Avoid getting stung - book your holidays in advance

Travelling with the kids is often pricey, says Rob Griffin, but there are deals

Millions of families paying inflated prices for taking their children away during the school holidays can actually save a fortune by doing their homework.

The cost of flights and package holidays rockets at Christmas and during the summer because there's huge demand from thosetaking a break. A comparison of online deals carried out this week by Save & Spend illustrates the point. A 10-day self-catering trip for a family of four at Candia Park Village in Agios Nikolaos, Crete, would cost £1,244 during the first week of May, according to the website of Thomson Holidays.

However, the exact same holiday more than doubled in price to £2,748 in the first week of August.

Prices charged depend on the destination chosen, the travel operator, the departure airport and flight times, explains Darren Cronin, editor of Travel-Rants.com. "Saying it's all about supply and demand is a cop out," he says. "They should be working with local authorities to make holidays more affordable."

While parents are entitled to ask their child's school for permission to take them out before the end of term, this request can be turned down. Defying this decision can lead to a fine or prosecution.

But Kayte Williams, Holidays Channel Manager at comparison website Travelsupermarket.com argues that shopping around and booking in advance can result in major savings.

You can not only find plenty of offers available - even during peak times - but also take advantage of paying a small deposit now and the balance a few weeks before departure.

"It's also worth considering all-inclusive holidays as this means you won't have much to pay when you get to the resort," she adds.

Lorna Cowan, editor of Holiday Which? magazine, recommends people take a close look at the small print of brochures to ensure they're not going to be stung by hidden costs.

Other tips that can save you cash include travelling at unsociable times, building your own holiday by booking flights and accommodation separately and just haggling with the tour operators to get the best possible deal.

Much of this research can be done online, points out Cronin from Travel-Rants.com. "Spending a few hours comparing prices can save you hundreds of pounds," he says. "It's also worth considering independent travel agencies as they concentrate more on the customer."

There are cheaper alternatives to package deals. Many families opt to load up their cars, book a cheap deal on a ferry and go on a driving holiday to France, rather than facing the costs and hassle of flying.

Gail and Ian Isted from Maidstone, Kent, certainly favour this type of holiday. The couple who have two children - Poppy, four, and one-year-old Penny - recently drove to their skiing holiday in La Clusaz and are planning to go by car again. "We like the flexibility and the freedom it gives you when you get to your destination, as well as the fact there aren't any luggage limits - the amount we took was unbelievable," says Gail.

It still pays to book in advance even if you're just planning a driving holiday, warns Brian Rees from P&O Ferries. "If you leave it to the last minute you'll find other people have beaten you to the best deals," he warns. A return trip from Dover to Calais for a car and up to nine passengers in August would cost you around £90 at the moment, he says, but if you book just before you depart, the price could be double."We use the model introduced by the low-cost airlines where prices start off very cheap and then increase as more bookings are made," he explains. "It means that with every day - and every booking received - the price can potentially start rising."

School's out

* Can I take my child away during term time?

Parents don't have an automatic right to simply remove their children from school for holidays, but they can apply for permission, according to the Department for Education and Skills.

* Under the Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 1995, schools have the discretion to grant leave of absence for up to 10 days per school year for family holidays during term time.

* This leave of absence must be applied for and the decision to authorise absence for holidays rests entirely with the school which, in exceptional circumstances, can agree to grant more than 10 days.

'We're penalised for having children'

Carla and Phil Spencer are fighting back against the school-holiday price trap by scouring the internet.

The couple, who live in Elton, near Chester, have been facing major cost increases since son Ryan, five, started school.

But they are helping to offset the increases by using sites such as Travelsupermarket.com and Holidays-Uncovered.co.uk. "When we choose holidays it's on the back of weeks of research and reading online reviews," says Carla, 31, a mortgage consultant. "We also have a two-year-old girl, Yasmin, so we never book holidays without knowing exactly where we are going and what we're getting. It's nice to have the peace of mind that the hotel you've chosen isn't next to a bar pumping karaoke out until 4am!

Even with their research, the Spencers believe they must reduce the number of overseas holidays they take. Says Carla: "We can't afford to go twice a year any more because it's so much more expensive atpeak times."

This year the couple are planning to go to Greece to celebrate Ian's 40th birthday - but they are paying the price.

"It wasn't an option for us to take Ryan out of school," says Carla.

"We really don't want him to miss a couple of weeks. It's unfair people are being penalised for having children."

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform