We’ve all been caught in the conundrum at some point – standing, perhaps, in the freezer aisle of our local supermarket, or in the hardwood flooring section of the nearest DIY emporium, and realising that, yet again, a bank-holiday weekend is upon us, and once more, we have done nothing with it beyond an “excursion” to buy a replacement hammer.
Well not again. Not this time. We are now but three weeks from Britain’s next dose of government-anointed time off in the form of the Easter weekend – enough warning, just about, to make sure that 2018 is not the year you spend this four-day segment of freedom from the workplace and the daily routine doing nothing more than shopping for crockery.
This feature provides ideas for rapid getaways. And not just for Easter – but for the May bank holidays (May 7 and 28), and their August colleagues (August 6 or 27, depending on where you are in the UK), plus various other corners of the calendar. These are short breaks, shaped by the number of days available – for couples, families and the intrepid. Take inspiration – and go forth. When, the next time a long weekend trundles in, you find yourself on a beach rather than in a snaking checkout line, it will feel very much worth it.
Easter (Friday March 30 to Monday April 2)
1. Miami heat
There is no denying that a hop to Miami (miamiandbeaches.com) for Easter will be costly. The city’s big music-industry pow-wow – the Winter Music Conference – will have recently finished, and will have helped to plump up room rates. But on the plus side, it will also have ensured that the clubs and bars of South Beach are already into their summer stride. And expensive does not mean impossible.
A three-night room-only stay at the uber-chic Delano Hotel – with its Philippe Starck interiors and Agua Spa – flying from Heathrow on Good Friday morning, currently costs from £6,219 per person through Virgin Holidays (0344 739 8417; virginholidays.co.uk). For those who really want to maximise their weekend, the flight home lands at 8am – just in time for a dash into work.
2. Ancient ruins in Sicily
Fixed to the east flank of Sicily (visitsicily.info), Taormina is a destination which does not require an ocean crossing – yet it also feels reassuringly removed from UK shores. Partly, this is down to its age – its Teatro Greco dates to the third century BC. And partly, this is due to its beauty, sloping down to the Ionian Sea from its hilltop. Either way, it is a fine option for a four-day weekend. Steppes Travel (01285 601 050; steppestravel.com) sells three-night breaks at the San Domenico Palace Hotel from £995 a head, with flights.
3. Wiltshire weekend
Heading to the airport with children on Good Friday may sound a thoroughly unpalatable idea. In which case, you could drive to Bath instead. Lucknam Park, just outside the city, in Colerne (01225 742 777; lucknampark.co.uk), is offering three-night Easter weekend packages aimed at families. As well as accommodation with breakfast, the price (£2,625 for two adults and one child under 12) includes three gourmet dinners, an egg hunt (and chocolate to go with it), use of the spa, and access to The Hideaway – a space with table tennis, soft-play zones, jigsaws and games, where parents and kids can hang out together.
4. All-inclusive Tenerife
Alternatively, a four-day weekend may feel long enough to justify a (just over) four-hour flight. Temperature can also be a mitigating factor – the thermometer has inched to 20C by the time April dawns in Tenerife (todotenerife.es). Flights are plentiful too, making a short sojourn in the Canaries wholly feasible.
A three-night all-inclusive stay for a family of four (children aged 2-12) at the five-star Costa Adeje Gran Hotel (which has a colossal pool complex, and is 500 metres from Playa El Duque), flying from Cardiff on March 30, costs from £2772 in total with Teletext Holidays (020 8729 3001; teletextholidays.co.uk).
5. Skiing in Zermatt
Any dalliance with Europe’s pistes as Easter arrives can be risky – but the early date of the feast day in 2018 makes the spectre of snow-less slopes less of a threat if you want to spend the four-day weekend dashing downhill. You can, of course, opt for the insurance policy of Switzerland and the high altitude of Zermatt (zermatt.ch) – which hits a peak elevation of 12,740ft (3,883m), and has the ski-able back-stop of the unmelting Theodul Glacier.
You will need to take an extra day off to enjoy the package currently on offer with Iglu Ski (020 3553 2939; igluski.com) – flights from Liverpool on March 29, and four nights at the four-star Hotel Ambassador. But at £1098 a head, that seems a fair deal.
6. Culture in Moscow
More muscular than palace-pretty St Petersburg, but arguably a more authentically Russian metropolis, Moscow (visitrussia.org.uk) is a left-field choice for an Easter mini-break. April is, though, an advisable month for visits to the Kremlin Museums (kreml.ru) in 2018 – before the World Cup (June 14-July 15) fills the city with football fever.
Kirker Holidays (020 7593 1899; kirkerholidays.com) offers three-night breaks at the five-star – and very central – Four Seasons, from £1,998 a head, with flights, transfers and breakfast.
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Early May bank holiday (Saturday May 5 to Monday May 7)
7. The grape escape in France
Spring feels at its most seductive amid the rustlings of a vineyard – which makes Chateau Les Carrasses (0033 4 6700 0067; lescarrasses.com) a wholly enticing proposition in the first flourishes of May. This country-house hotel, with its focus on food and wine, gleams in the rustic context of Languedoc-Roussillon, 60 miles south-west of Montpellier.
