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Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Where the sun shines brightly


Q. We are a family of four, including two girls of 12 and 14. Due to work commitments we can only go away for a week in August. Whilst we are not all beach lovers, the girls are determined that we take them abroad this year to experience some sunshine and the thrill of going on an aeroplane! We are at a loss of where to go. Ideally we would like somewhere with culture, shops and a pool, but also with places of historical interest close at hand.

Corinne, Ashford, Kent

A. Two suggestions for an affordable high-season holiday. The first is to book flights to Porto in northern Portugal, probably on Ryanair from Stansted. Buy them now, because fares will only rise as summer approaches. Don't pay for extra luggage, because it will be so warm in August that you won't need much baggage.

Porto offers a blend of dramatic cityscapes thanks to its location straddling the Douro gorge, robust culture, great food - and a beach at the end of a tram ride from the city centre. It is also excellent value, with the lowest prices of any major city in western Europe. At the Residencial Aviz, a family room for four costs as little as €60 a night. With flights likely to be around £200 return each, travel and accommodation for a week could cost as little as £1,200. Our latest 48 Hours in Porto is available here: bit.ly/48Porto.

The other option: a package holiday to Mallorca, staying at Puerto Pollensa in the north of the island (with girls your age, the funspots of Magaluf and Palma Nova could be a little too hyperactive). Puerto Pollensa has an excellent beach, and reasonable bus connections with the capital, Palma. That means you will be able to make an excursion or two to this sublimely beautiful city, to visit the cathedral, museums and shops.

If you book now, expect to pay around £2,000 for a Mallorcan package including flights, transfers and a modest hotel with breakfast. You could choose to wait, as the price could fall in the weeks and days before departure - though if you take this chance then be prepared to settle on somewhere such as Benidorm or even a Greek island if Mallorca is highly priced or sold out.

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