Surrey's leading travel experts recommend best holiday spots
PUBLISHED: 22:01 08 December 2011 | UPDATED: 20:36 20 February 2013
It's time to escape the madness and take a little time for yourself in some exotic, faraway place. But where to go? Debbie Ward speaks to some of Surrey's leading travel experts to find out the places they recommend
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine January 2011
Its time to escape the madness and take a little time for yourself in some exotic, faraway place. But where to go? Debbie Ward speaks to some of Surreys leading travel experts to find out the places they recommend, and their top tips on everything from how to find the cheapest airport parking to getting the best deals on the Eurostar
With the Christmas festivities over and winter still stretching ahead, our thoughts inevitably turn to holidays at this time of year. Thankfully, Surrey is particularly blessed with travel options, with the UKs two largest airports, Eurostar and more, all within easy range.
A lot of Surrey is obviously on great routes into Heathrow and Gatwick, then theres the A3 and M3 down to Southampton and Portsmouth, says Gemma Antrobus, the managing director of award-winning Surrey agency Haslemere Travel. Youve got the cruise ships of course from Southampton, and some from Portsmouth now too, as well as the ferries, and Southampton also has a lovely airport.
If youve not got big bags and the kids, London City Airport can even be a good option, as its just into Waterloo then the Jubilee Line and DLR.
The majority of Haslemere Travels bookings are for long-haul, tailor-made holidays, with Australia, New Zealand, India and Africa popular for culture and adventure, and the Indian Ocean and Far East for the beaches.
Our customers like cruises or luxury beach or city breaks, but weve also had lads coming in saying we want a stag break for three nights, 200 a head, says Gemma.
One of the UKs biggest tour operators, luxury and long-haul specialist Kuoni, is based in Dorking. Traditionally, the Maldives is Kuonis biggest seller but it says interest in the islands increased further this year thanks to new all-inclusive hotels. Meanwhile, Thailand has been boosted by two-weeks-for-one deals, and exotic Sri Lanka shot up must-see lists after its civil war ended last year.
Kuoni tips India and Oman among future high-flyers. Its also seeing more requests to get under the skin of a country. Its often the experience rather than the geographical location that travellers are looking for, says vice-president of market management and pricing, Tamara Diethelm. So, for instance, we now offer horseback safaris in Kenya, Bollywood dance lessons in India and even astronaut training at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Haslemere Travels Gemma has particularly noticed families branching out: They want to have more of an adventure these days rather than just go to hotels with a good kids club.
For future trends, Gemma tips Mexico, which recently gained a Gatwick to Cancun British Airways flight, and Abu Dhabi, which has been adding luxury hotels recently.
The personal touch
Wherever youre thinking of, with plenty of good travel companies based in Surrey you dont have to look far for great advice. Gemma stresses, contrary to popular belief, you dont always get a better deal on the web, either.
It doesnt cost more to come to a travel agent and if anything goes wrong, like the ash cloud and strikes, you need someone you can rely on, she says. Agents also have a network of contacts; I spend most of my time forging relationships with hoteliers so we can ask for favours like connecting rooms, upgrades and VIP treatment.
Did you know?
- You can visit Kuonis headquarters in Dorking (Deepdene Avenue on the A24) to browse brochures or destination videos and have an appointment with a sales consultant. www.kuoni.co.uk
- The Orient Express now runs selected day trips from Chichester. orient-express.com
- Surrey has its very own Arctic specialist. Discover the World in Banstead books the Arctic, Antarctic, Iceland and Greenland as well as more mainstream destinations such as Scandinavia, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This winter, it suggests an ice hotel stay and husky sledging, bear-watching in Finland or seeking the beautiful Northern Lights. discover-the-world.co.uk
- Eurostar runs ski trains in the winter months, connecting to Bourg-St-Maurice, Aime-la-Plagne and Moutiers in France. eurostar.com
- New Gatwick routes include British Airways to Cancun, Air Seychelles to the Seychelles, easyJet to Antalya and Luxor and Ryanair to Seville.
Top travel tips...
We asked Surrey travel companies, airports and Eurostar how to save cash and hassle on your holidays. Here are their top recommendations
- Book far in advance for the best chance of grabbing the cheapest seats, advises travel agency chain Flight Centre, which has head-quarters in New Malden. Being flexible with travel dates also helps.
- Consider hassle-free Southampton, says Haslemere Travel. You can reach France, Spain, Majorca, Portugal, Croatia and more.
- Shop around; Gatwicks budget airlines arent always the cheapest, especially at the last minute.
- Fly indirect to save cash, suggests Flight Centre. You could also get a cheaper second leg of your trip if you stop over for a night or two en route.
- Airport shopping can be cheaper than the high street and Gatwick offers a shop and collect service, allowing passengers to pick up their purchases on their return.
- Book airport car parking well in advance to get the best price, advises Haslemere Travel.
- Early departure a better deal? Weigh up an airport hotel to save you stress, advises Kuoni.
- From many points in Surrey you can save money by buying a through ticket. From Guildford, a round-trip starts from 74 and as our fares start from 69 thats just 5 return between Guildford and St Pancras, says a Eurostar spokesperson. See Connecting Services under Travel Information on www.eurostar.com
- For the best fares, avoid Fridays, Sundays and Monday mornings and book early; tickets are released four months ahead. Check lowest fare availability on the calendar under Latest Deals on the website.
- For perks like two-for-one exhibition entry and reward points, see www.eurostarplus.co.uk