How to turn 12 days of annual leave into 37 days of holiday (and where to go)

Savvy travellers know the value of 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 honour the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee on June 3. 

Here we explain how you can turn 12 days of annual leave into 37 days of holidays, and offer suggestions for where to go. Act fast before your colleagues beat you to it…


Book four days off for a 10-day holiday (April 15-24)

Bank holiday: April 15 (Good Friday) and 18 (Easter Monday)

Book these days off: April 19, 20, 21, 22

Where to go?

Madeira is a 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, and a Walking in Madeira holiday. Both last eight days. Currently, Britons can visit Madeira but must be vaccinated or take an antigen test within 48 hours of departure. 

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 (Greece, like Madeira, can be visited with evidence of a vaccine or negative test).

If you would rather stick with Blighty, Cornwall’s Roseland Peninsula is a lovely spot. Andrew Eames, writing for Telegraph Travel, explains: “The Roseland is Cornwall at its best. Sumptuous rolling countryside, steep-creeked fishing villages, tangles of woodland grizzled with lichen, superlative stretches of coast path, and estate manor houses with walled gardens. It has its own microclimate: down by the waterside in the wooded glade of St Just I find myself in a churchyard that doubles as a botanical garden, its tombs hidden behind stands of bamboo and with monkey puzzle trees among the gravestones. You could almost be on a Costa somewhere, but without having punched a hole in the ozone layer.”

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Madeira is heaven for walking holidays

Credit: Getty

Early May bank holiday

Book one day off for a four-day holiday (April 29-May 2)

Bank holiday: May 2

Book this day off: April 29

Where to go?

We can’t think of many places nicer to spend a long weekend in early May than Porto. Oliver Balch, our expert to 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 tart itself up and pimp itself out for the tourists like so 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.”

A cheaper option, of course, would be Britain. So go hunting for bluebells instead. Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire, Blickling Hall in Norfolk and Buckland Abbey in Devon all have superb displays. See our guide to the best hotels in HertfordshireNorfolk and Devon

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Search for bluebells on British shores

Credit: Getty

Spring/Platinum Jubilee bank holiday

Book three days off for a nine-day holiday (May 28-June 5)

Bank holidays: June 2 (Spring bank holiday) and June 3 (Platinum Jubilee bank holiday)

Book these days off: May 30 and 31 and June 1

Where to go?

Keep your carbon footprint in check by taking the Eurostar to the south of France. 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, Rousillon, 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. France welcomes vaccinated UK arrivals, and will soon drop its pre-departure testing requirement. 

For a British break, 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. Last summer I stayed at Sundance, on the North Cornwall coast, and seriously considered never leaving. 

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The Luberon has no shortage of gorgeous villages like this

Credit: Getty

Summer bank holiday

Book one day off for a four-day break (August 26-29)

Bank holiday: August 29

Book this day off: August 26

Where to go?

There’s one obvious option for families. “August’s last hurrah is perfect for a long weekend at Disneyland Paris,” says Telegraph Travel’s Chris Leadbeater. “Parents unenamoured with talking mice and ducks may also say that this is quite long enough.” You can get there direct on the Eurostar. 

Other options for flight-free breaks include Amsterdam, which now has a non-stop Eurostar link, or its sibling Rotterdam. See our ultimate rail map of Europe for more ideas. Or brave the busy roads and beat a path to one of Britain’s lesser-known gems. How about Herefordshire, “the English county that time forgot”, according to Clive Aslet, 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 even wild boar.

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Picture-perfect Amsterdam

Credit: Getty

Christmas/New Year

Book three days off for a 10-day holiday (December 24-January 2)

Bank holidays: December 26 (Boxing Day), December 27 (Christmas Day substitute), January 2 (New Year’s Day substitute)

Book these days off: December 28, 29 and 30. 

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. Tui, BA and Virgin, among many others, offer all-inclusive packages. Head there next winter, kick back with a rum punch, listen to the sound of water lapping the shore, and Covid, lockdowns and social distancing will all feel like a bad dream…

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