Think you've left it too late to book your summer family holiday? Don't panic: just for once, things could go your way. A combination of factors (the small matter of an economic recession, not the least of them) has left many holiday companies scrabbling to fill their capacity – yes, even in August. It may not be great news for them, but it means you can scoop up a host of jolly deals for your brood.
Some tour operators are taking drastic action in an effort to entice customers this summer. Take Cosmos, which late last month announced that it was offering two weeks for less than the price of one on a wide range of its holidays. For example, a fortnight in Rhodes or Zante starting on 24 August costs £279 per person in a self-catering apartment – you shell out £10 more if you stay only one week, and there are similar deals to the Canaries and Balearic Islands, Spain and Portugal.
Meanwhile, Esprit holidays (01252 618300; espritfamilyadventures.com) has slashed its prices by half on selected Alpine breaks for August, including a week in Alpe d'Huez for £799, down from £1,556, for a family of four, full board.
Of course, the main problem with leaving it late to book is that flights are very often extremely expensive – and when you're travelling en famille this adds up to the sort of total that make you want to stay at home, draw the curtains, and wait until the holiday season is all over. But may I suggest an alternative: boarding a good old-fashioned ferry and transporting you and your little darlings to pastures new for little more than £10 per person?
DFDS Seaways (dfdsseaways.co.uk; 0871 5747211), for example, is still offering August fares for £50 per car and four people on its Dover-Dunkirk route on selected midweek crossings this summer.
As for accommodation, Eurocamp has availability at the end of August – a week in the Vendée will set you back £750 in a mobile home or about £500 in a tent, while many French villa specialists are offering discounts on peak summer weeks that have been left unbooked. Why not take a look at the "great value" range at Tots to France (0845 2694126; totstotravel.co.uk).
I never thought I'd say this, but sometimes it pays to be a totally disorganised, badly prepared parent. Now, where did I put those passports?