Q and A: How to bag your personal package

The Independent Parent: Your Questions Answered


Q.We are planning our first foreign holiday with our children aged 10 and 12 and our new baby son, and feel a package holiday may be the best option. We are considering southern Europe; the Algarve, Turkey or the Adriatic. We would prefer self-catering accommodation with a town and pool or beach nearby. What countries and operators should we be looking at? We hope to travel between mid-July and August for 10-14 nights on a budget of £1,800-£2,500.

Q.We are planning our first foreign holiday with our children aged 10 and 12 and our new baby son, and feel a package holiday may be the best option. We are considering southern Europe; the Algarve, Turkey or the Adriatic. We would prefer self-catering accommodation with a town and pool or beach nearby. What countries and operators should we be looking at? We hope to travel between mid-July and August for 10-14 nights on a budget of £1,800-£2,500.

P Stephenson & L Dyke, via e-mail

A.The big four package holiday companies are Airtours, Thomson, First Choice and JMC. They have the buying muscle to offer competitive prices on mainstream beach holidays to all the destinations you mention, with flights from airports all over the UK. But it's also worth considering small, specialist operators. The Association of Independent Tour Operators (0870 751 8080, www.aito.co. uk) represents over 150 independent tour operators. Most are small, owner-managed companies, specialising in a particular destination or type of holiday. Their personal services can turn a summer holiday into something special, and they often offer in-depth knowledge of the area.

Italy is arguably the least developed of Mediterranean summer-holiday destinations, and if you are after a low-key, family-friendly destination it is hard to beat. The south-east of the country offers a choice of quiet holiday spots off the tourist trail.

The mountains, forests and beaches of the Gargano Peninsula are unspoilt and spectacular. Long Travel (01694 722193, www.long-travel.co.uk) is a family-run company that specialises in self-catering and farmhouse accommodation in this region. The company also rents the conical-roof trulli houses typical of the Puglia region. One example is Trullo di Sabrina, outside the little town of Cisternino, a house that sleeps four plus an infant. In peak season, two weeks costs £1,340 including car hire, plus £254 each for return Gatwick-Brindisi charter flights (£20 discount for the under 12; baby travels free). Cisternino is an hour from Brindisi airport and 10 minutes from the beach. The total cost brings you around £200 within budget, which should go some way towards covering food costs. You could also try other specialist Italian tour operators such as CV Travel (0870 6039018, www.cv-travel.com) and Individual Travellers' Vacanza in Italia (08700 780186, www.indiv-travellers.com).

In Turkey, consider resorts like Bodrum and Marmaris. Simply Travel (020-8541 2204, www.simply-travel.com) has a selection of villas and apartments in beautiful locations. A two-week stay in a two-bedroom apartment in the village of Akaya would cost £2,590 in high season, including flights and transfers. Akaya is a quiet village, set among forested hills, with an attractive beach. The Okaliptus Apartments are 10 minutes' walk from the beach, but also have their own pool. There is also a crêche and children's club at the resort. This is slightly over your budget, but as with the Italian option, your food costs should be minimal.

For Portuguese villas, the Villa Agency (01392 424 4000, www.thevillaagency.co.uk) has over 120 self-catering properties located in the Algarve, Cascais, Sintra and Arrábida. Villa Boa in the Algarve is within walking distance of the shops and restaurants of Cerro Grande (west of Albufeira). It does not have its own pool, but it is a short walk to the beach and a communal pool. The cost is £2,148, including return flights, car hire and accommodation.

For other packages, try Simply Portugal (020-8541 2207, www.simply-travel.com).

Q. We are thinking of holidaying near Innsbruck next summer. We have three children, one aged eight and five-year-old twins. We would like to stay in a mobile home or chalet, and ideally travel by train. How long would this take and what would it cost? Would we be able to break the journey on the way there and back? If we fly, which airport is closest to Innsbruck?

V Sewry, via e-mail

A.Getting to Innsbruck by train is a bit of a trek and may not be the bargain you imagine. International Rail (01962 773 646; www.international-rail. com) offers train or Motorail travel to Austria combined with a chalet holiday. Travelling by Eurostar from Waterloo to Brussels with a train connection from there to Innsbruck, with accommodation in a five-berth sleeping compartment and transfers to and from the chalet, will cost £772.59 for the five of you in high season. The trip would take 14-15 hours, but you could break the journey either way at no extra cost – mention this when you book.

If you want to drive your car, travelling by ferry from Dover and on to Salzburg via Denderleeuw using Motorail will cost £932 return. The train journey would take about 13-14 hours; add the ferry crossing and the two- or three-hour drive from Ostend or Calais, and expect an 18-hour journey.

International Rail suggests two self-catering chalets for your family. The first is in Telfs, a pretty town 15 minutes by train west of Innsbruck, and the second near Wörgl, among meadows and woods, 30 minutes east of Innsbruck by train. The three-bedroom chalet in Telfs costs £452 for two weeks; the two-bedroom chalet in Wörgl costs £584 for two weeks.

Further from Innsbruck is the lakeside resort, Zell am See. Keycamp (0870 7000 123, www.keycamp.co.uk) offers mobile-home holidays at a campsite there, with a swimming pool, gym and sauna. A mobile home that sleeps six is £1,305 for a fortnight, including a ferry crossing.

If you decide to fly, Ryanair (08701 569 569, www.ryanair.com) flies from Stansted to Salzburg daily; return fares start from £40. Your onward journey by train from Salzburg will be one and a half hours to both Wörgl and Zell am See, and around two and a half hours to Telfs. Families can also use a 1 Plus ticket, where the first person pays full fare and every other traveller pays half price (children under six go free). Sofor all five of you to travel from Salzburg to Zell am See, it would cost £32. For further details, visit www.austria-tourism.at/uk/.

Send your family travel questions to S F Robinson, The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS Or crusoe@independent.co.uk

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