The holiday price hike

Recently I had a bit of a shock. I was engaging in an activity I’ve become accustomed to over the years but suddenly the game has changed, the goalposts have been moved and the stakes have risen.

Let’s start at the beginning. Back in September 2014 my eldest child embarked upon his “big” school life, entering Reception year at our local Primary. I was well aware that this milestone was going to affect all of us as a family, putting time pressures and (soon, I fear) homework and attainment stresses on all of us. One of those time pressures very much includes the strict limitations we now have when it comes to family holidays, and of course I was familiar with the debate which rages on with regards price surges at peak, school holiday, times of year.

However it’s not until you sit staring at the price calendars of various holiday companies and tour operators as you mull your, suddenly non-existent options, that it really hits home.
According to research the average price leap for a holiday taken in the school break is 30% although in reality this seems to vary massively from one company to the next.

This time last year the topic was all over the news as Michael Gove’s new policy of taking away schools’ discretion in allowing reasonable levels of term time holidays and imposing strictly enforceable fines for doing so hit the headlines with a petition started by a disgruntled mum eliciting 170,000 signatures and forcing a debate in Parliament.
The petition called for the government to enforce caps on holiday companies charging more for peak season breaks so that perceived unfair profiteering which arguably takes advantage of us poor parents would finally ease off.

Funnily enough nothing came of this as the government pointed out that the travel industry has to charge more for peak season in order to survive the rest of the year. Market forces, yada yada yada.

So where does that leave us? Well, Cameron has very kindly given us the ability to petition our own schools for a staggered term time from September this year thereby avoiding the summer gridlock. But what if you have two children in different schools with different term dates? Nightmare! Personally I don’t see this happening in individual schools as it would be seen as an unwanted administrative headache.

But if staggered term dates were imposed nationally, doesn’t it stand to reason that the travel companies would catch on and just hike up their prices for several more weeks of the year? The fact of the matter is that the British summertime only lasts so long – let’s say June- September. So maybe another ten weeks of inflated prices (and who draws the short straw of the really expensive bit?).

I can see a petition to stagger based on a county by county basis reducing admin per school, and potentially making it less worthwhile for the travel biz to increase prices across the board (a more restricted, less random flow of extra punters at any given time reducing a knee jerk reaction?) (come to think of it, why didn’t the government go down this road – it clearly works for countries like France?) but is this an unreasonably optimistic prediction? And just how easy would it be to make this dream a reality?

In the meantime maybe we’ll all just keep taking the hit of a £60 per child, per parent fine for a term time holiday which would have cost £500 more in August.


And then the fun began...

29 thoughts on “The holiday price hike

  1. i have enough problems with working in one school in one county and the children in another school and another county. I think it is a logistical nightmare. I have a weeks holiday difference between the 2 schools this Easter and that with both schools inset days, which coincidently always happen on my days i work, is not fun! It’s also not just the parents and children who face price hikes so do all the staff who work in g schools across the country. Why should they be penalised, every member of staff i know works extremely long hours after school has shut for the night or through the holidays. Not only do they plan, prepare and deliver their lessons for your children but they are also expected to do a lot more which parents do not realise and in any other environment you would most likely claim for. I have never once met a teacher who simply works term time 9 to 3 i think they deserve a break with the holidays system too!

    • True that Clair. I did one ridiculously short stint as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language in a summer school once and that experience really opened my eyes to what it is really like to be a teacher. I knew right there and then that I couldn’t do it any more than I could become a nurse. I also know from my sister (a teaching assistant) that she regularly works at least 6 hours a week more than her paid hours with no thanks or compensation so yes, teachers deserve that break too but it just seems, as you say, like such a logistical nightmare – and especially difficult for you (and probably a fair few people around the country who live on the borders between two counties) the idea of staggering county by county. I am finding it really difficult to see any solution at all…

  2. We have staggered holidays in France for the two weeks off children get for February half term and Easter. There are also a couple of bank holidays in May. Children also have the whole of July and August off in the Summer. It means less temptation for travel companies to be silly about their prices, but it is still cheaper to travel when children are at school.
    Mel recently posted…Mussels in Champagne SauceMy Profile

    • I was wondering a lot about France and the French system Mel – I forgot I could come and pick your brains on this! Hmm, so maybe it will just always be expensive to holiday in July & August no matter what the school systems decide to do…

