Book smart: using term times to your advantage when booking family holidays

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With holiday season fast approaching, everyone’s scrambling to find the best deals online. With comparison websites and last-minute deals in abundance, it can be tempting to just click on them and assume they are giving you the best deal available on family holidays.

But the truth is that the cheapest deals are often found by checking at the right time. Should you book as early as possible to snag those deals? Or are you brave enough to risk waiting till the last minute to save your hard-earned money? Depending on your circumstances, there are a few different techniques you can use to bag the best holiday bargains. Take a look through our guide and find out the best tips and tricks to seal a holiday deal.

If you have children

Attendance fines rose by a staggering 93 per cent in 2017/18, with nearly 223,000 penalty notices issued to parents. Of these notices, the most common cause was ‘unauthorised family holiday absence’, the BBC reported.

So, while booking a term-time holiday can seem tempting given the lower prices, the impact of this fine quickly closes that route off. But there are other, far less problematic ways to book a holiday for you and the kids without breaking the bank!

Going abroad? Leave it to the end of the school holiday

According to T3, the best time to book a long-haul package family holiday is the last week of the school holidays. For 2019, England’s school summer holiday starts 15th July and ends 6th September.

We put this to the test. Our sample family of two adults and two children (under 17 years old) are looking for a holiday to Spain for around a week in the summer holidays, flying from London. We took a look at the same destination, for the same duration, for the first week of the school holidays compared to the last week of the school holidays:

Destination: Dates: Board: Price: Total:
Port Fiesta Park 15/07-22/07 (7 nights) All inclusive £596.95pp £2,387.81
Port Fiesta Park 30/08-06/09 (7 nights) All inclusive £566.69pp £2,266.77
Hotel Taurito Princess 15/07-22/07 (7 nights) All inclusive £799.79pp £3,199.17
Hotel Taurito Princess 30/08-06/09 (7 nights) All inclusive £774.02pp £3,096.06
Sol Barbados 15/07-22/07 (7 nights) All inclusive £836.01pp £3,344.03
Sol Barbados 30/08-06/09 (7 nights) All inclusive £875.69pp £3,502.74
H10 Atlantic Sunset 15/07-22/07 (7 nights) All inclusive £1,147.93pp £4,591.70
H10 Atlantic Sunset 30/08-06/09 (7 nights) All inclusive £924.05pp £3,696.18

(Data from, correct as of 17th April 2019)

Only one of our destinations proved to be more expensive during the last week of term. The other three options were all cheaper when booked during the last week of the summer holidays. It certainly pays to compare the prices of your desired destination from the start of the school holidays and the end!

Staying in the UK? Check the area’s term times

One of the many reasons parents take their children out of school to go on holiday during term time, despite the risk of fines, is that holiday prices increase during the school holidays. Plus, with everyone raring to go, resorts and destinations can be incredibly busy, which might not be the relaxing experience families wanted.

But there is a clever way around this dilemma. If you decide to go on a staycation within the UK, check your destination’s council website for a list of school holiday times. For example, Scotland’s term times are usually a little different from England’s. In 2019, English schools have an October half term break from 21st October to 1st November. For Scottish school, October half term break is from 7th October to 25th October. Scottish families may find savings to be had across the border between the 7th and 20th then, when English destinations often have lower prices running before the English schools break up for half term in order to compensate for lower local demand during school time.

Let’s take our example family on a UK staycation then! Firstly, we’ll compare a family holiday in Northumberland with a family holiday in X:

Destination: Dates: Total:
Northumberland cottage (Millers Hill, Breamish Valley) 05/10 – 12/10 (7 nights) £765.00
Loch Lomond cottage (Eagle Mountain View Lodge,   05/10 – 12/10 (7 nights) £919.00

Both cottages feature private hot tubs, with Millers Hill sleeping up to six people where Eagle Mountain View Lodge sleeps up to four. For a Scottish family, a short trip across the border during their children’s school break will allow them to benefit from the cheaper ‘term time’ prices of their neighbours! This is a trick that English families can also use in reverse: take a look at some Scottish destinations during their term time when your kids have broken up from school for a week and make the most of the lower prices.

There’s no need to risk an attendance fine from your child’s school — with these tips and tricks, you’ll find it can actually be cheaper to take your children on holiday with you during the designated school holiday dates!

We’re very proud to bring you this feature in association with Breamish Valley. For more travel inspiration, please pay a visit to our lifestyle page.


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