A two-night (room-only) stay, starting on May 5, starts at €438. A package of flights and rental car for two, flying from Gatwick with easyJet at 6.20am on the same day – returning in the mid-afternoon of March 7 – costs from £382 per person (0330 3655000; easyjet.com).
8. Long weekend in Wales
Families chasing a spot of relaxation, and perhaps a stroll amid some of Britain’s most remarkable scenery, may fancy a long weekend in Wales (visitwales.com) as May warmth prods Snowdonia National Park (eryri.llyw.cymru) into spring life. Rivercatcher (01490 440 498; rivercatcher.co.uk), on the edge of the park at Llandrillo, has added four new cabins to its cluster of luxury cottages for this season. Lagom, a “Scandinavian” bolthole that can sleep two new parents and a small child, is available for a three-night stay (£616) starting on the evening of May 4. Amenities include a hot-tub, and a wood-burning stove.
9. Unsung Albania
How does an adventurous short city break look in 2018? Perhaps like three days in Tirana – the fascinating, increasingly accessible and yet often unheralded Albanian (albania.al) capital. You can maximise the first May bank-holiday weekend by booking a package (from £320 a head) with Last Minute (0800 083 4000; lastminute.com) – a 6.05am flight from Luton with Wizz Air on May 5, a return to Gatwick taking off at 8.25pm on May 7 with British Airways – plus two nights at the four-star Hermes Tirana Hotel in the Blloku area, where bars like DaDa (facebook.com/dadatiranes) hold court. Bunk’art (bunkart.al; £3.40), where Albania’s Communist era is dissected in an old bunker, is another essential.
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Spring bank holiday (Saturday May 26 to Monday May 28)
10. Cotswolds country getaway
An extended weekend can be a spark for a rush to the airport. It can also be a cause for indulgence and an extra lie-in. Both can be sourced at The Lygon Arms (01386 852 255; lygonarmshotel.co.uk), a coaching inn in Broadway whose roots dig down into the 14th century. Guests in the last 700 years have included Oliver Cromwell and Charles I (not at the same time) – and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (definitely at the same time). However, the hotel’s focus is on the future, following a renovation that was completed last autumn. A two-night stay, arriving on May 26, costs from £630 – including breakfast.
11. Family festival in Edinburgh
The second May bank holiday coincides nicely with Edinburgh International Children’s Festival (May 26-June 3; imaginate.org.uk/festival). The programme of events is not yet finalised, but this swirl of theatre, dance and multimedia has been casting a spell across the city (edinburgh.org) since 1990, and will take in 10 venues in its 2018 edition. A two-night stay for a family of three at the four-star Fraser Suites, just off the Royal Mile (0131 221 7200; edinburgh.frasershospitality.com), checking in on May 26, costs £548, in total.
12. Hadrian's Wall cycling tour
If you have the stamina, the second long May weekend should be lengthy enough for a ride along the UK’s finest reminder of the Roman Empire. Saddle Skedaddle (0191 265 1110; skedaddle.co.uk) sells a self-guided “Hadrian’s Cycleway” jaunt which follows the great wall east from Bowness to Tynemouth. This can be done as a two-day blast, cut into two legs of 50 miles, from £315 a head (with bike, bag transfers, hotels and breakfast), or as a trio of 33-mile sessions in the saddle, over three days, from £410 (on the same basis).
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Summer bank holiday (August 25 to August 27)
13. Marseille by Eurostar
While Eurostar (03432 186186; eurostar.com) has made news lately by launching a direct service to Amsterdam, it has been half forgotten that it has been running non-stop trains to Marseille (marseille-tourisme.com) since 2015. The timetable for this six-hour service says you can leave London at 7.19am on August 25, and return from France’s biggest port at 3.22pm on the Monday, for £160pp – giving you two days in a city currently obsessed with love.
Its Quel Amour festival (mp2018.com) began on Valentine’s Day and runs until September 2. Attractions include “L’Amour de A a Z” – romance explained via artworks and the 26 letters of the alphabet at the Mucem museum (€9.50; mucem.org). Doubles at the Sofitel Marseille Vieux Port (0033 4 91155900; sofitel.com) cost from £152 per night.
14. Disneyland Paris
Orlando is too far away for a long weekend, but August’s last hurrah is perfect for a three-day jaunt to Disneyland Paris. Parents unenamoured with talking mice and ducks may also say that this is quite long enough. A two-night half-board break for a family of four (two children over four) at the park’s Sequoia Lodge, leaving London by Eurostar on the Saturday morning, costs from £1,793 in all – including return trains and three days’ park entry – via Magic Breaks (0330 880 5001; magicbreaks.co.uk). The trip will be in time to catch the park’s “Marvel Summer of Super Heroes”, which continues until September 30.
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15. Monet, Van Gogh and Klimt in Estonia
Those still seeking a short city-break to a less obvious corner of Europe may be drawn to Estonia (visitestonia.com), which is celebrating 100 years of independence (from Russia) in 2018 via a whirl of events (ev100.ee). These include “Monet2Klimt”, an exhibition in Tallinn which takes a look at some of the artistic mould-breakers of the 19th century using modern multimedia (€10.50; until December 31; monet2klimt.ee).
A two-night stay in the capital at the five-star Hotel St Petersbourg (with breakfast), departing Gatwick on August 25 with Air Baltic, costs £337 a head via Expedia (020 35640868; expedia.co.uk).