The weather may be bleak with heavy showers and snow on the horizon but all that will be forgotten this weekend as thousands of families turn their attentions to summer holidays.

Tomorrow has been dubbed ‘Sunshine Saturday’ and is expected to be one of the busiest days of the year for travel agents in Suffolk and north Essex as holidaymakers take advantage of early booking offers.

Thomson and First Choice estimate more than one million people will visit their websites or shops this weekend.

In-store bookings are predicted to peak from 2-3pm on Saturday, while online purchases are predicted to reach their highest level at 8pm.

More than 40% of online bookings are expected to be made via tablets or mobiles.

According to Abta, one of the main reasons for booking early is that travel companies offer their best deals in January and February, including a limited number of free child places.

The travel organisation carried out research which found that the popularity of early booking is being driven by young people, with 42% of 16 to 24-year-olds confirming their holiday plans further in advance in the past 12 months than in previous years.

Abta’s 2016 Travel Trends report found that “tried and trusted destinations” such as Spain, Portugal and Italy will be popular due to “geopolitical uncertainty” elsewhere.

Away from Europe, bookings to Cuba, Cape Verde, Kenya and Thailand have been described as “very healthy”.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “Early bookers are able to take advantage of a range of benefits and discounts, so we hope that customers will make the most of these.

“Benefits are even more pronounced for families, where availability of child places for the summer months can fill up quickly.”

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