Holidays in term time? The new controversy.
Posted on 16th Apr 2014
When your children reach school age, it can be a shock to realise how much holiday prices rise during the school holidays. Why does the cost rocket so much?
Although it’s hard for parents not to feel that hotels are taking advantage, in fact it is the simple law of supply and demand. If anything, the colder months when the hotels are half empty represent the true bargain. Hotels need the income of the peak months to stay afloat year round.
But it is certainly painful when term dates compel you book during the busiest and priciest times, especially with the government crackdown on termtime holidays.
In the past, parents have simply informed the school that their kids would be taking a holiday during term time. Recently, it has become necessary to obtain permission from the headteacher, which would often be granted. Even more recently, parents have found headteachers reluctant to grant leave, as it adversely affects their Ofsted rating. And now, parents risk a fine for doing so, and would even face court if the fine is left unpaid.
The price difference between peak holiday times and off peak is considerably more than the fine, so if cost is the issue, the fine is unlikely to be a deterrent. Many parents feel affronted both by the higher peak time costs and by the government strong-arming them.
However, even if you choose to holiday in termtime, the school holidays can be an expensive period to stay at home. Working parents have to fund childcare, and even where the parents are around, the cost of entertaining children at home with day trips and activities can all add up. Whilst we’d all like to dream of an idyll where our children romp freely (and cheaply!) in a summer meadow, rainy days for city dwellers can prove expensive.
Some holidays can be truly exceptional, like a family wedding abroad, or an adventure of a lifetime. And both parents and children alike know that the very little work gets done in the last week of term. Are families with otherwise excellent attendance records being penalised for the behaviour of truanting children elsewhere?
Others would argue that education is a privilege, one that is still being fought for in many corners of the world. Children may not put a high value on their own education if they see it is something their parents would exchange for a cheap holiday deal. From the perspective of teachers, it can be hard enough to keep a large class focused, without the disruption of holidays and with children having to play catch up on their return.
Staggering term dates is one suggestion to help relieve the pressure on peak holiday times. Private schools already enjoy earlier starts and later finishes to the long summer break, giving parents more options. Academies and free schools do have the power to set term dates and council-run schools would get that power from 2015. But how many schools will choose to vary terms dramatically from the existing pattern?
At Tots Too, we want to help parents find the right holiday, whatever their chosen time of year. We work closely with the hotels to offer our clients special discounts or added extras, in many cases even over the peak holiday periods. After all, parents choosing 5-star hotels for luxurious holidays still expect and appreciate good value.
One money-saving tip is to book early, as hotels often have early bird offers to get their booking season off to a good start. Flight prices are also best when booked in advance. For both flights and hotels, early booking gives you the best choice too. This is one of the best ways to beat the seasonal price hikes.
Is staggering term dates the answer? Can a few weeks be taken off school without detrimental effect? Is it really worth the money saved versus the school days sacrificed? Let us know your thoughts!
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