9 tricks to beat the school holiday travel price rises

First published on Friday 3 February 2023

Family at airport / half term sign

Believe it or not, there are ways to avoid paying more to holiday in half terms and summer school holidays

As parents, there's nothing more infuriating than holiday prices sky-rocketing in the school holidays, compared to term-time prices.

And not being able to take the kids out of school for an unauthorised family holiday without facing a fine and missing school can make finding an affordable family holiday really hard.

However, there are ways it can be done!

The team at Money Saving Expert (MSE) have put a list of tricks and tips together to help you avoid paying more for your family holidays.

1. Look for cheap hidden booking dates

The MSE team point out that sometimes your child's school may have different term dates compared to other schools in different parts of the country. This means huge savings can be made if you're careful.

Two years ago, schools across Yorkshire had 7 weeks off during the summer, while all other schools had 6 weeks off, which meant parents in that area were able to book at 'term-time' prices, despite it still being school holidays for them.

Inset days can also be useful for nabbing cheaper long weekends away.

You can use the website to discover when schools in your local area are off, as well as checking directly with your school too, due to varying inset days and term dates.

You can then Google other schools' dates to compare – the Day Out With The Kids website has a great summary covering the different 2023 dates across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Next, figure out where your child's school differs from others and get booking!

2. Villas can be cheaper than hotels

Cheap villas and apartments can sometimes save you more than spending on multiple hotel rooms for your family, say the MSE team.

Although villa prices do increase during the summer, they don't always rise as much as package holidays, plus a bit of negotiation can often be done.

You can use direct booking websites to look for holiday rentals (and you can get help here), but watch out if you're booking directly with an owner as you'll have less protection.

3. Use BA Executive Club points for cheap school holiday flights

You can use BA Executive points to bag cheap flights during the school hols, says the MSE team.

Although the amount of points you'll need to spend will increase during peak times, spending slightly more Avios points (5-30%) could be much less compared to how much normal flight prices rise by.

MSE warns families to plan ahead, as Avios flights are limited, with their seats going quickly during peak times. It also advises that the best to start looking is about a year in advance. Check out more advice here.

4. Check other countries' term dates

It's also well worth checking other countries' differing term dates for cheaper prices. For example, many US states and regions have kids going back to school in early or mid August, great for those travelling to Florida.

Many European countries like France also don't have a May half term.

You can use the PublicHolidays website or Google to find out what other countries' term dates are.

5. Use a tool to plan your holiday around the cheapest flights

If you need to travel during specific dates but are prepared to be flexible with your holiday destination, you can use Skyscanner to look for cheap flights by date.

Use the tool to enter where you're leaving from, your desired dates, click on 'Everywhere,' and you'll be presented with all the flights that fit. This lets you plan your vacation solely around the cheapest flights during the school hols.

6. Use free child place finders to find bargains

Parents can use the 'free child place finder' tools on travel agents like First Choice, Jet2 and Tui to find free kids' places on hols.

All you'll need to do is put in details like your children's ages, departure airport and travel destination, and your desired month to find trips which include the offer.

The deal is usually one free child place along with two full paying adults on selected trips. These deals fast for school holiday dates so be sure to snap them up quick.

Just remember to always compare the price with nearby dates which don't offer free child places, as since the total holiday cost is what counts, tour operators often lump the cost elsewhere.

7. Go to camping parks instead of 'fancy resorts'

Mobile home breaks in European parks make great holiday destinations, and you can check them out using website likes Eurocamp, but Canvas Holidays, Yelloh!, Huttopia. These usually end up being cheaper than booking a hotel.

Or, for a glamping adventure with the family, you can check out Hipcamp and Canopy & Stars.

8. Take your 'main' holiday during half-term

Booking your holiday over the May or October half-term can mean saving tons on your getaway. Plus, it makes a great way for small children to avoid the searing heat in some super sunny destinations.

9. Book your getaway with school trip firms (and book late)

You can use PGL to book budget-friendly family adventures across four centres in England, and they're often available during the school hols.

To get the best deals, try waiting to book until six weeks in advance, as prices usually drop. Costs include accommodation and food, mainly made up of en-suite family rooms in country houses.

Looking for more ways to save? Here's how to get the weekly food shop done for under £20. Or, if you need help talking to your kids about the cost of living crisis, check out our guide here ...

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