This is a great time of year for getting a deal on a holiday. The peak January booking period has passed, and the early summer rush is still a long way off, so travel companies are looking to boost their cash flows by landing some bookings, even if that means offering some juicy discounts.
At this time of year most of the popular winter sun destinations are still at their best, and despite a few days of sunshine, the weather at home remains distinctly unreliable. March is generally regarded as too early to risk the Mediterranean, though you can get lucky in the southern parts of the region - islands such as Crete, Malta and Cyprus, and the coasts of Tunisia and southern Turkey.
Easter falls late this year, on 20 April, but once that passes it's a great time of year to visit the Caribbean. If you look at the weather charts, you'll see rain, but in reality that amounts to a few short sharp showers, after which the sun quickly reappears. To compensate, you can find prices considerably lower - and sometimes half the price - of peak weeks in winter.
One of the best deals seen in the past week has been a seven-night all-inclusive stay at the three-star Grafton Beach Resort on the Caribbean island of Tobago. The price for departures between 7 May and 2 July was cut from £1,399 to £699 per person including flights from London, plus a free room upgrade. You'll need to book by 5 March with Tropical Sky.
One of the best-value winter sun destinations is The Gambia in West Africa. It's a short direct flight away with no time difference, but you'll be basking in sunshine and temperatures of around 30ºC. A week's half board at the newly-opened White Horse Residence was reduced to £799 (saving £249) including flights from Gatwick on 7 March. Check out The Gambia Experience for more deals.
There are also some great discounts at the luxury end of the market. For example, seven nights all-inclusive in a beach suite on the spectacular private island of Desroches (pictured above) in the Seychelles during March was reduced by £1,600 to £2,749 with Turquoise Holidays.
March and April are also great months to find bargain ski holidays, with even a few cheap deals appearing over the Easter holidays. One of the best is seven nights self-catering at the luxury Santa Terra residence in Tignes Les Brevieres, which costs £307 per person based on five sharing a two-bedroom apartment arriving 12 April. The price includes Eurotunnel tickets (you'll need to drive there) but a six-day Espace Killy lift pass worth more than £200 is thrown in free, so the price of the actual holiday is effectively just £100 per person.
Spring is also the time when cruise companies move their programmes from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean. One of the best-kept secrets of travel is a "relocation cruise" where you fly to the Caribbean for a short cruise, before experiencing a transatlantic passage, then a flight home from the Med. For example, an 11-night cruise on the P&O Ventura will sail from Barbados on 15 March, visiting St Lucia, Antigua and Madeira, before disembarking in Malaga, Spain. The price of £649 (saving £250) includes return flights from London, Manchester or Birmingham with Iglu Cruises. Upgrades to an outside cabin start at £80 per person.
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* Mark Hodson is editor of 101 Holidays. Photo courtesy Turquoise HolidaysSuggest a correction