Christmas Travel: 10 Great Getaway Gifts…

10th December 2013
Pól Ó Conghaile

Get a room…

Could this be the sexiest hotel room on earth? Mr & Mrs Smith certainly thinks so. The boutique hotel guide has just voted the Corfu Suite at Blakes Hotel in London (pictured) the World’s Sexiest Bedroom at their inaugural Smith Hotel Awards. Where better for a dose of luxury Christmas travel?

“Arguably the original boutique hotel, Anouska Hempel’s wickedly opulent Kensington hideaway has been discreetly looking after lovebirds for over 25 years,” they say.

“It’s hard to imagine a more alluring setting for seduction than the honeymoon-perfect, white-on-white Corfu Suite… stylish, romantic, and a come-hither confection of fluffy pillows and opulent fabrics that you want to dive into and never leave.”

This isn’t a cheap thrill, mind. Three-night Christmas breaks in Blakes’ signature suites are priced from £898/€1,075pp (though they do include a festive hamper). If that’s too hot to handle, Mr & Mrs Smith also do gift vouchers from £50… making for sexy stocking fillers.

Details: blakeshotels.com; mrandmrssmith.com.

New York’s Post-Christmas Sales…

new york, christmas, bloomingdales

January sees some of New York’s lowest hotel rates, with flights coming down a peg or two after the peak travel period. It’s an ideal time for a sneaky shopping trip.

Once you dress for the nose-chiselling cold, you’re all set. Big stores like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s light up Midtown, and boutiques like Suarez handbags (5 W. 56th Street) and Sigerson Morrison shoes (28 Prince Street) are chocabloc with bargains. January is also a good time to score reductions for Broadway shows.

And the packages? Sunway has a three-night shopping break in New York from €649pp, with accommodation at the 4-star Milford Plaza hotel based on January departures. Tour America has three nights from €599pp in a three-star hotel, departing January 16th.

Details: sunway.ie, touramerica.ie.

The Twixtmas Treats…

shelbourne, twixtmas

Once upon a time, festive treats were confined to Christmas and the New Year. Nobody did anything in-between, because there was nothing in-between to do.

Until now… yay! Fast forward to 2013, where the five-star Castlemartyr Resort has breaks between December 26th and January 5th from €260 per night, including mulled wine & mince pies, afternoon tea, a gourmet evening meal and super-salubrious rooms.

In Dublin, the Shelbourne Hotel has a Park & Play special running until January 5th. For €129.50pp, you can pull up outside the historic building, have the valet park your car, hit the sales, and return for a nightcap in No.27 bar.

Oh, and B&B is included too. Happy twixtmas!

Details: castlemartyr.ie; theshelbourne.ie.

The Pamper Palaces…

monart

You know the story. You promise yourself you won’t go overboard at Christmas, but then the festive season gets into full swing, you mill into the mince pies and mulled wine, and before you can say Kris Kringle you’ve got a paunch the size of a Yule log.

Monart may be able to help. The destination spa has a single New Year’s package enabling celebration in 2013, and restorative pampering in 2014. Two nights’ B&B, a gala dinner on New Year’s Eve and access to the thermal spa facilities starts from €349pp.

If you’re looking for some pampering to get in shape for the seasonal shenanigans, check out the Christmas Ritual Spa Package at Inchydoney Lodge & Spa in West Cork.

The ritual will have you glowing “brighter than the Northern Star,” we’re assured. Elements include a glittering body exfoliation using diamond powder, a body wrap combining Christmas spices and asses’ milk (known for its healing and cosmetic benefits, apparently), and a massage with mandarin orange oil. Shazam!

Afterwards, guests are invited to enjoy a complimentary glass of mulled wine and a homemade mince pie looking over the Atlantic. The experience costs €99pp.

Details: monart.ie, inchydoneyisland.com.

The City Break…

amsterdam, rijksmuseum

Fancy going Dutch this Christmas? Then skip the shenanigans at home by travelling with Contiki to Amsterdam for a four-day tour departing London December 23rd.

Contiki specialise in tours for 18-35s, so don’t expect a gentle time spent pottering around Christmas markets. The package promises to get you up close and personal with the city, with bike tours, canal cruises and a night-time walk around the Red Light District included.

The package is priced from €673pp, including three nights’ accommodation in a twin or quad-share hotel in Amsterdam, all tours and the services of a tour manager.

Details: contiki.com.

The Christmas Ski Trip…

highlife

Wanna spend Christmas on the slopes? Here’s how to do it in style.

Highlife Ski & Snowboard specialises in top-end all-inclusive packages to the French resorts of Morzine, Meribel and Val d’Isere. Every Christmas, it transforms its Alpine chalets into festive retreats sparkling with open fires, decorations and Christmas trees.

