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The Cost of Holidays. Term Time Versus School Holidays


There hardly seems a day goes by without another story in the papers or on the TV about parents who have been fined or even sent to prison for taking their kids out of school for a holiday.  The main reason most of these people give for the action is the difference in the cost of holidays between term time and school holidays on the price of a vacation.  Most who take this action say that even with the fines, it is still cheaper to go abroad during term time.  So what is the evidence for and against this theory?

Places to go

According to the Post Office, there are places to go during the school holidays that have sun, sea, sand and slightly more economic prices.  Their study took into account the price of eight tourist items across 46 destinations around the world including the cost of sunscreen as well as dinner for two with drinks.  Among their finding were that Prague was one of the best places to go for the cost.  The capital of the Czech Republic offers the best value destination while Budapest in Hungary is also close by in terms of cost.  But these are definitely city break destinations and may not be what some families are seeking.

Second place was Portugal and here you can find the beach resorts that many people crave.  But the top beach spots were only marginally cheaper than big names across Spain such as the Costa del Sol and the Sunny Beach area of Bulgaria.  Crete, a long term tourist hotspot, has seen a 19% fall in costs, largely due to the problems that the Greek economy is suffering from.

Further afield, the best long haul destination for a good price holiday was Bali while South Africa’s Cape Town was the only other non-European location in the top ten.

But what about staying in the UK?  According to a study from Travel Supermarket in the Daily Mail newspaper, 32% of UK holidaymakers still want to stay in the UK for their holidays, despite a relatively high respective cost.  Their study found that the average couple travelling to Spain in June would spend £1218.52 including just over £700 for flights.  Yet despite costs here in the UK being nearly the same, nearly a third choose to remain at home for a ‘stay-cation’.

Beach holidays still remain the most popular choice but 12% are now opting for a cultural city break, an increase in recent years.  Adventure holidays are also on the rise with 16% saying they are looking for something exciting and different in their holiday, an increase of 12% on the previous year.  Finally, luxury trips are also on an increase, with 15% saying this would be their choice for the vacation, increasing some 36% on the last year’s study.

Difference in costs

So whether you want a bargain holiday abroad or opt to spend your money in a UK resort, does when you travel still have that much of an impact on the cost of the holiday?  Over half the population have difficulty in getting time off during the school holidays, often due to the competition from other parents all wanting those few weeks with their families.  And then the difference in the cost means that even if they get the time off, they cannot always afford the holiday they desire.

According to one study conducted for the Nationwide building society, there really are clear cost difference between term time and school holidays.

Their study was based on prices taken on June 10th 2015 and one a family of four with two children, one aged seven and one aged nine.

The first destination was Centre Parcs, in Wiltshire.  The term time cost was £1,028 for seven nights from June 22nd while for the same seven nights on 3rd August, the costs was E1848.  This means that it would cost this family an extra £820 to go during the school holidays.

Destination two was the Disneyland, Paris resort.  The seven day trip on the 22nd June would cost £2,341 while the same holiday on 10th August was £2,512.  This was a lower difference of only £171 between term and holiday time.

The final destination was to an unspecified resort in Spain.  The seven days from 24th June cost £1872 while the seven nights from 5th August came to £3,136.  This is a massive £1,264 difference between the June and August prices.

Current campaigns

Following a rant on social media by a Devon dad going viral, more and more people have been putting forward their ideas about how to deal with the problem.  One idea is to have the government put a cap on the cost that holiday companies can increase their price by come school holiday time.  An e-petition set up for this has been the 5th most signed petition since the website system was put into place.  But in response, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said that it was up to businesses to ‘decide the market worth of their products’.

Another suggestions from Richard Singer, of travel deal company Travelzoo, is to suspend Airport Passenger Duty (APD).  This petition has been signed by some 38,000 people who believe it would help to end the so called ‘parent trap’ of inflated school holiday prices.  APD ranges from £13 to £188 per person with the lower rates on economy passengers and shorter flights.  But the response from the Treasury on the matter was that APD ‘played an important part in support the government’s stabilisation of the UK’s public finances’.

The staggering of school holidays is already being put into place in some school districts, with holidays being reduced in the summer and expanded at other times of the year.  A poll by the Association of British Travel Agents showed that 85% of those spoke to would favour a staggering by region system used in some European countries.

Finally, the simplest solution and probably the least like to happen, is that schools stop charging parents to take their kids out of school during term time.  Over 200,000 signed a petition to reverse the system but with the figures on school attendance and exam results stats in hand, the government look unlikely to change their mind.


Main image by: Corey Fariello


Jason is the Founder of Term Dates. As a parent, it soon became apparent that finding the Term Dates and School Holidays for a particular school was not as easy as it should be. After six months collating all the necessary data, Term Dates was born.