How to spot a family holiday deal
|Published: 9th July 2007 11:33|
Family holidays are a major event, which if you're not careful can so severely dent the household finances that you wind up paying for them the rest of the year.
Putting it on the plastic to live now and pay later is the philosophy of many who normally wouldn't be able to afford an annual getaway.
But there are ways of saving money on family holidays. You just have to be a bit canny and take some time to untangle the red tape.
Holiday Which? has looked at how child pricing is applied and how, with a little homework, it is possible to find child deals and save money.
Its investigation found child prices to be both irregular and confusing.
While most parents always regard their offspring as children, the travel industry has different criteria, which can add to the cost of a holiday.
So when does a child start paying adult prices? Just like drinking, driving and smoking, the answer is it all depends. With regard to flights, it ranges from two-years-old on most budget airlines through to 16 years old on charter services. For package holiday accommodation it's usually 12 for hotels and 16 for self-catering.
Entry to attractions is just as confusing. One company, Tussauds Group, has three upper limits for children. The theme park Alton Towers, popular with teenagers, charges adult rates from 12 years, but its venue Madame Tussauds waits until 16.
Despite having to pay for pre-teens and teens as adults in some instances, the Holiday Which? report found that families can find deals to save them money.
Free child places on package holidays for example, do exist, but they are limited so it's wise to book early. And usually, a free place is limited to one per family and requires the child to be accompanied by two fare-paying adults.
Single-parent offers also exist, although they are few and far between. In some instances it can work out cheaper to play the travel industry at its own game and designate one child as an adult.
For example, Airtours Holidays promise that even if a free child place is not available they will offer great reductions for children. Reductions are available for children up to the age of 11 staying in hotels and chalets, and for children up to the age of 16 staying in self-catering accommodation.
However, you must read their small print carefully: Free and reduced child places are only applicable to children aged two to 11 in hotels and chalets and two to 16 in self catering accommodation. All ages are inclusive.
- A free child place means your child gets the basic accommodation and flights free.
- Once the free child places are taken you will have to pay the full child price shown.
- Optional extras such as board supplements are payable, as are deposits and insurance. Also, for child prices you have to pay the applicable flight supplement.
- Only those paying the full adult price count towards room occupancy, so accommodation supplements may be due.
If there are no child prices available then the adult price is payable.
- Unless otherwise stated, only two child prices are permitted on any booking.
- The return date of travel is used to calculate the age of a child.
Patricia Yates, editor of Holiday Which?, says, "The area of child pricing is fraught with contradiction, with the travel industry playing the child versus adult card to their advantage, especially when it comes to holiday ideas such as theme parks which are popular with young people. Yet getting through the tangle of child pricing needn't be difficult. Nor need it mean raiding the piggy bank to take the family on holiday. With a little bit of homework there are savings to be made, even during the popular family times such as July and August."
Tour operators traditionally charge more during school holidays to cater for supply and demand. Provided parents get permission from the head teacher, children can be taken out of school for a maximum of two weeks during term time, as long as it's for their annual holiday. If the request is turned down and the child still gets taken out of school, parents will be fined £50 for the first offence, rising to £100 for any further offences.
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