That’s just the beginning. Meals are cooked in-chalet by a personal chef, which means you start the day with hearty breakfasts and finish it with slap-up feasts next to crackling log fires in the comfort of your own chalet. Santa bears presents for the little ones, and there’s the option of guided ski tours and relaxing in a private hot tub or sauna too.

Highlife Christmas holidays start from €970pp for seven days (excluding flights).

If you fancy shopping on the slopes, consider carving a path to Livigno in the Dolomites. The Italian resort was voted Best in Europe at the World Snow Awards London 2012, and it has also been a duty free principality since the 1600s… meaning over 250 shops selling all kinds of sports gear, toiletries, alcohol and leather goods alongside the slopes at 1,800 metres.

Going to press, Topflight had seven night packages departing Dublin on December 21st from just €499pp.

Finally, if you’re looking for a ski deal for the New Year, our advice is to sit out peak season and fly out just as everyone else is coming home. Departing January 11th, HolidaysOnline.ie has a week in France from €481 and Austria from €583 (excl. taxes).

Details: highlife.ie, topflight.ie; holidaysonline.ie.

The Big Splash…

barbuda, pink beach

Short of an engagement ring, no Christmas gift can trump these trips.

First up, Trailfinders has flights plus seven nights at the spectacularly luxurious Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman from €2,599pp, with departures from January 14th to February 28th. The price includes an 82m2 villa with its own private pool and 24-hour butler service, along with all the freedom of a mile-long beach on the Musandam Peninsula. Nice.

Next, if you fancy taking your pirate queen to the Caribbean (and who doesn’t?), North Beach Barbuda is a complex of five cottages on a deserted beach accessible only by boat. This is real Robinson Crusoe territory, with no spa, Wi-Fi or swimming pool – just you, your partner and as much lobster, rum punch and sea swims as you can manage.

The cottages are run by a guy called Reuben James, who gave up life as a politician to build this little corner of paradise. You can join him for $260 per night, including all meals and alcohol… connecting via Antigua and Gatwick with Virgin or BA.

Finally, provided you’ve got £182,000/€216,600 to spare, there’s the option of joining the ultimate holiday for gourmands. Holidays Please has a six-month tour of every restaurant in the world with three Michelin stars (107, at the last count). 12 countries, business class flights, wine, food and top-end accommodation included. Bon Appétit!

Details: trailfinders.ie, barbudanorthbeach.com, holidaysplease.co.uk.

The Christmas Cruise…

msc, christmas cruise

Want to dodge the snow (or rain) and hit the sun for Christmas? Here’s an option in the shape of a seven-night Canary Islands cruise from Thomas Cook.

The MSC Armonia departs Las Palmas (Majorca) on Dec 21, with ports of call including La Gomera; Funchal (Madeira) and Santa Cruz (Tenerife) before returning to Las Palmas. The price includes full board and Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, and the ship is dressed up for the festive season with Christmas trees, traditional decorations and twinkling lights and carol singing.

Tickets, including full board and flights, from €799pp.

Details: msccruises.ie, thomascook.ie.

The footie fan…

Here’s one way to kick off the New Year. Celtic Horizon Tours has tickets to Manchester United versus Spurs on New Year’s Day, with a self-drive (ferry) package including accommodation from €199pp. Two nights travelling by coach and ferry costs €259pp.

Could it be the perfect gift for the football fan in your life?

Failing that, you could send him (or her) to Casa Rebelde in Dublin for a retro shirt, Copa tee, brown leather ball or beautiful book about the beautiful game. Football and fashion rarely mix, but all of the merchandise here is grounded in design, quality and TLC.

Our pick? A vintage 1960s Brazil tracksuit top (€74.95, pictured), or a 1970s away short-sleeved soccer shirt (€49.95). Perfect for the 2014 World Cup, see?

Details: celtichorizontours.com; casarebelde.com.

Christmas in a Castle…

ashford castle

Ashford Castle is one of the world’s top castle hotels, so it’s no surprise to find all the trimmings served up in its Christmas package… with prices to match.

Guests checking in on Christmas Eve will be welcomed with mulled wine and mince pies, before enjoying afternoon tea, a cocktail reception and chamber music in the run-up to dinner in the George V restaurant. Santa arrives at 10pm, and carol singing and seasonal entertainment continue to ring in the big day itself.

Christmas Day and Stephen’s Day are full of similarly indulgent treats, including all meals, the options of activities like golf, treasure hunts or a Lough Corrib cruise, and lots of music, entertainment and games to keep you busy through a two-night stay.

And the price? Deep breath… It’s €1,150pp for two nights.

Details: ashford.ie.

NB: All prices/offers subject to availability. A version of this article appeared in Mistletoe Magazine.