There is no doubt that taking your family holiday firmly within school holiday dates costs heaps more than it does to skip school and travel during term time. There is also no doubt that family holidays are invaluable in terms of cultural experience, learning and family bonding. So, if you want to keep to the rules and your budget then you need to get savvy about how to book your family holiday!
Book your accommodation before flights
The whole school holiday debate exists as demand out strips supply so of course prices are higher on peak dates but booking early helps. From a Hotel owners point of view they are always keen to get some early sales to get a feel for how the year might unfold and so they often release some crazy early booking discounts. The trap that we fall into is that the no-frills Carriers, especially Easyjet often haven’t released their flights at this time so we wait for both, by which time you have missed the boat. If it is a popular destination with at least a few flights a week I would book my accommodation and then keep an eye out and nab the flights as soon as they go on sale.
Do I need an ATOL certificate?
This brings me nicely onto the ‘ATOL’ certificate which is only given when you book a package holiday and not if you book flight and hotel separately. It protects you in case either the airline or the hotels fails and you are unable to go or complete your holiday. It is a nice-to-have but at what price? It is worth costing a package and booking your own flights and accommodation to see. If you are really spending your last beans on your holiday or taking a complicated tour where all the elements really need to fit together then the financial protection is essential , if you are taking a week or two to one well-known resort hotel then I would save the money and take the risk any day.
What I would not risk is booking direct with an overseas owner as there is ongoing some massive scams, most commonly in the villa sector. I personally know one very intelligent and sensible family who have lost thousands of pounds. Stick to a UK-based or well-known company with some company credential such as ABTA membership as you can be sure they are obliged to play by the rules.
There are a few dates that are known to be cheaper; the last week in August in most hotels is significantly cheaper than the first 3 weeks, if the school holidays allow you to squeeze in a week before Christmas you will save heaps and those inset days when attached to half terms mean you can get some much better flight prices.
The Best value destinations
If you are just looking for some luxury, beach/pool and sunshine in a family friendly environment consider destinations that have good weather but are not in peak season. The Canary Islands are an excellent example of this with fabulous weather during our summer but excellent value prices, usually much cheaper than the Med as they consider winter their peak season.
Well not too much, it is your holiday but don’t get stuck on the star rating too much. Often hotels have 5 star deluxe ratings as they provide lots of extras and facilities that might not be relevant to a family holiday. If I had to give star rating to hotels on family friendliness it would be as much about good value family suites, early suppers, warm milk, heated pools, space to play more than the provision of an iron in the room!
Don’t miss out on your family holiday, you really are investing in memories long after your children have grown up.
Jo MacGregor is the founder and owner of Quo Vadis Travel, The Family Holidays Company, www.familyholidayscompany.com which is an ABTA bonded travel agency specialising in Luxury Family Holidays, both packages and accommodation only.
Jo has recently written a Guide on the packed with holiday ideas for each of the 3 main school holidays and the 3 half terms. You can get your FREE copy whilst stocks last HERE.
Find information on Quo Vadis and lots of other after-school activities and holiday camps for your children at www.all4kidsuk.com