  3. I don’t see that staggered term times would make a massive difference, unless they drastically changed the school year which doesn’t seem very likely. I was talking to a mum about this in the playground yesterday funnily enough. They are Indian and are going home for a festival which falls the week before Easter. Even prearranging to take them out in term time sounds like a massive admin headache, bet the staff hate it! I don’t personally think there’s anything wrong with a term time holiday when they’re little, and in fact it’s good experience for the kids to see a different culture, etc. The price hike is disgusting and should be regulated, but I doubt that will happen either xx
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  4. It really isn’t on and even the UK holidays are just as bad, I just can’t see how it will ever change. We were never able to go away as a family when I was younger as my mum simply couldn’t afford it, while I am sad I haven’t travelled the world more I don’t feel like I am traumatised too much by it. Hopefully when H is in school we can afford a summer holiday every other year if we’re lucky and I hope he will appreciate that. We shall see! Hope you managed to book something in the end xx
    Potty Mouthed Mummy recently posted…Point + Shoot | 27th JanuaryMy Profile

    • I guess I’ve been incredibly lucky that my parents had the money to take us away on foreign holidays from when I was about the age of seven and I have to admit that some of my childhood holidays (a couple of which I have blogged about in the past) are fantastic life memories that I will always have in my heart. Because I have experienced this as a child I know what my children would be missing if we couldn’t give them the same and I long to have the opportunity to afford to re-live some of my really fun ones (skiing and canal boating the Canal du Midi in southern France in particular!). I guess we’ve got a few years to start the saving/fundraising!! (*small ironic snort of laughter at the thought of *saving*!)

  5. Ah yes, and the debate rages on – I can’t see how it will ever change to be honest. Even if radical changes were made to term times, travel companies would find a way to sting us because it’s their bread and butter isn’t it. Bummer I know! With my youngest turning 2 this spring, flying anywhere for the next few years is a total no-go as we’d be paying for 5 seats. Not even an option without the price hikes in the holidays!!!! x
    Spidermummy recently posted…What’s happened to my marriage??My Profile

    • Yep, the more I read of other peoples’ opinions the more I realise that we are most definitely between a rock and hard place! It’s ironic that they just start getting to an age where a foreign holiday would be viable/enjoyable and you are scuppered by inflated prices! Boo holiday companies – we fart in your general direction!! 🙂

  6. Yep, it is ridiculous. The cost of taking the five of us even to France for a week in August is astronomical (I’ve recently paid our deposit, gulp), particularly when you compare it to, say, mid-September. It’s the schools I feel most sorry for – it just takes away their discretion and piles a load of extra admin on them at a time when they’re already overstretched. Call me old-fashioned, but I thought schools were supposed to be about teaching rather than policing?
    Tim recently posted…Operation ‘Bedroom Move’ updateMy Profile

  7. The price hike is such a nightmare and whilst I can see why the travel companies do it, it still feels very unfair on families with school-age children and teachers who are also forced to take holiday outside of term-time. I’m not sure how much impact staggered term-times would have – I think the travel companies would just extend their peak pricing period and sting even more people. We also have the additional problem of holidays being hard to plan in advance due to hubby often having to be involved in events organised at the last minute and so once our children are at school, our holiday options will become very limited.
    Louise recently posted…Breastfeeding acrobaticsMy Profile

  8. This is such an interesting debate and one I’ve considered blogging about in the past. For the first time, we are going to take our children out of secondary school for 1 day before half term and mainly because one has an inset day but the other two don’t! Perhaps they can co-ordinate that for starters! I do think the price hike is ridiculous. People simply cannot afford holidays during term time and the fining is just making a mockery of the whole idea as the people being fined are not the repeat offenders!
    suzanne3childrenandit recently posted…What If?My Profile

    • I don’t really know who is or isn’t being fined right now but I suspect the number will rise. It’s so typical of the government to target something like truency in this tar everyone with the same brush way. It’s just lazy.

