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Avoiding price hikes on air fares during school holidays

It only takes a very quick glance at any booking site to see massive price rises once school holidays kick in and a dramatic drop off once term starts all over again. So how do you avoid getting clobbered at check out when planning your family holiday?

Book in advance

The best advice is to book well in advance. Most family holidays are booked in January when everyone is feeling cold and miserable and the dark nights make us all dream of somewhere warm and sunny. Although many of us find it difficult to think that far ahead, yet alone commit financially to something so far away, it's well worth trying to book your summer holiday before Christmas of the previous year to get the best deals. You'll get a choice of dates and times to fly and prices that match term-time travel. Use an alternative airport Most parents dread the travel part of their holiday plans knowing long car journeys, waiting around in airports and then sitting still on flights can provoke the most horrible of reactions in small children. However, it is well worth considering airports others than those closest to home when booking your flights as it's one of the simplest ways to reduce costs. Decide what length of journey you are happy with and then use comparison sites such as skyscanner.net and do a generic search for flights from all UK airports to your chosen destination. You may well be surprised to find a half hour longer in the car travelling to a regional airport could help you make substantial savings. A search today for a family travelling to Malaga in late July showed a saving of £350 by taking flights from Bournemouth rather than a London airport. Regional airports often offer cheaper parking and a more pleasant experience than a large city airport too. Avoid popular routes When researching your departure airport it's also worth considering flying to a regional airport close to, but not right in, your final destination. Prices are generally a simple matter of supply and demand, and just like the price hikes you see once school breaks up, popular destinations also come at a premium. Look for regional airports and calculate how long a drive it will be from your holiday spot and then shop around for the best deals. For example, flights to Trieste are generally just a fraction of those direct to Venice, yet it's just over an hour's drive between them. Check your school's planned inset days Most councils have a confirmed inset day at the start of the school year in September but many schools choose to have a further couple of inset days directly after this, so your child may not have to be in school until late in the first week of September. A day or two at this time is enough to make a huge difference in flight costs so check with your school and consider a later return to save on fares. Risk a Penalty Notice Government regulations were revised in 2013 and head teachers can now only authorise an absence from school for exceptional reasons. Taking your child on a family holiday in term time to keep costs down is highly unlikely to meet the strict criteria and so you risk a fixed penalty notice of £60 per parent per child for any unauthorised absence, rising to £120 if not paid within 21 days. You could take the risk that a fine might not be issued, but it will have to be a big saving in fares to really make it worthwhile. #airfares #schoolholidays #pricehike #familytravel

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Etain O'Carroll

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