How to save on school holiday travel

If you are going ski-ing during the upcoming half-term, or are looking at booking your next summer holiday about now, no doubt you will have baulked at the massive jump in travel prices once the school holidays begin. The only alternative seems to be to take the children out of school – but that isn’t ideal either. Some schools even threaten to fine parents who take their offspring on holiday in term time.

The increase in price of package trips during the school holiday even prompted the Government to launch a scheme in co-operation with ABTA to encourage travel companies to offer cheaper deals in the holidays. But in June 2007, the project was quietly abandoned.

The reason is simple – the travel industry works on a principle of supply and demand, and hotel and flight providers increase their prices in the summer and during Easter and Christmas so the tour operators have to pass this increase on to the customer. But there are ways to beat the system.

Winter Sports
The price of ski-ing in February half-term has sadly put winter sports holidays beyond the reach of many families. But don’t rule out the Easter holidays – ski-ing towards the end of the season can be much cheaper. You might have to take a risk with the snow by going this late, so choose a “snow sure” resort.

The big plus with Florida is that it is warm all year round. February half term is an excellent time to go as it is not too hot, and queues at the theme parks should be much shorter. The other point worth bearing in mind with Florida is there is a vast choice of holidays – fly drive, all inclusive, room only…unsurprisingly, the big resort hotels show steep prices during the holidays so consider booking independently or going self-catering, and check out the transport links to the parks – you might not need a hire car. The best deal will come from shopping around – allow yourself plenty of time for this!

Summer Sun
Probably the most popular type of family holiday, but the prices out of term time can go up by 25-30%*. But again, savings can be made by going in May or October half-term. Most destinations are very pleasant in May especially, and with the heat being less stifling this is a good time to travel with younger children. The last week of the holidays in August is also often cheaper than the first week at the end of July.

Independent travel is also worth considering at this time of year. A holiday in a privately-owned gite in France can sometimes be 50% cheaper than the camping/mobile home holidays offered by tour operators.**

Don’t forget the insurance!
Lastly, whenever you travel, it is possible to make significant savings on your travel insurance. Shop around – sites like Moneysupermarket make this very easy – and remember you are not obliged to buy the travel insurance offered by your tour operator which can be much pricier. 24/7 travel insurance offers cover for a family holiday to Spain from just £15.27† so don’t pay more than you need!

*Source: Guardian Online, 24 June 2007
**Source: Telegraph Travel, 26 January 2008
† Includes Insurance Premium Tax; priced based on 2 adults under 55 and their two accompanying children aged under 18 taking out a Standard single-trip policy for 7 nights in Europe and travelling within 14 days of purchase.