  9. Today our High School kids are off as it’s Teacher training day, they have a substitute Science teacher this week as their teacher has gone to a wedding in Cyprus and the school has been in ‘special measures’ by Ofsted. We have never taken our boy out of school for holidays but considering all that, I wouldn’t worry about doing it in the future.
    Nortonmum recently posted…A Boatyard, a barge and a baby.My Profile

  10. I can imagine this is a complete nightmare. I have only said to my husband this week that next year will be our last year we can book getaways anytime before our daughter goes to school. To me, it doesn’t make sense. I can understand it when children are doing exams or coursework that they should be in school. but a few days to a child who has excellent attendance and is up to date on their work? I think its just silly and penalises the families who do really care about their children’s education but also know how to balance it well with their children’s academic life. x
    Laura Evelyn Bee recently posted…One kiss, two kiss, hug or wave?My Profile

    • Its nice to have the freedom to go away anywhere at any time you choose when they are pre-school, it’s just so annoying that they have to ruin it by being pre-school! 🙂 In infants there isn’t even the bother of exams or coursework either – it’s nonsense. X

  11. It’s one of those things that is so frustrating, but you just have to swallow if you’re going to get away. For us now, we need to make trips back to the UK and we can only do them in holiday time, although we do take a couple of extra days. I believe in our district you can have up to 7 days of ‘authorised’ term time absence… But that will obviously get harder as they get older. We just have to suck it up unfortunately if we’re going to see family; and we now have to pay for five seats!!
    Sara (@mumturnedmom) recently posted…The Truth About: Blizzard 2015My Profile

    • At least you get that ‘authorised’ allowance still – I think the government has gone mad implenting this – it’s all bloody stats driven, they don’t care about the people who’s lives they are affecting. Sods. Commiserations on the five seat thing (another reason I don’t want another child 😉 ) Xx

  12. As an ex experienced travel professional, I saw first hand the price hikes. You would be lucky to pay just a 30% increase! At butlins! Never mind abroad.
    Realistically I would say prices double.
    However, the problem… and the elephant in the room…. is that Thomas Cook own just over half of the UK and Germany’so travel companies (online and on the highstreet). And are teetering on the edge of going bust. Buying co-op travel did tide them over so far, but it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
    If Thomas Cook did go bust there would be a massive amount of redundancies and the rest of the industry would try to capitalise because they are so greedy.
    Holidays (abroad) would triple.
    Rock. Hard place. Consumer!

  13. We took ours out of school last year for a week skiing in France. The price difference was over a grand. I was more than prepared to take the hit of the fine!

    While they were away my children, learnt to ski, order hot chocolate and chips in french, they kept a diary, read every day and did maths sent from school.

    It was an educational break and I resent ‘the powers that be’ unauthorising it!

    Megan – Truly Madly Kids recently posted…Blueberry Muffins For BreakfastMy Profile

    • I was thinking a lot about the two more extreme sides of the argument Megan – on the one hand us, the parents say ‘look, foreign holidays are also an important part of our child’s eduction’ but is it really an excuse for us to get our own way and, for example, lie by a pool buried in a good book for a week? And on the other hand there are those that say ‘stop whinging because foreign holidays are a privelege not a right’. Should we just suck it up? Or are we entitled to feel this sense of injustice? I do think that mixing up truency with family holidays in termtime is not on though. Again I say ‘sods’. 🙂

  14. Well quite Sam! It’s all just ridiculously unfair. Personally, I don’t believe in taking your children out of school in term time. Once upon a time I only thought that about older school children but when our little bear started reception, and we saw how much she was learning on a daily basis, I changed my mind to any school year. It’s so sad that parents get penalised and even sadder that the government doesn’t have the back bone to do something real about it…
    Carol Cameleon recently posted…The ‘smart’ way for making notes?…My Profile

    • Thanks for this comment Carol. I don’t think any of us feels comfortable with the idea of taking our kids out during term time – the guilt if they missed out on something really important! – but I’m not sure what the alternative is right now (other than win the lottery of course 🙂 )

  15. Sam, this is such a depressing thought. The thought that we have to choose between taking our children out of school (with a fine) or paying a small fortune for holidays during school holidays is totally unfair.

    I actually really liked what Megan said about taking her kids out, but including learning while away. Although away from the school environment, it is clear that there are so many alternative learning opportunities while away – life skills, language, culture, travel. It is all about balance, and I think that imposing strict rules/threats on parents for taking their kids out during term time is mean, and holidays being so extortionate during school holidays is scandalous.

    I hope that things change by the time it is my kids’ turn, otherwise I suspect we’ll be joining the ‘bad parents’ and taking ours out during term time too!

    A great post there Sam. I feel your pain. Very well said indeed (o: xx

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