A recent survey from Family Vacation Critic’s Family Travel Parent Panel found that 62 percent of parents find budgeting the most difficult part of taking a family ski trip. It’s not hard to see why … the often outrageous prices for a hotel or chalet, as well as flights, ski hire and ski passes, can cause most people to shy away from this winter activity. Consider this: the average price of a week’s getaway at a European report for a family of four is around £3,000, according to research from Trip Advisor. This figure takes into account everything you may expect to have to pay for at a resort, including the price of a hotel, ski hire, ski passes, ski lessons, food and drink. The cheapest resort this winter is Bankso in Bulgaria (£1,631), whereas the priciest resort is St. Anton in Austria (£5,026). For those, like me, who think that even £1,631 is way too much money to spend for just one week on the slopes, take note of my seven top tips for keeping your spirits up and your expenses down!
Pick The Right Time To Go
Getting the timing of your trip is very important if you want to beat the busy periods, which are in the February school half-term, Easter, Christmas and New Year. If you’re not against taking the kids out of school for a week of “physical education”, then you’re likely to make a big saving. Aim for the season’s down weeks, which are in early December, mid-January and March.
Look Into Alternative Accommodation
The price of accommodation usually takes up half the price of the total holiday, and so it is here that the biggest savings can be made. A good alternative to the expensive hotel or chalet is to stay in a self-catered apartment (the more family members and friends you bring with you, the cheaper the apartment you’ll be able to rent). Another option is to check out sites like Air BnB, which let you pay to stay in a local house or apartment for much cheaper than a local hotel. If you wanted to be even more adventurous, a caravan or motorhome is a very cheap alternative to a hotel. Winter campsites are open all across the Alps, and according to research from Salop Leisure, a West Midlands caravan dealership, families who own a caravan can save up to £1,100 on European ski trips. That’s surely a saving worth braving the cold for!
Take A Car Rather Than Flying
Driving to the Alps from the UK takes around 10-12 hours – which is certainly a long time with kids in the back – but the savings you make by not taking a flight are huge. Not only is flying more expensive than petrol, but most airlines also charge extra for ski carriage. You also won’t have the benefit of being able to drive around once you reach the resort.
Pre-purchase Your Ski Equipment
Anything that can be bought prior to your arrival at the resort is definitely worth purchasing. Most local ski hire outlets, for example, will allow you to book online, as will most international franchises, so make the most of these offers. Intersport Rent, for example, has discounts of up to 40 per cent in many of its outlets across Austria, France and Switzerland.
Buy Your Lift Pass Before You Arrive
Lift passes are always available to pre-purchase, so do your research online and be sure to make the most of concession deals, like for students. If you’re planning on travelling to a large resort which covers multiple areas, you can save a lot by buying a local pass and a day’s extension to ski the whole area. Also, if you’re taking young children then certain tour operators offer them free lift passes.
Don’t Go Near The Resort Food
If you’ve ever wept at being forced to pay 10 Euros for a baguette at a ski lodge, then you know just how overpriced resort food can be. Instead of being suckered in by these places, begin your day by filling up on a bowl of shop-bought porridge and fruit. Then prepare and carry your own packed lunch: sandwiches, cereal bars and chocolate are all filling and likely to fit snugly inside your ski pack or jacket pocket. Most lodges will also provide free hot water so be sure to bring your own tea bags and avoid overpriced après bars. Relaxing after a long day on the slopes with a beer is an essential part of the ski experience, however it is the exorbitant drinks prices that put many people off this activity. This is a real shame, as there are usually numerous decentralised après ski bars and pubs that are much cheaper (and friendlier) than the big tourist bars. When you first arrive, ask around at shops and on the slopes for the best pubs to go to: usually there are multiple hidden gems more than happy to take your custom!