are prepared to spend freely on a non-stop flight.

With only a few weeks remaining, your options for finding alluring options are limited. I have searched destinations from southern Vietnam via Sabah in Malaysia to Singapore, and found the biggest problem to be scarce seats from the UK.

In terms of a fabulous destination with flight and accommodation availability, my recommendation is Thailand’s largest island, Phuket – with beaches, heritage and nature in abundance. Even if you insist on departing on the most in-demand day, Saturday 22 December, returning a week later, you can still reach Phuket – and stay for five nights in comfortable but modest accommodation - for under £1,200. Find such deals through travel agents or online at, for example, Opodo.co.uk – which is selling one that includes a flight from Heathrow to Phuket on China Eastern via Shanghai. With a bit of coordination of flight schedules, you can join your son at Shanghai airport, and fly down to Thailand together. He should be able to find a ticket for under £500 return for his flight from Shanghai to Phuket, but will need to book the hotel independently.

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