How to turn 13 days of annual leave into 38 days of holiday (and where to go)

caribbean holiday beach travel 2023 bank holidays annual leave - Getty
caribbean holiday beach travel 2023 bank holidays annual leave - Getty

Savvy travellers know the value of judiciously using the bank holidays to their advantage to spend as much time as possible relaxing under a palm tree drinking cocktails out of coconuts. This year offers even more chances to maximise your annual leave, with an extra bank holiday to mark the King’s coronation on May 8.

Here we explain how you can turn 13 days of annual leave into 38 days of holidays, and offer suggestions for where to go. Act fast before your colleagues beat you to it...

Easter

Book four days off for a 10-day holiday (April 7-16)

  • Bank holidays: April 7 (Good Friday) and 10 (Easter Monday)

  • Book these days off: April 11, 12, 13, 14

Where to go?

In these financially straitened times, few countries look as enticing as Turkey. One pound is currently worth around 23 Turkish lira – up from 18 a year ago and just 8 in 2020, making this already affordable country even better value. Our guide to visiting Turkey’s key coastal regions includes flight information and tips on where to stay. If it’s an all-inclusive hotel you’re after, our feature on the world’s best includes two Turkish properties.

Turkey is among the cheapest options in the Med - Getty
Turkey is among the cheapest options in the Med - Getty

Madeira is another fine bet for Easter, whether you want to get out and do the levada walks (trails alongside irrigation canals) while the countryside is still lush, or just relax in town. Explore offers both a Madeira Island Discovery tour (from £859pp), and a Walking in Madeira holiday (from £840pp). Both last eight days.

Other European options include Crete, which offers everything from beaches, good food and ancient sites to some of the continent’s most spectacular hiking routes.

If you would rather stick with Blighty, Cornwall’s Roseland Peninsula is a lovely spot, offering sumptuous rolling countryside, fishing villages, woodland, superlative stretches of coast path, and manor houses with walled gardens. It also has its own microclimate, welcoming spring before the rest of the country. Who needs the Costas? Stay at the Driftwood, among the best seaside hotels in Britain.

Falmouth, Cornwall - EyeEm
Falmouth, Cornwall - EyeEm

Early May/King’s Coronation bank holiday

Book four days off for a 10-day holiday (April 29-May 8)

  • Bank holidays: May 1 and May 8

  • Book these days off: May 2, 3, 4, 5

Where to go?

To mark the coronation of the King, head to somewhere of which he would approve. That could be Poundbury, the love-it-or-hate-it new town in Dorset, built according to the King’s own traditional principles, or perhaps Transylvania. Charles III has a deep affection for this slice of rural Romania, even owning property there that can be hired by holidaymakers.

Jules Verne’s nine-night Treasures of Transylvania tour (from £1,395pp) begins in Bucharest and takes travellers to “medieval towns and rural villages, legendary castles and iconic ‘painted churches’, via mountain roads, river gorges, idyllic landscapes and inspiring heritage”.

Bran Castle, Romania - Getty
Bran Castle, Romania - Getty

Or keep your carbon footprint in check by embarking on a holiday by rail. The south of France will be warming up nicely by May, so jump on an early morning departure from St Pancras and you’ll be in Avignon by mid-afternoon – gateway to the Luberon, one of the country’s most enchanting corners, made famous by Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. A self-catering holiday in one of its stunning hilltop villages (Bonnieux, Roussillon, Gordes, Goult, Menerbes and Lacoste are the most enticing), with days trips to see regional capital Aix-en-Provence, magnificent (if overcrowded) Les Baux de Provence, Mont Ventoux (best tackled by bike if you’re feeling masochistic) and (further afield) the Gorges du Verdon, is hard to beat.

There is also a raft of new sleeper services connecting Europe’s great cities if you’d rather turn your rail holiday into an odyssey.

For a British break full of bluebell walks, Unique Homestays never fails to deliver. Its luxurious self-catering properties tick all the style boxes and are found in some of the UK’s most bewitching corners.

Spring bank holiday

Book one day off for a four-day holiday (May 26-May 29)

  • Bank holiday: May 29

  • Book this day off: May 26

Where to go?

We can’t think of many places nicer to spend a long weekend in late May than Porto. Oliver Balch, our expert on the city, writes: “Long regarded as Lisbon’s quieter sibling, Portugal’s second city is currently undergoing a magical moment of rejuvenation. Centuries ago, British merchant ships would cluster in Porto’s medieval harbour to ferry the region’s eponymous port wines back home. Now, the city’s river banks are crowded with hip new bars and cool pavement restaurants. Helping drive Porto’s transformation is its resurgent cultural scene, from world class concerts at Casa de Musica to exciting art exhibitions along Rua de Miguel Bombarda. But this ancient metropolis is not about to let itself be spoiled by tourism like many other popular European destinations. Portuenses love their old world ways too much to give them up. So staying put are the city’s cobbled streets and beautifully tiled churches, its lazy lunchtimes and touching friendliness. In short, what’s on offer is the best of both worlds.”

Other fine options include Palermo, one of Europe’s most sensuous cities, ancient, honey-hued Valletta, and the sultry tapas capital of Seville.

Gorgeous Porto - Alamy
Gorgeous Porto - Alamy

Summer bank holiday

Book one day off for a four-day break (August 25-28)

  • Bank holiday: August 28

  • Book this day off: August 25

Where to go?

There’s one obvious option for families during August – a long weekend at Disneyland Paris. You can get there non-stop from St Pancras on the Eurostar. Other options for flight-free weekend breaks include Amsterdam, which has a non-stop Eurostar link, or its sibling Rotterdam. See our ultimate rail map of Europe for more ideas.

Or else escape the heat and head for a Scandi capital. Copenhagen (linked to Malmo by one of the world’s great engineering marvels), Stockholm and Oslo all offer a similar combination of hip bars, watery vistas and imposing architecture.

Copenhagen - Muriel de Seze
Copenhagen - Muriel de Seze

For a UK break, brave the busy roads and beat a path to one of our lesser-known gems. How about Herefordshire, the English county that time forgot, or The Forest of Dean, which offers simple pleasures like cosy cabins without Wi-Fi, hearty food in unfussy pubs, and long walks through ancient woodland – with the chance of spotting skittish deer and wild boar?

Christmas/New Year

Book three days off for a 10-day holiday (December 23-January 1)

  • Bank holidays: December 25, December 26, January 1

  • Book these days off: December 27, 28, 29

Where to go?

You want warmth and it’s winter – so where better than the Caribbean? More than 7,000 individual islands make up this sun-soaked region – so picking just one is a tricky task. Some suit beachgoers, while others are made for adventure. There are islands for history buffs, naturalists, night owls and lovers of luxury. St Lucia offers a little of everything, making it the perfect option for first-time visitors to the region. BA’s all-inclusive packages start from £975pp.

Sugar Beach in St Lucia
Sugar Beach in St Lucia

Or, for even better value, there’s Sri Lanka. The political situation has stabilised since last summer, but visitor numbers – and prices – remain way down. Think beers for £1, rather than £7 in somewhere like the Maldives. It’s the perfect place to combine chilling on the beach with culture and wildlife, without breaking the bank. Trailfinders’ one-week Classic Sri Lanka tour costs from £1,097pp.