Each year parents face the same dilemma when it comes to organising a holiday outside of term-time – how to enjoy a well-earned family break, while still staying within a reasonable budget.
A price comparison between in term and term time holiday costs by Nationwide Building Society, conducted earlier this year, revealed that parents have a right to be concerned about soaring holiday costs once school’s out.
A family trip to Disneyland Paris during school holidays would cost parents almost £400 extra*, while a package holiday to Spain would set parents back a staggering £1,000 more once the school holidays are underway.
With breaks during ‘official school holidays’ providing a significant hit to parents’ wallets it’s no wonder that more than a third (37%) of parents have admitted to taking their children out of school in order to bag a cut-price holiday.
While the fact that holiday prices shoot up outside of term time can’t be denied, there are a number of ways that parents can holiday on a budget – regardless of the time of year they set off. Here’s how.
Hire a villa with other families
Generally the more people a villa can accommodate, the lower the cost will be for each individual. So why not try teaming up with another family for a joint holiday? As an added bonus you can split the cost of your weekly holiday shop and any other group expenses you may incur on holiday, such as car hire.
You can also take turns babysitting when one set of parents wants to head out on the town without the kids in tow.
Ask for top tips on holiday forums
A quick internet search will throw up a number of holiday forums, including some on parenting sites. Sign up and ask fellow travellers for their top tips for saving cash on a family holiday. You may find out about an island that has yet to be unearthed by the tourist masses, and therefore still be charging low prices for anything from restaurants meals to hotel rooms, or low-profile tour operators that offer free child places.
Keep an eye on the news
Monitoring the news will help you determine which countries are attempting to lure holidaymakers with cheap holidays as a result of a dip in tourism. This could be due a number of circumstances such as a weakened economy, currently faced by eurozone countries such as Greece and Spain, or the fact that a country is recovering from recent skirmishes. However, to ensure the safety of both you and your family it is important to check advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) before you travel.
Go by coach
For families that can face a 10-hour+ journey to the continent, going by coach with operators such as National Express could set you back as little as £9 one-way to destinations such as Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam**. To make what will invariably be a long journey that bit more bearable, ensure that you are fully stocked up on blankets, snacks and games to ensure that the whole family is kept happy.
Build up air miles
A number of credit cards give you the chance to build up air miles that can be used towards an aspect of your holiday, such as flights. However, it is important to bear in mind the interest charges that are attached to your card, and to ensure that you take steps to use your card responsibly.
Go DIY on excursions
While the convenient option on holiday is to always go for a hotel or tour operator organised excursion, you may find that you pay a fraction of the price by going DIY. As an example a couch tour from central Paris to Versailles, including entrance fee can set you back £45. Organise this yourself and you could pay less than half price. Simply book an entrance ticket to the palace in advance for £16 and get a return RER train for €5***.
Many attractions may also offer free admission for children under a certain age.
A number of countries also offer a sightseeing pass, which includes unlimited access to public transport and discounts at museums, restaurants and more. The Barcelona Card for example starts at just from just under £30**** and offers free admission to over 20 top Barcelona attractions as well as free unlimited travel on Barcelona public transport including metro, city buses and train service from the city centre to Barcelona Airport, and more.
Enter holiday competitions
For families that are determined to save on the cost of their holiday, what could be better than a free holiday? There are a number of online competitions for holidays that are free to enter. If you get lucky you could enjoy anything from a five-star holiday in the US to a beach holiday in Portugal: what’s not to love about ‘comping’?
** Price listed on site on 20.09.13 http://www.nationalexpress.com/coach/eurolines%20website%20stuff/9-pound-offer-page.aspx