Booking a holiday is usually a DIY jobby for me and has been for a long time. I search for the cheapest flights, hunt down the right accommodation, sort the airport transport – usually involving me, a foreign ticket machine and an anxiety ridden train journey – I trawl through trip advisor for local restaurant recommendations and scroll through travel blogs for activity inspo.
That’s how I’ve done it for most of my adult life. I unfortunately graduated at the same time that the recession hit, so strolling along to a travel agent to have them plan and book an entire trip was a luxury I was never able to afford. Instead it was a case of scouring the internet for deals and booking the trip in broken pieces.
And I’ll be honest, it used to give me a thrill, hunting down the cheapest flights I could find, reading hotel reviews, basically planning the best holiday within my budget. But these days I don’t have time. Back in January when I was planning my Barcelona trip, it just became a hassle. Between working full time, blogging and instagramming on the side, plus of course my training, the last thing I wanted to do at the end of a looooong day was trawl the internet for all of the above.
But recently I went on a trip with Jet2 holidays and this was not the case! There was no trawling, no scouring and no click after click after click on my laptop as my eyes rolled to the back of my head.
Ladies & gentleman, I introduce to you, the return of the package holiday…
Booking through Jet2.com does of course require the small effort of going online and choosing your destination, but most of the work is done for you and the prices are astonishing, with most holidays including flights, car hire, food, baggage allowance – it’s simples!
So when Jet2 came along with a holiday that left very little work to do – basically pick a destination and pick some dates – I was sold! In the words of Peter Kay it was a case of “Booked it, packed it, f***** off.” Before I knew it me and my bestie we’re off to spend four days in Madeira, a tiny island belonging to Portugal that was popular for hiking, dolphin spotting and famous for Madeira cake (and yup, I totally took a holiday from vegan life to scoff several pieces).
But what should one expect from a package holiday these days??
I hadn’t been on one in ten years! Ten bloody years! Not since my sister and I spent a week in Turkey doing the standard girls holiday routine of sunbathe, swim, drink, repeat. After that, I got a different kind of travel bug and the rest of my twenties was spent living out of a rucksack in South America, hostel hopping around Asia, camper-van’ing around Australia and caravaning in the U.K.
So when we headed to Madeira, I didn’t know what to expect – British tourists left, right & centre? A dodgy buffet with questionable food? Stained hotel walls perhaps? Maybe even a cheesy children’s entertainers?
Not at all.
Instead the trip felt like the relaxing break I really needed, it was like we were in our own little paradise!
You can include a car hire in your package – which if you head to the island of Madeira, I would recommend, as public transport is pretty much non-existent there, and trust me you want to tour this island. Our journey from the airport to our hotel reminded me of my time travelling through Laos or Thailand; just so many huge mountains packed with beautiful deep green trees and tummy-turning drops.
We arrived at our hotel, Estalagem do Mar, which whilst not the most modern hotel, was the beautiful, simple and paradise-like resort we had so badly wanted. Huge tall palm trees were dotted around the grounds, surrounding a large outdoor pool that overlooked the ocean. The deep blue waves were crashing just yards in front of the sun loungers. Whilst waves danced in front of the hotel, to the side of it stood a giant mountain with a waterfall splashing down. It was beautiful. This was not what I had expected. At. All.
Excluding hostel breakfasts, I can’t remember the last time I stayed in a resort that had buffet food. Both our breakfast and dinner was included in the trip and we were spoilt for choice. For breakfast there was the usual continental food available; bread & croissants with jams, plus cereals. There were eggs, beans, sausages, bacon, mushrooms and toast to help yourself too if you wanted a cooked breakfast. Plus yoghurts and fruits for a healthier option.
As a vegan I was disappointed there was no soya milk, but I picked myself some up at a supermarket and took it down with me each morning so that I could enjoy coffee and cereal … usually followed by beans on toast! And fruit! And Madeira cake if there was any going (naughty vegan).
Dinner was delicious and different every night. As a newbie vegan I no longer eat meat, but they did put on a great selection, which my chum very much enjoyed each night, every evening offering a different type of fish too (first night tuna steaks, followed by rainbow trout the next night, and barracuda on our last night) plus chicken, pork and beef, usually cooked and served slightly different each evening. There was always some sort of pasta available, and rice, with plenty of veg on offer too, and a big salad bar with loads to gorge on. Being vegan, most evenings I had pasta with veg and loads of salad as well as a bowl of soup which also changed each night.
My favourite was the dessert though. Oh my lord! My non-dairy diet was questioned as I gorged on Madeira cake, fruit dipped in chocolate from a fountain, jelly with cream … the dairy vegan guilt would creep in every now and then my but tastebuds would banish it every evening “I’m on holiday” I’d tell myself.
And honestly, I’d swim back to Madeira for a slice of that cake, I’ve never tasted anything like it.
As well as an outdoor pool, our hotel also had an indoor pool, a sauna, a spa where there were multiple treatments on offer (which we of course indulged in) a tennis court, a bar, and not forgetting Belinda – our favourite receptionist EVER! Belinda was probably the most bubbly and happy person I’ve met in a long time. She was incredible at sorting and booking our excursions and day trips. On our second day we went dolphin spotting and on our third day we went on a hike up in the mountains and waterfalls (don’t worry, I’ll be writing separate blog posts about those two adventures).
The best part about this package holiday and resort? It sounds completely daft, but it was probably the sound of the waves crashing right outside our balconies (ahem, we had two.) I love hearing the ocean and waking up to that each morning was beautiful. Again, it was a million miles away from the package holiday I had pictured in my head, which looked something like a scene from Benidorm. I even took myself out for a run alongside the coast one morning, breathing in that clean Portuguese air, watching the waves crash – it was stunning to say the least.
Secondly, would be how easy it all was. It made such a change not to think about where to eat, and to just be on a trip that was purely about chilling out and having a proper holiday, as appose to a race or marathon weekend away, which as much as I love, they are truly exhausting.
In fact I was scrolling the Jet2 Holidays site last night again, looking at maybe booking a late-summer cheeky relaxing getaway and I found a few all-inclusive holidays to Greece for less than £250pp! Thats including flights with a 22k baggage allowance. And did you know they do villa holidays too? Perfect if you and the girls (or lads!) want to do a week away for some fun in the sun. Think Love Island but without all the drama!
Where would you like to Jet off to with Jet2.com?