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News inspiration Long-haul for less: where to go for early summer sun ☀️

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Long-haul for less: where to go for early summer sun ☀️

Was that a flake of snow we just felt? Why wait for summer to arrive, when you can escape before everyone else does, grab a bargain and still catch some rays. Ditch the unpredictable weather of the UK and fly far, far away to these top destinations.

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1. Orlando fly from £273

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You’d be forgiven for thinking the sunshine state is only wall-to-wall theme parks and larger-than-life Disney characters, but if you don’t have a pair of Mickey Mouse ears to hand, don’t rule it out. Search a little harder and you’ll discover that Orlando is a nature lover’s dream. Home to more than 100 lakes, if you zoom out on a map, it looks like someone has hole-punched their way through the state, leaving pockets of water everywhere. For lake spotting with a side of dramatic city views, walk the one-mile route around Lake Eola Park in Downtown Orlando. Water sports enthusiasts should head to the 400-acre Lake Bryan for wake boarding and tubing, or for a peaceful retreat visit the Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve. And if you’re in search of the sun and want to avoid the sugar-hyped crowds of Universal and Disney World, drive over to Cocoa Beach, a famous surfing spot soaked in sunshine and white sandy shores.

Why visit Orlando now? Heading over in the downtime between Easter (and the US spring break) and UK summer school holidays means it’ll be a little quieter. You’ll also get the best temperatures (as high as 31°C) and driest conditions without the heat being unbearable.

Where to stay: if you’re hitting up the theme parks during the day, you’ll want somewhere quiet and restful in the evening. The Caribe Royale is a serene and contemporary hotel set a little back from the busiest tourist spots but still easy to get to. Rooms from £81 a night.

Fly to Orlando from £273

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2. Bangkokfly from £293

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Once you’ve ticked off the Grand Palace (former home to royalty) and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (a sacred shrine), head to Khao San Road, a traveller hub for bars, restaurants and affordable accommodation. Want something a little quieter? Take to the water and go kayaking, windsurfing or sailing at Nong Bon Water Sports Center. Then, if you’re not too tired, take a leisurely stroll around the neighbouring King Rama IX Park, a large expanse of green space with paddle boats and lush gardens to explore. Head back into the city centre in the evening to watch the sun set at one of the many rooftop bars. We recommend the aptly-named Vertigo at the Banyan Tree, a 61-floor hotel with dizzying views of the city.

Why visit Bangkok now? Taking an early summer trip means you get the right balance between the heat and the rainfall. It’ll still be humid and you’ll get some showers to cool you down, but it’s cheaper than the peak tourist season of November to February, and the sea is at its warmest.

Where to stay: keep it simple and opt for the Prime Hotel Central Station, sat, as you may expect, next to the Hua Lamphong train station, just across the road from the Golden Buddha Temple. All for only £25 a night.

Fly to Bangkok from £293

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3. Dubaifly from £187

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With one of the largest retail and entertainment centres (the size of 50 football fields), the largest choreographed fountain (30 acres), and the tallest towers (the Burj Khalifa stands at 828 metres) – it’s hard to describe Dubai without resorting to superlatives. It can be an overwhelming destination, but pack your bags before the summer season and you can take things at your own pace. Get outdoors and enjoy the tranquil Zabeel Park – one of the first technology-led parks with interactive exhibits. From here, take a ride up the Dubai Frame (a gigantic photo frame, with a glass walkway held 150 metres above the city) where you can see old and new Dubai sat side by side. When you come back down to earth, visit the Old Quarter to get a feel for the city’s humble beginnings. Walk around Al Bastakiya, the oldest residential quarter and explore the complex maze of alleyways, where you’ll find buildings with wind towers – if only to remind you that there was once a life before air conditioning.

Why visit Dubai now? As the start of Dubai’s summer, May is the best time to visit if you want to make the most of the beaches, when the waters reach a toasty 25-28°C. And better yet, the chance of seeing a spot of rain is at an all-time low, so stock up on sunscreen and put the rain mac into hibernation. Not sure what else to bring? Read our essential packing list for every type of holiday.

Where to stay: many of Dubai’s beaches are private, so your smartest choice is to stay at a hotel with its own stretch of sand. You’ll also want one with a shaded outdoor pool – temperatures can reach the high 30s in the middle of the day. Ajman Hotel has all of the above, at an excellent location, from just £48 a night.

Fly to Dubai from £187

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4. Colombofly from £430

Photo credit: Aleksandr Zamotkin

Most people will fly into Colombo, the country’s international airport, and then race out again to explore the rest of this vibrant country. But before you do, spend a couple of nights in the capital and soak up the chaos of the island. Grab a tuk tuk (remember to haggle or you could easily get ripped off), hold on tight, and fingers crossed, you’ll end up at Viharamahadevi Park, great for a chilled afternoon exploring or cycling. Then pop over to the National Museum next door before heading to Pettah, a neighbourhood famous for its open-air bazaars. Be prepared, it takes rush-hour busy to a whole new level – but it’s worth it.

Ready to leave the city? Time to head south. Reward yourself with some relaxing beach time on the sandy, Jurassic-Park-like shores of Hikkaduwa. Then head round to the historical ruins of Galle and the safari opportunities of the southeast. Try Yala National Park for the chance to spot the elusive sloth bear.

Why visit Sri Lanka now? You don’t need to worry about the temperature here, it’s warm all year round and while you may get a few heavy downpours in May, they often help clear the hot and humid air. As Sri Lanka’s shoulder season, it’s also the cheapest time of year to visit.

Where to stay: situated on Marine Drive with spectacular views out to sea, Marino Beach is a modern hotel with some unique features, not to mention the rooftop pool and garden which runs the whole length of the building. Plus, it’s a 5-star hotel where you can get rooms from £72 a night – and who doesn’t love the luxury lifestyle for less?

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5. Mauritiusfly from £495

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Mauritius is known for its romantic beaches and blue, oh-so blue waters, but while it’s a honeymooner’s paradise, there are plenty of activities and summer-holiday fun to be had for the singletons too. Scuba diving and snorkelling is a must in such clear water. Blue Bay in the south east and Flic-en-Flac in the west are equally ideal locations to discover the tropical oasis beneath. Once you’ve swum the lagoons and reefs that encircle the volcanic island, it’s time to explore dry land. The interior landscape of rainforests and waterfalls is home to the very best hiking opportunities, as well as rare wildlife like flying foxes. For the best views, head to Black River Gorges National Park or climb the thumb-shaped mountain Le Pouce for epic panoramas over the island and ocean beyond.

Why visit Mauritius now? May has the clearest skies of the year in the Indian Ocean, with seven hours of sunshine a day and temperatures tipping 27°C. What more could you want?

Where to stay: with a dreamy swimming pool that sits alongside the crystal waters of the ocean, a free sunset cruise and rooms from only £61 a night, you won’t struggle to unwind at Ocean Villas.

Fly to Mauritius from £495

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All flight and prices mentioned in this article are estimates of the cheapest prices based on Skyscanner’s flight search tools. These are subject to change and were correct at time of writing on 15 April 2019.