Photo: Family Adventure Company
Christmas is coming, but it's not too late to wrap up a festive break for family and friends. If you can't face the thought of party hats and board games with the in-laws, how about getting away for a last-minute holiday.
I've found some great deals, including self-catering in Cornwall and Wales, all-action breaks in a Finnish winter wonderland, guaranteed sun in the Canary Islands and long-haul escapes from Florida to the Indian Ocean.
Photo: Gwel an Mor
Christmas holidays in the UK
Overlooking Portreath on Cornwall's North Coast, Gwel an Mor has a range of festive treats on offer, including winter wildlife walks, a free children's party on Christmas Eve, a chance to meet Santa and his real-life reindeer at the resort's Feadon Farm and a Christmas Day lunch at its Terrace Restaurant. Choose from self-catering lodges sleeping between four and six. For stays starting 20 or 21 December, seven nights cost from £789 (saving £230).
Just down the coast at Porth, Sands Resort Hotel & Spa will be seeing in the New Year with a children's party, a New Year's gala dinner and disco for adults, plus a family entertainment programme featuring magicians, clowns and visits from Newquay Zoo. Available for a minimum stay of three nights between 28 December and 4 January, a two-room family suite, including breakfast and dinner, costs from £71.50 for adults and from £14.30 for children.
Tucked into beautiful countryside near Llanybydder in South Wales, but within easy reach of the coast, The Barn at Maesteile sleeps up to six and is available for £716 for the week commencing 22 December. Or hide away in a picture-perfect 16th-century water mill near Bodmin, where Lavethan Mill has been beautifully restored to provide accommodation for up to 10 (plus two cots), making it ideal for a big family Christmas. A week's rental from 20 December costs £3,000.
Photo: Powder Byrne
Sun and snow in Europe
Venture across the Channel and you can enjoy a heated swimming pool and large enclosed grounds at Chateau Cypres which sleeps up to 14 guests close to sandy beaches near La Rochelle. The property has a children's play area, two living rooms, a library, farmhouse kitchen and log fireplace. Departing 20 December, a week's rental is now 40% off at just £1,600.
The Canary Islands offer near guaranteed sun at Christmas. With no fewer than eight swimming pools, a luxury spa, interconnecting rooms and an excellent children's club, the Princesa Yaiza Suite Hotel Resort offers five-star family luxury on Lanzarote. Departing 20 December, seven nights costs a total of £3,749 for two adults and one child (saving £307), including flights from Gatwick, airport lounge access, private transfers, B&B and a Christmas Gala Dinner.
Take the kids on a winter activity week in Andorra with the Family Adventure Company including dog sledding, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, sledging and igloo building. You'll be based at Hotel Roc de Sant Miquel on a half-board basis. Departing 20 December, the trip (suitable for children aged five and over) costs £1,045 for adults and £941 for children under 15, including flights.
Deep in the heart of the Austrian Tyrol, with its snow-clad forests and ice-fluted peaks, the Inntaler Hof Hotel in Mösern makes an ideal base for a winter break with superb cross-country and downhill skiing. Available from Inntravel, seven nights full board in a twin room costs from £1,238 per adult and £535-£838 per child (aged 2-12), including flights between Gatwick and Innsbruck. An upgrade to a family room costs £38 per night.
For families with teenagers, the Aurora Adventure from Activities Abroad seeks out the northern lights in Finnish Lapland, with expert guides helping to maximise your chances of success. During the day, you'll meet Rudolph's mates at a Sámi reindeer farm and set off into the winter wilderness on snowmobiles, snowshoes and sleigh rides. Departing 21 December, the 7-night trip costs £1,795 per adult and £1,345 per child aged 10-14 (based on a family of four sharing), including flights, transfers, full-board accommodation, activities, cold-weather clothing and guides.
Younger kids can meet Santa on a four-night trip to Finnish Lapland, and see a range of Arctic wildlife, including lynx, elk, golden eagle, white tail deer and polar bears - thanks to unlimited access to Ranua Wildlife Park. You will also get to visit a husky farm and try your hand at mushing and snowmobiling. Departing 22 December, the holiday costs from £1,845 per adult and £1,295 for children aged 5-13 (based on four sharing), including flights and full-board accommodation.
In Slovakia, stay in a rustic ski lodge with superb views over the High Tatra Mountains. The week-long holiday with Families Worldwide includes activities such as snowshoeing, dog sledding and cross-country skiing. You can also enjoy a winter warmer in the local thermal pools. There's still space on the 27 December departure - £1,199 for adults and £1,179 for under-11s.
Photo: Mark Warner
If you want to ski in the Alps, Mark Warner has seven nights at the Chalet Hotel Schweizerhof in St Anton for £794 (children £702) including flight departing 21 December, breakfast, afternoon tea, dinner with wine, evening childcare, a Christmas Day gala dinner and Santa visit.
Ski Esprit has seven nights at Chalet Aventine in Les Gets including flights departing 21 December, breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner with wine. It costs a total of £2,499 for two adults and two children aged 2-11.
Snap up a private apartment in Casa Fortuna in the Swiss Alpine resort of Flims. The luxury accommodation sleeps 4-8 people and includes a breakfast delivery service. A family Christmas lunch on the mountain is a highlight - with Santa normally passing by to say hello to the children. Seven nights from 20 December costs from £2,107 per person, based on a minimum of four sharing including flights, transfers, ski guiding and resort shuttle bus service.
Photo: The Gambia Experience
Long-haul Christmas escapes
For a tropical twist to Christmas, The Gambia Experience is offering seven nights at the oceanfront Kombo Beach Hotel for £1,014 per adult and £943 for children aged 2-12, including flights, transfers, B&B and a Christmas gala dinner for departures on 19 December. Overlooking a long sandy beach, this popular hotel has a pool and sun terrace and offers activities from tennis to birdwatching.
With spacious rooms facing west across the Indian Ocean (perfect for sunsets), Le Victoria Hotel on Mauritius boasts three restaurants, an infinity pool and a Bob Marley Mini Club. Available from Beachcomber Tours, seven nights departing 20 December costs £2,459 per adult and £1,459 for under-12s including dinner, bed and breakfast and direct flights from London Heathrow, free kids clubs for 3- to 12-year-olds and complimentary sports activities.
Renowned for its stunning ocean views, private beach and fine cuisine, the colonial-style Mount Lavinia Hotel on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka is well placed for exploring the island. Available from Barefoot Traveller, a seven-night stay between 1 December 2014 and 28 February 2015 costs £1,041 per adult and £446 for under-12s including B&B, flights and transfers.
This could be the ultimate Christmas gift for theme park lovers. Wet 'n' Wild in Florida is just across the street from the three-star Movieland Orlando Hotel on International Drive - and there's a free shuttle bus to Universal Orlando Resort with its Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Available from Hayes & Jarvis, seven nights departing 24 December costs £799 per person based on four sharing (saving £112 per person) on a room-only basis, including flights from Gatwick and car hire.
Despite being tucked away in the vast wilderness of the Selous Game Reserve, the new Azura Selous tented safari lodge is not only spacious and stylish, but is easily reached by light aircraft from Dar es Salaam. It offers an exciting mixture of game drives, boating safaris and walking safaris, plus an educational programme where children can safely explore the bush, create casts of animal prints and even go fishing. Available from Turquoise Holidays, a six-night trip departing 27 December costs £2,695 per adult and £1,770 per child (aged 6-11), including flights, full-board, drinks, activities and the services of a private butler.