Best places to book a holiday: plan your post-lockdown escape

From weekend escapes to luxury breaks, we reveal the best places to book a holiday – Airbnb, Secret Escapes and more

The Beach House Newquay Cornwall from Luxury Coastal
(Image credit: Luxury Coastal)

Now might be a good time to book a holiday as the lockdown is slowly being eased across the globe. Yes, it might be a bit premature to plan a multi-stop trip, but looking closer to home and finding somewhere that offers flexibility in the booking will mean you don't have to write off plans of a holiday this year.

Whether it's a weekend escape, or a luxury break, we're here to inspire you with the best places to book a holiday. As well as covering some of the favourites – we're talking Airbnb and Secret Escapes – we'll also be covering some of the lesser know flight, accommodation and package holiday providers. Plus, we've made sure there are options for every budget.

When you're done, head over to our lifestyle hub page for more holiday inspiration.

Things to know before you book a holiday right now:

1. Get travel insurance: we can't stress this enough. Get good travel insurance that covers you if you have to cancel your trip due to Covid-19. Note that most policies won't cover you if you just change your mind about going, so be sure before you book. If travel restrictions mean you trip is cancelled a good policy will cover you – but check before you buy as some of the cheaper deals are dodging this feature.

2. Check if you will be quarantined: some destinations are demanding a two week quarantine for visitors from certain countries. Your home country might be doing the same, meaning that you could end up spending your getaway in isolation, or having to isolate when you come back. 

3. See which countries are exempt from travel bans: the FCO has been advising on all but essential travel, but now some countries are exempt from this meaning that the UK government thinks they do not pose an unacceptably high risk of infection if you travel there. You can see the list of countries deemed 'safe' on the FCO website.

4. But our top advice is to not travel too far right now: with a second lockdown always a possibility, we would recommend keeping your holiday a little closer to home than usual. You certainly won't want to be spending loads on travel if it may get cancelled. This is why a lot of us will be holidaying in our home country, travelling by car to our destination to limit risk of infection and allow for easier cancellation.

1. Airbnb: discover quirky stays all over the world

If you haven't heard of Airbnb, we're not quite sure where you've been. Embracing the idea of a circular economy, Airbnb allows hosts to rent out their homes to guests as and when they wish.

The upside of this is that, often, you're able to experience a new location as a local might – and for a fraction of the price of a stay in a hotel. We're big Airbnb advocates here at Real Homes, having enjoyed stays across the globe, and have to recommend having a browse for fresh holiday inspiration.

They are currently encouraging people take advantage of stays closer to home and have updated their cancellation policy. For hosts, they have an upgraded cleaning protocol to be followed to ensure everyone is safe.

Discover some of our favourite stays, below:

2. Luxury Coastal: beautiful rental properties in beautiful parts of the West Country

If you spend as much time perfecting your homes and we do, you want your getaway booking to be even more comfortable and luxurious than your own place. Luxury Coastal are masters in pairing holiday makers with the most beautiful properties in stunning locations across Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. 

Their offering includes cottages, lodges and cabins with inspiring interiors in picturesque settings (like the Newquay Beach House seen above). Many of their places are dog friendly too, so it really will be like home away from home for you and your whole family. Whether you want a hot tub, sea view, swimming pool or all three, Luxury Coastal have hand picked places we all want to stay in.

To cope with the challenges of the pandemic, they are currently offering a 24 hour cooling off period if you change your mind after booking. They will also fully refund you or transfer your booking if your holiday has to be cancelled due to changes in lockdown restrictions that mean you won't be able to travel to your destination. To make your stay safe, they now have longer changeover periods for their enhanced cleaning protocol and will advise you on how to plan ahead and book places to visit or eat out during your stay.

3. Booking.com: compare prices on hotels, bed and breakfasts and more

If you're more of a hotel person, Airbnb may not appeal. In which case, we'd recommend turning to Booking.com. It's a one-stop-shop for international hotels, traditional bed and breakfasts, and more.

Complete with a handy price comparison tool, Booking.com makes is super easy to decide how much you want to pay and gives you a pretty accurate idea of what you can expect to get for you money. Plus, the handy review system – complete with pictures – means you're less than likely to experience a 'holiday from hell.' 

The hotels on Booking.com might have their own policies with regards to cancellation so check the rules before you book. For now, Booking.com have plenty of info on travel advisories by continent.

4. Secret Escapes: luxury breaks, without the luxury price tag

Dream of a luxury holiday, but don't quite have the budget to match? We can totally relate. Which is why we're big fans of Secret Escapes.

This leading holiday provider works closely with luxury holiday companies to offer top-rated experiences at a fraction of their usual cost. How? We hear you ask. Well, think about it this way. Often, even the most luxurious of holiday providers can't completely fill their vacancies. So, rather than leaving hotel rooms, or experiences, half full, they drop the price of a stay.

Secret Escapes has plenty of deals up for grabs now that are fully refundable – just look for these options on the homepage and read the small print before you book.

5. Sykes Cottages: explore the great British countryside

Fan of the staycation? Sometimes you just can't beat the British countryside. And on those occasions, look to Sykes Cottages. Providing access to a whole host of holiday cottages, you're sure to find somewhere sweet that allows you to escape the stresses of daily life – at least momentarily. 

At the moment they are only accepting booking in line with local travel guidance. They also have updated their cleaning guidelines and during the pandemic have been offering accommodation to NHS workers.

6. Expedia: plan a getaway on a budget

Expedia prides itself on its knowledge of cheap holidays. And whether it's a week in Mallorca, or a month in Malaysia, they're here to help you find flights, accommodation and experiences at the best price possible. You can book just flights, just hotels, or both together, making it the perfect option for those who like to go fully bespoke to squeeze every last penny out of their budget.

Again, check local travel guidelines and only book locations you know you are permitted to travel to based on your country's restrictions. Also read up on cancellation incase the country you are in or travelling to goes back into lockdown before your trip.

7. Last Minute: for the spontaneous sorts

Planning a weekend away, six months in advance, not quite your style? Perfect for the spontaneous sorts – and pretty handy right now when planning ahead might not be the best idea – Last Minute allows you to find flights, accommodation and more (as the name suggests) at the last minute. Don't worry, it doesn't mean you have to drop everything and go tomorrow – some deals are for weeks or months in advance.

Not only can this be a great way to save money – often hotels drop the price per night if you book last minute, as they're desperate to fill up – but the sense of immediate adventure may be just what you need right now.

8. Spabreaks: take time to unwind when spas reopen

If you're in search of rest and relaxation, look no further than Spabreaks. Drawing together the best spa weekends – and day trips – across the UK and Ireland, you're sure to find something local (or not, if you fancy a proper getaway) that suits your budget.

Spas are currently shut, but the hotels attached to many of them will be opening at the start of July. Book an overnight stay in a luxurious hotel, or wait and plan ahead for a full spa break, with all the treatments that are possible, at a later date.

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