Half-term holiday and exchange-rate rip-offs

Planning to take the kids away next week? Beware the price hikes and hidden costs

Holiday firms have hiked the cost of travel by up to 249 per cent for the half-term holiday, greedily profiting from parents' desire to escape during breaks in the school term.

Around 4.8 million people are expected to go abroad this half-term, according to the Post Office, with many booking at the last minute. But the chance of finding a bargain looks remote as holiday companies cash in on the half-term boom.

For instance, anyone trying to book though travel website Expedia last week would have discovered that the price of a family holiday to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, leaving today, rose to £5,485.62 – three and half times more expensive than during term time. The following week the same trip for four costs £1,572.46.

Families flying from Manchester to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh faced similar soaring charges. A holiday package cost £6,544.58 during half-term, compared to only £2,433.08 the following week.

"Parents with children of school age face a massive premium if they want to take their children away during the half-term break," says Emma Roberts of Santander Cards. "It's not surprising that many families take their children out of school during term time and risk censure from their children's school rather than be hit by such staggering premiums."

Londoners are most hit by the rip-off surcharges with half-term package holiday prices rising an average 108 per cent compared to a 101 per cent increase for those flying from Manchester. However, it's still more expensive to fly from Manchester generally, with prices around a fifth higher across both weeks on package holidays.

Anyone booking just before they go is also facing extra costs in currency and insurance. "Late-bookers are creating stress for themselves and, more worryingly, putting themselves at risk," warns Sarah Munro, head of Post Office Travel Services.

"Buying foreign currency at the last minute can leave you with less cash to spend while you're away due to hidden fees and poorer rates. We also urge consumers not to leave their travel insurance to the last minute either to ensure they are covered for cancellation should an illness or an emergency happen before they travel."

If you're still hoping to get away, head outside Europe. With the pound plummeting to a six-month low last week, you'll get better value for money outside the Eurozone.

"While the value of the pound is still on the decline against the euro, travellers can get more for their money by heading outside the Euro-zone, with the US and closer-to-home destinations, including Turkey and Egypt, continuing to provide excellent value for money," says Peter Davies of Travelex.

In fact, the pound has increased in value over the last year by nearly 7 per cent against the Turkish Lira, resulting in an extra 29 Turkish Lira for every £500 they exchange. Those visiting the US can expect to receive almost $120 more for every £500 they exchange compared to six months ago.

Companies are also warning travellers about buying currency at the airport. Doing so could cost you as much as an extra £86 through fees and poor exchange rates, according to the Post Office. Even exchanging the average amount – £286 – could add an extra £22 to the overall cost.

Travelex.co.uk offers a price promise guaranteeing to beat other currency providers, with the best price foreign currency, commission-free, or the difference refunded. Book currency online to get the price promise and have it delivered to your home or pick it up at the airport. You can get a four-hour pre-order service on US dollars through the firm.

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