Guest Blog by Travel Counsellor Barbara Sutton
For many people planning a holiday is part of the post-Xmas tradition. Here in part one of my travel advice blog are just a few tips about booking your holiday that may help you along the way.
Where and when to go? With school aged children, unless you are prepared to risk fines, you are tied to school holidays. Those with under school aged children have a lot more flexibility. You need to decide on the type of holiday that will suit your family, often very different from what you enjoyed before children came along! Self-drive holidays in the UK or mainland Europe enable you to take a lot more luggage, toys, bikes and even dogs (as long as they have a passport!). Flying restricts what you can take luggage-wise but offers quicker access to a wider variety of destinations and the sunshine that many of us crave.
Consider the length and timings of flights. Do they fit with your children’s routine? Lead-in price for some destinations are based on night-time flights, often difficult for families if you have had to vacate holiday accommodation earlier that morning. Weather should always be a major consideration. Children do not like extremes unless well protected whether that be from the cold or the sun so if possible avoid the hottest or coldest season. Choose your resort and accommodation carefully. How far from the beach do you want to be and what type of beach is it sand/shingle? If traveling in peak season resorts will be busy and often noisy. Ensure you get as much information as possible about your resort and preferred accommodation from a range of sources, not just Trip Advisor! Speak to someone that has been to that area before or can interpret ‘brochure speak’.
When to book? Mainstream package tour operators price according to supply and demand with peak prices during school holidays and over bank holidays. However, booking early can net good discounts, low deposits and often free child places. If travelling outside of school holidays, then early booking is not as important depending upon your type of holiday. Package tour operators with surplus stock tend to begin reducing prices within 6 weeks of departure. However, if travelling long haul with scheduled airlines, those fares tend to increase the nearer to departure you get. Do consider that if you know exactly what you want and you can get it now within your budget, is it worth the risk of waiting and it not being available or the cost increasing not decreasing?
What type of accommodation? All-inclusive hotels have seen a massive rise in popularity in recent years and are great for those with a fixed budget and give families the flexibility of eating and drinking whenever suits them, however they are more expensive and you need to ask whether your family would get full value from it, are not heavy drinkers and particularly if your children are small eaters or you are feeding them yourselves. Would it be more convenient to have an apartment or villa where you have access to a fridge, basic cooking facilities and flexibility of eating times? Will there be a supermarket nearby? Is there a bath or is it shower only? – showers are often difficult with younger children. Is there a kids pool where they can safely play? Do you want a kids’ club where they can enjoy supervised activities? Would you be happywith accommodation with a balcony? Do I need to pre-book a cot or will I take a travel cot? All things you need to consider.
Documentation to remember – For those travelling abroad ensure passports are valid for a minimum of 6 months from your departure date. If getting new ones apply in plenty of time, at least 3-4 months. Do you need a visa for your destination? ESTAs are required for all travel to the USA and are valid for 2 years. Ensure once booked you complete your API (Advanced Passenger Information) with your airline and check-in online in advance as checking in at the airport may cost extra. Are there any additional requirements for your destination eg. Children travelling to South Africa and now Botswana need to have their full birth certificate with them plus letter of authority if not travelling with both birth parents.
Financial protection – Putting together flights and accommodation separately can often appear to be more cost effective however this can leave your money unprotected against failure of any supplier. A tour operator package should be protected under ATOL regulations. Flight only bookings are usually not. Booking with a credit card can give you some financial protection if spend is over £100, however booking flights and hotel separately online gives you no guaranteed protection.
As your local Travel Counsellor and a mum myself, having travelled regularly with my daughter from the age of 6 weeks I have learnt (sometimes the hard way!) what can make all the difference. I will take the time to get to know you and your family, your holiday dreams and preferences. I can provide travel advice and offer the full range of holiday types from UK breaks, cruises, ski, short haul beach and long haul adventure. I even do weddings and honeymoons if you’ve not got round to that yet! I work with all airlines, hotels, cruise lines, attractions and holiday parks to build you the perfect getaway and being independent can recommend and book the full range of tour operators. I will also take care of all your API, check-in and ticket handling. In addition and most importantly you have the guarantee that 100% of your travel spend is completely protected with our unique trust account whether a flight only, hotel only, flight + hotel or a tour operator package.
Watch out for Part Two which will cover travelling and once on holiday.