Blue Monday. A load of marketing codswallop? Well, considering it was only coined in 2004 – when Sky Travel asked psychologist Cliff Arnall to come up with a “scientific formula” to explain the January blues – yes, probably. But whether or not the third Monday of January is the most miserable day of the year, there’s no doubt that this month can be a challenging one when it comes to keeping cheerful.
Festivities are over, bank account low, weather dodgy and the New Year resolutions already falling by the wayside. For many, it’s back to work, back to school and back to reality. Days may be getting longer, but it doesn’t feel like it, and spring is still a long way off.
So how better to keep yourself upbeat than to book a holiday and look forward to some time away? And with plenty of tempting offers dangled in front of us by the travel industry, it’s a good moment to think about saving some money on 2024 mini-breaks too.
Below we give 10 suggestions for great weekend pick-me-ups to keep you going in the short term, plus 10 longer breaks to look forward to later in the year.
What are you waiting for? Turn Blue Monday on its head and fill 2024 with some spirit-lifting, wallet-friendly fun.
The Emergency Pick-Me-Up Trip: short-haul options to book right now
Five-star hotel in Rome
Lift flagging spirits with a quick flit to Italy’s capital to soak up some culture, eat pizza and browse the shops along the fashionable Via del Corso. Take in the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Vatican and, if the weather turns chilly, pop into the Capitoline Museum to admire the paintings by Titian and Caravaggio.
Book it: Jet2 City Breaks (0800 408 078) offers savings on a three-night stay at five-star NH Collection Palazzo Cinquecento hotel, near the bars and restaurants of Rione Monti, from £627 b&b, including a £50 discount. Excludes transfers.
Ski break in France
Perk yourself up by heading to the twinkly, traffic-free centre and cobbled streets of Megève for a re-invigorating ski break. Little more than an hour’s transfer from Geneva, and with speedy access to the slopes, this resort is a top choice for a time-poor stay – and offers spectacular views of Mont Blanc as well as good restaurants both on and off the slopes.
Book it: Ski Solutions (020 7471 7700) offers savings on a four-night stay at three-star Hotel Au Vieux Moulin, with cosy bedrooms and bar, from £865 b&b, including a £60 discount.
Spa hotel in Wales
Treat yourself to a cosy stay at 600-year-old stone-built Bodysgallen Hall, a country manor house hotel near the resort of Llandudno with views of Snowdonia. Go for bracing rambles, take a dip in the indoor pool and treat yourself to a soothing treatment in the spa before enjoying a hearty afternoon tea in the elegant drawing room.
Book it: Bodysgallen Hall (01492 584466) offers winter sale savings on a two-night stay from £221 b&b, including a 35 per cent discount on stays, available until March 28, based on a standard cottage suite and including use of the spa.
Winter activities in Switzerland
Zap up the adrenaline levels in Grindelwald, where off-piste activities include mountain-top zip lines or winter walking, running and toboggan trails. You can also take an excursion on the Wengernalpbahn cog railway to Kleine Scheidegg for spectacular high-altitude views.
Book it: Inghams (01483 945792) offers “January 2024” savings on a four-night stay at four-star Hotel Belvedere in Grindelwald, with indoor pool and spa. From £1,231 half board, including a discount of £202 per person.
Seaside hotel in Suffolk
Blow away the blues with a bracing seaside stay at The Anchor, a ten-bedroom inn in Walberswick, a 30-minute walk from Southwold and a short drive to the 12th-century castle at Framlingham. The restaurant serves dishes based on local produce including Blythburgh ham and Bungay cheeses, and there are three dog-friendly rooms.
Book it: The Anchor at Walberswick offers a three-night “third night free” promotion from £160 b&b (saving £85 per person) based on a sea-view room, available Wednesdays to Sundays until March 27.
Sunshine and souks in Morocco
Seek out the sunshine by heading to Marrakech where February temperatures reach around 18C with up to 10 hours of daylight per day. A stroll around the exotic souks, with their wares of spices, textiles and traditional crafts, and the vibrant Jemaa el-Fnaa square should help to banish the winter blues.
