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How to Save Money on a Family Ski Trip in 2016 / 2017

A skiing trip with children in tow isn’t a cheap way to holiday, which can seem off-putting. Afterall, you don’t want the kind of break where you have to cut back so far that all the fun is lost. But it doesn’t have to be such a headache. There are quite a few things you can do to make the budget stretch that little bit more; some involving careful planning before you leave and others to make your Euros go further while you are there.

1: Booking

  • Book early: If you really want your family holiday to be as financially manageable as possible, the best place to begin is the day after you return from your last one. As extreme as it sounds, this gives you a year to pay up the balance, plus we’ve all suffered at some time or another from those post-holiday blues – and what’s the best way to combat them? Planning next year’s trip!
  • Deposits & Instalments: Full holiday balances normally have to be paid eight to ten weeks before you travel but if you look online you will find many if not most holiday companies (including The Chalet Company) will allow you to book with a low deposit and pay in instalments – ideal if you’re not so good at saving. But we should add that for those that do like to save, then another great idea is to put the money away each month and earn a little bit of interest on it while you wait to grab that last minute booking bargain.
  • Flights: it is widely reported that the best time to book your flights is on a Tuesday – with some reports suggesting six to seven weeks before your trip.  You may think this is a myth – yet airfare savings website SkyScanner.net recently went all the way to crunching the numbers, discovering that seven weeks before you travel is the best time to book short haul flights from the UK. Their website also advises, ‘Keep your eyes peeled on Tuesday afternoon. By this point most airlines will know if their weekend flights are fully booked. If they still have a lot of empty seats, this is when they will slash the prices and tell their subscribers.’
  • Dynamic Pricing: Another handy tip when checking back to the same websites over time in order to keep an eye on prices, is to clear your internet browser cache and cookies after every visit. This is because many travel experts have reported that airlines (and other holiday companies) are beginning to show higher fares on routes that you have searched often. So if you are researching an upcoming trip from Chicago to Paris and have checked airfares on the route frequently in recent days or weeks, the site “knows” you really want these fares, and “guesses” that you might be willing to pay a bit more for them. This is called ‘dynamic pricing’ – where companies show an individual price based on your profile rather than a general one – and it seems to be becoming more common.

2. Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance costs can mount up, setting you back at least £50 for the whole family, including wintersports cover. There are a couple of key ways to reduce the costs:

  • Do you need it? You should always shop around for the best deals. Comparison websites are a good place to start but remember these don’t show you every company, so it’s a good idea to try a few directly. However, first make sure you don’t have free travel insurance as a perk with your current account from your bank (as one who paid twice herself once because of overlooking this!). Travel insurance can also be included as part of home insurance, so that’s another thing to check.
  • European Health Card: A valid European Health Insurance Card gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another European Economic Area (EEA) country, or Switzerland. You should apply for one for each member of your family before you travel, to avoid incurring additional healthcare costs in the event of illness or accident outside of the UK. Remember, don’t fall for the online E111 form con! There are certain unscrupulous sites that appear high up on the first page for the Google for search terms related to ‘E111 form’. When you complete the form, they ask for payment. The E111 form is FREE OF CHARGE, so be sure to apply through the official NHS website only. The official application form is here.
  • Insure in resort: A European Health Card won’t always cover the full costs of an accident on the slopes, like getting you down to the hospital. However, many major resorts like The Three Valleys allow skiers to insure themselves for an accident on the slopes for a few Euros per day. Insuring this way can be cheaper than getting full snowsports travel insurance – and getting covered for an accident on the slopes is one of main anxieties anyway. You will be given the option to insure this way when you’re buying your lift pass.
  • There are also great tips on finding the best travel insurance deals over on Moneysupermarket.com.

3. On the plane:

  • Don’t fall for travel size:  A 25ml mini Colgate toothpaste that’s branded as travel size in Boots is £1.30 for 25ml, whereas a full size 75ml tube of the same brand costs just £1.00 in a UK Pound Shop or Bargain Basement. And, really, taking along a full-size as opposed to a travel size really won’t do damage to your baggage allowance. If you pack smart you can get all these necessaries in your hold luggage anyway.
  • Don’t pre-book seats together: Save pounds by simply get to the airport early. Speak to the staff at the desk to try and organise seats together, sometimes they arrange this if you’re nice enough, or plead.

4. Equipment

  • Hire: If you’re a family that’s only going to ski once a year, hiring equipment is the best option. The most convenient way to do this is online before you go. It’s normally cheaper to book in advance with an online discount, rather than walk into a ski shop in resort and pay a last-minute premium.
  • Second-Hand: Or, if you’d rather buy, check out Ebay, Preloved, Gumtree, Local Buy & Sell Facebook pages, Skibay, and Freecycle, where you’ll find some great deals on new and used ski gear for the whole family.

New app Wallapop – a simple, easy-to-use online flea market – is another good place to get ski gear too. Just search for ‘skiing’ (or snowboarding) and you’ll find loads of second-hand gear for sale at heavily discounted prices, within a set distance from your location.

5. Roaming Charges:

  • Know the charges: Look into using mobile phones abroad before travelling, to make sure you know you’re not going to be hit with huge charges while there.  Look for decent deals from your provider or even switching to a good, short-term pay as you go arrangement. Vodafone generally offer the best roaming rates on the market.
  • WhatsApp & Skype: If you really need to call, and you’re unsure what the charges are, then get Skype or WhatsApp on your phone and call the rest of your family and friends for free. Wifi is widely available in lots of places in the Alps (and in all of The Chalet Company’s chalets).
  • What’s the rest of the family up to? And most importantly: don’t forget to check what the teens are using, if you are one of those generous types who unwittingly foots the bill, it could be a larger one than usual if the kids are up to all sorts on their mobiles without limits. Some good advice around this subject can be found on the OFCOM website.

6. Eating

  • Packed lunches: lunch on the slopes in the main resorts can set you back a crippling amount of cash. In The Three Valleys resorts, a lukewarm quiche and a drink can come in at an eye-watering 10 Eur. A cheaper way is to put a packed lunch together for all the family – or even have a picnic looking out over the mountains.

You can buy some nice food cheaply in supermarkets, or your chalet host may be able to prepare a packed lunch for you. The Chalet Company’s hosts will prepare a packed lunch for around 5 Eur per person – much cheaper than the extortionate prices in the slopeside bars and restaurants.

7. Other Tips:

  • Pack a good First Aid box, made up of everything you could possibly need and some more.  You can find yourself spending a lot of cash on a visit to a chemist for something you could have bought easily back in the UK (like Aspirin for that data roaming charges bill we mentioned earlier).
  • Childcare: Have you thought of taking a carer with you? Believe it or not, if you need dedicated childcare then it can be cheaper to take a carer on holiday rather than resort to in-resort childcare!

As a guide for a nanny in resort for 6 full days, it is likely to cost you £720. For 6 x 1/2 days £375. So, depending on the time of the season, and the per-person cost of your accommodation, it can work out significantly cheaper to take someone with you.

  • Late & Early Season: Ski resorts like Meribel aren’t always covered in picture-postcard snow in early and late season (early Dec and April). But skiing conditions are usually more than good at those times, especially in the higher up areas like Val Thorens. This year there was a lot of deep snow right up until May! So consider going a bit earlier or later and you could save a lot of cash. The Chalet Company still has some April and December weeks available for as little as £100 per person, fully catered.

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