Top holidays companies would have you believe you are more likely to see a Unicorn than find an affordable holiday, during school summer holidays. If you’re willing to to do some research, be brave, and embark on an adventure, an amazing 2 week holiday is absolutely achievable! What’s more, your children will have the opportunity to visit some amazing places, and learn a little more about the world we live in!
Last year we spent 2 weeks in Italy during August, our flights, car hire and accommodation cost £1050.
- How We Did it: Getting There…..
Firstly have an open mind. As a family of 5 flights are often our biggest expense, particularly in the Summer Holidays, so being flexible about the destination is important. I enjoy finding new places to travel based on what’s cheapest, and as a result have visited Venice, Lake Garda and parts of France based on budget options. Experience has shown me that the last 2 weeks of August are often the cheapest! If your school is having an inset day on the first Monday back, take advantage of this, and return on the Monday, you’ll notice a big difference in the flights / accommodation cost for the last week if it runs into September (just). Yes you will be going straight to school the day / or two after returning, but as long as you have everything ready before you go, it’s worth it for the extra savings.
My best discovery in the world of budget travel was the Skyscanner everywhere function (enter your departing airport, and leave the destination as “everywhere”). I use this to find the cheapest flights for the last 2 weeks of August, and work the rest of the details from there. I wanted to reduce travel time and costs this end so looked at all flights leaving Liverpool (our nearest airport). This function will bring up a number of potential destinations, you then need to decide which are viable options, based on what is important to you. For us we wanted some sun so the kids could play freely, if the destination could offer some culture, and the chance for us all to experience something new then this would be an added bonus!
Flights to ROME were £400 return for 5 people, so for us this was the clear winner! Cheaper locations were actually available, but I have always wanted to see the Sistine Chapel…so off to Rome we went.
2. Where to Stay:
Accommodation for 5 people during the school holidays, is again an expensive business. Mainly because most hotels, only sleep 4, which means paying for two rooms. You end up in a small space, with a pool, but no other living space. We have always found hotels to be restrictive, you have no control over doing your own food to save money, and once the kids are asleep, you are limited to, if your lucky, a small balcony.
Camping..but not as you know it!
As a family with young children, Campsites with pre-erected mobile homes or tents has always been a great option for us. The accommodation is spacious, often 37m2 with three bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom and a veranda. Plus unlimited outdoor space.
The children have free-reign to ride bikes, go to the park, and explore the often amazing pool complexes and kids clubs. As parents, you have the opportunity for endless evenings sat on the veranda drinking Sulphur free wine from the camp shop, whilst the children sleep inside. Knowing the kids have spent the day outside playing and making new friends is a huge bonus. A real chance to let them have a little independence whilst being in a safe and controlled environment. Add to this the location of most campsites close to towns, lakes or beaches and we feel its a winning combination. We paid £400 for 2 weeks at Il Pini Family Park 3km from Fiano Romano and 35km from central Rome. This is a small campsite, with a great pool, trampoline, and small indoor play area… it also has a camp shop that sells the best red wine for €3 a litre..as its sulphur free there is absolutely no hangover, to be honest I’d go back just for the wine.
When looking at campsites, most people know of the big ones “Eurocamp” etc. What people don’t realise is that the campsites often have a number of accommodation providers on site, and they often vary in price. In short, you have access to all the same facilities, but sometimes at a fraction of the price. Below are a list of the different accommodation providers:
So find a campsite that meets your requirements then search on all of these sites for the deal that suits you. Accommodation on campsites vary depending on your needs / budget. We always opt for the mobile home, as the air-conditioning makes a big difference to sleeping in a hot climate. Be slightly flexible on dates, sometimes arriving 1 day later can change the price by a significant amount. If you are on a tight budget the pre-erected tents look great ( you just don’t have the bathroom), and for me I would definitely use them if it was this or no holiday…the kids I’m sure would love the adventure.
3. Traveling From the Airport / and Getting Around
Depending on your holiday agenda you could either use public transport or hire a car. We have previously used both options, including the train / bus option with 12 week old twins. However, having a car at your disposal whilst away, allows you to explore the area more easily and also allows you to use the car for a ” big shop”. Its also worth considering the price of public transport, and by the time you’ve paid for 5 tickets, car hire may work out to be most economical. Using a Car Hire Comparison Site will help you to find the best deal. We paid £250 for 2 weeks hire, picked the car up directly from he airport and easily navigated the 1 hour drive to the campsite.
People are often put off hiring a car, because of concerns relating to insurance, paying high excesses and generally being scammed. As we knew we would be driving a hired car abroad 3 time this year we opted for an Annual Car Hire Insurance policy, this cost £38 and covered us for a years worth of excess, and other damages.
Top Tip: Car hire companies are particular about pick up times, if you arrive later than the stipulated time they may give your car to another customer. Don’t panic about this, but keep the car provider informed if your flight is delayed, so the car hire companies know you are on your way.
****If you discover the campsites are proving expensive, you may want to re-think your search, and instead find the cheapest campsite, and then look for the flights secondary to this******
Check out my next blog to find out more about the 2 days we spent in Rome, and top tips on surviving the heat with children.