Book it: Tui (0203 451 2688) offers savings on a three-night stay at four-star Riu Tikida Palmeraie, 30 minutes from Marrakech, from £407 all inclusive, including a discount of £52, based on a room with a balcony or terrace.
Rural retreat on the Isle of Wight
Recharge your batteries by booking a self-catering stay at Osborne House on the island’s north-east coast. Sovereign’s Gate, originally commissioned by Queen Victoria, is converted into two apartments, each with a private garden and access to the beach. The rental also includes entry to Osborne House.
Book it: English Heritage (0370 333 1181) offers a 20 per cent discount on all cottage stays until February 8. A three-night stay at No2 Sovereign’s Gate, sleeping four people, costs £396 total rental when using the code WINTER20 at check out.
Gourmet getaway in the Cotswolds
Forget the post-Christmas diet by booking a fine-dining stay at Lucknam Park, near Colerne and Castle Combe in Wiltshire. This Palladian mansion’s restaurant is overseen by Michelin-starred chef Hywel Jones, who sources local ingredients for carefully presented dishes served in formal surroundings.
Book it: Lucknam Park (01225 742777) offers a two-night Winter Gourmet Getaway break until March 28, from £582.50 based on a classic room, including a seven-course tasting menu dinner and a three-course à la carte dinner.
Mini-cruise to Amsterdam
Take to the water on a mini-cruise from Southampton to Amsterdam on P&O’s ship, Ventura, which offers a spa, sports facilities and four swimming pools. Evening performances take place in a large onboard theatre, and the cruise docks overnight at the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam, to allow for a full day of sightseeing.
Book it: P&O Cruises (0344 338 8003) offers a four-night cruise to Amsterdam, departing from Southampton, from £499 full board, based on a standard cabin with balcony. Bookings made before March 4 qualify for a £30 per person on-board spending money allowance.
Bracing walks in Yorkshire
Embrace the winter weather with a re-energising stay in the Yorkshire Dales for hearty hikes through remote valleys and along riverside trails. Landscape highlights include Malham Cove and Gordale Scar, while the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth and Skipton, with its 900-year-old castle, are among local excursions.
Book it: HF Holidays (020 3974 8865) offers a £20 discount on a three-night Southern Yorkshire Dales Self-guided Walking Holiday from £345 full board.
The On-The-Horizon Holiday: big trips to book for later in the year
Escorted tour to India
April 23 to May 3
Make 2024 the year to tour northern India’s most vibrant cities on an itinerary that includes the Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, plus a visit to the Taj Mahal at sunrise and a safari in search of tigers at Ranthambore. An additional highlight is the 9th-century Chand Baori step-well at Abhaneri.
Book it: Newmarket Holidays (0330 818 4466) offers savings on a nine-night India - Tigers and The Taj Mahal trip. From £2,886 full board, including a 15 per cent reduction if booked by March 15.
River Cruise on the Rhine
May 27 to June 3
Discover the romantic castles, riverside vineyards and dense woodland that border the Rhine on a relaxing river cruise from Strasbourg. The itinerary takes in the old town centre of Heidelberg, the wine centre of Rüdesheim, the spectacularly steep-sided Rhine Gorge, and an excursion on the Drachenfelsbahn railway, with a tour of Cologne’s Gothic cathedral.
Book it: Great Rail Journeys (01904 521936) offers savings on the seven-night Majestic Rhine cruise, aboard MS Amadeus, if booked by January 31. From £2,395 full board (reduced from £2,595) based on a classic stateroom, including rail travel from St Pancras.
Sun and spa in Tenerife
Plan some me-time on Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, with a stay at five-star Hotel Bahía del Duque. Overlooking a sandy beach in Costa Adeje on the southwest coast, it has five pools and a Bahia Wellness Retreat with over 20 treatment rooms. Numerous onsite restaurants offer a variety of cuisines including Italian, Japanese and traditional Mediterranean.
Book it: Sovereign Luxury Travel (01293 32446) offers a Luxury Sale saving at Hotel Bahía del Duque. From £1,243 b&b based on a garden view room (reduced from £1,517).
