If you haven’t booked your chalet, hotel, or apartment for February half-term 2015, you’re in deep trouble. Tour operators are warning that available places are disappearing faster than snowballs in the Sahara.
They would say that, wouldn’t they? They always do. A few weeks shy of midsummer’s day when the office phones aren’t ringing, they love to play wolf. To avoid the beast of disappointment you must put your hand in your pocket now and place your deposit, a full nine months in advance.
But this time they’re really not kidding. Next year’s half term has the makings of the biggest bun fight in school history since the rebellion by the Remove at Greyfriars in 1934 when Billy Bunter was expelled. The week in question is February 14-21 and it promises mayhem in the mountains.
Not only will it be the primary week for school breaks in England and Wales, but two-thirds of French families will also be on holiday. Just to add to the fun, the Belgians, the Danes, and the Dutch will also be coming to the party. Already the pick of apartments and chalets has been snapped up in resorts like Meribel, Val d’Isere and Courchevel. If you’re not sure of the date, just open any brochure and find the week with highest prices.
But you can’t truthfully blame the operators for jacking up the figures – unless, of course, you are David Cameron. They’ve got to make a living and they have to do this by capitalizing on the one week they don’t have to discount to a ridiculous degree in order to put bottoms on seats.
“This is very frustrating and I have seen it myself when you are booking on easyJet or Ryanair,” Mr Cameron said. “Prices go up because of the demand and then you’ve got holiday companies who sometimes seem to deliberately put up prices at holiday time”.
The answer, of course, is that they wouldn’t need to load prices for the busiest week of the year if other weeks were just half as busy.
Incidentally, if you were thinking of taking your family of two adults and two children to any ski resort via Geneva on February 14 and returning the following Saturday, check out the internet. At present, the easyJet price for a convenient 10am flight outbound and 3pm inbound is a colossal £2,552.
The ski industry has been campaigning for the deregulation of school holiday dates for decades. It started back in the 1980s when teachers were first discouraged and then banned from taking educational school ski trips during term time. Rightly or wrongly down the years, it has become increasingly difficult to take even young pre-exam age children out of school during term time in order to avoid peak holiday prices.
The Prime Minister has called on head teachers to stagger their half-term dates and ease the frustration of families with young children. No doubt a lot of them will do so when they allowed to from September next year.
But this could lead to more chaos. Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments: “Most schools choose to follow the local authority calendar because they know that it’s better for parents who have children in different schools and teachers who want their holidays to coincide with their children’s.
“The problem will come if no-one is responsible for creating a co-ordinated calendar for an area and it turns into a free-for-all. Somebody needs to take the lead locally on deciding term dates and it makes sense for this to be the local authority, even if schools aren’t required by law to follow it”.
No doubt the changes brought about by deregulation will work out fine in the long term…but first of all parents have to contend with February half-term 2015.
See also our feature on how to save money on a ski holiday.
Enjoy Peter’s rants? Check Is the Swiss Chalet Holiday Over? Why You May No Longer Be Able to Get a Taxi at Geneva Airport, Is This the End of Ski Hosting in France? and Are the Happy Days of Ski Hosting Over in France?