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

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
News
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
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

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    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...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star