Cruise in the Northern Isles
June 23 to July 4
Explore Norway’s stunning fjord lands on a voyage departing from Liverpool, taking in the Scottish islands of Stornoway and Lerwick en route. Highlights include a cruise through Aurlandsfjord and Sognefjord, with shore excursions to Stavanger with its 12th-century cathedral and the scenic waterside village of Flam.
Book it: Ambassador Cruise Line (0808 303 2547) offers savings on an 11-night Northern Isles and Fjordland Adventure cruise from £1,479 full board, based on a standard plus inner cabin, a saving of £410 per person. An additional half-price drinks package applies to bookings made by February 13.
Seaside hotel in Mallorca
Book a relaxing stay at four-star Hoposa Pollentia, an adults-only hotel with gardens set near the sandy beach that fringes the bay of Puerto Pollensa on the island’s northern shore. It has a roof-top swimming pool, access to spa facilities at its sister hotel nearby and bike hire.
Book it: First Choice (0203 451 2690; firstchoice.co.uk) offers a Summer Sale discount at Hoposa Pollentia Hotel from £1,329 b&b based on a sea-view room, including a reduction of £250 for bookings made by February 29. Excludes transfers.
Family fun in Cyprus
July 26 to August 3
Look forward to a peak week family getaway for less in Cyprus, with a stay at five-star Annabelle Hotel in the southwest resort of Paphos. Catering well to children, it has three swimming pools, floodlit tennis courts, a crèche and club for children aged from three to 11 years.
Book it: Olympic Holidays (020 8492 6868) offers savings on stays at the Annabelle Hotel if booked by January 31. From £1,109 b&b, based on two adults and two children aged up to 12 years, in a family interconnecting room. Use the code SALE at check out for a January Sale reduction of £150.
Family adventure in Thailand
Introduce the children to the sights and sounds of Asia on a fortnight’s holiday in Thailand. This varied itinerary includes a seaside stay at four-star Khao Lak resort, two nights in the jungle staying at remote Elephant Hills Tented Camp in Khao Sok National Park, and a week in Krabi with its spectacular limestone cliffs, mangrove forests and sandy beaches.
Book it: Trailfinders (020 7368 1317) offers savings on a 14-night Jungle Thrills and Beachside Chills tour from £1,599 b&b (reduced by £212.50 per person), including some meals and activities, based on two adults and two children aged up to 12 years.
Safari in Africa
Join a small group tour in a maximum group size of 12 for an action-packed fortnight in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. Highlights of the itinerary include drives through Chobe National Park, Savuti, Moremi Reserve and a stay on a houseboat on the Okavango Delta to look for hippos, elephants, giraffes and leopards. The tour also includes a visit to the Victoria Falls.
Book it: Explore (01252 240444) offers 20 per cent Big Blue Sale savings on a 14-night Botswana Wildlife Safari from £2,756, including most meals (reduced from £3,445) for bookings made by January 20. Excludes flights and transfers.
Highlights of China
Head to China in an escorted group (of up to 28 guests), travelling from Beijing to Shanghai. The trip includes Xian, for the terracotta warriors, a four-night Yangtze River cruise, a visit to see pandas in Chongqing, an excursion on the Li River to Yangshuo and a traditional dumpling dinner with dancing.
Book it: Wendy Wu (0808 2581 863) offers a New Year Partner Flies Free on its 15-night Wonders of China tour from £4,040, reduced by £350 per person, for bookings made by January 31.
Road trip in the US
October 23 to November 5
Immerse yourself in the music and culture of America’s Deep South on an escorted tour from Atlanta in Georgia to the Texan city of Dallas, taking in Nashville, New Orleans and Houston. Among the highlights are visits to Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland, the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, and a rodeo at Fort Worth.
Book it: Riviera Travel (01283 893357) offers savings on a 13-night Deep South USA Plus Texas from £3,699 b&b, reduced by £500 per person for bookings made by January 31.
Prices are per person for seven nights and include discounts, flights and transfers based on departure dates quoted unless otherwise stated, and are subject to availability. Note that discounts may also apply to alternative departure dates