As the debate over parents taking children on holiday during term time rages, we spot-check a range of holidays to find out how much prices increase during the school summer holiday
The ongoing debate as to whether parents should be allowed to take their children on holiday during term time is heating up, with pressure mounting on the government, local authorities and tour operators to come up with a solution.
One petition on the 38 Degrees campaign site, calling for the government to reverse the term-time family holiday rules brought in last September, has over 200,000 signatures from those who feel the changes unfairly penalise families who cannot afford a holiday during school holidays.
Another petition, on the government's petition site, puts the focus on holiday companies, calling for action to stop them charging extra during school holidays. The petition has over 150,000 signatures, meaning it will now be considered for debate in the House of Commons. A response posted by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills places the blame on the "competitive market", stating: "In the holiday market there is fierce competition for custom … holiday companies must seek to make a reasonable profit during the peak periods so that they are able to operate throughout the year when demand and therefore prices and profits are lower."
The Association of Independent Tour Operators has also defended the prices charged during school holidays, though it is adamant the current system needs to be changed. Derek Moore, chairman of Aito, says: "Aito urges the government to vary holiday dates from region to region in the UK and to stretch the peak season from six to 12 weeks, ie from mid-June to mid-September. That would allow holiday companies to reduce peak season prices. It would also offer huge economic benefits to some of the key holiday destinations (many of which are suffering huge unemployment and other financial problems) by lengthening their seasons."
But while consumers may have some sympathy with seasonal trade, families are feeling increasing financial pressure and a sense of frustration is growing.
So how much money do families really stand to lose if they book a holiday during the school holidays? Guardian Travel has looked at a range of popular family holiday companies to get an idea of the price difference, which you can see in the table below.
Most state schools break up for summer between 18 and 25 July, so we checked holiday prices for the week of 12-19 July to find the price available for those taking a holiday just before term ends, and also for 26 July-2 August, for those going on holiday as soon as school is out.
The prices given are not a comprehensive account of the average prices offered by each company, but a snapshot of a variety of typical family holidays*.
|Tour operator||Holiday||Summer term time (week of 12-19 July)||Summer school holiday (week of 26 July-2 August)||Price increase|
|Center Parcs||Four nights at Woburn Forest Bedfordshire, lodge accommodation||£759||£1,149||51%|
|Mark Warner||San Luciano Beach Resort, Corsica, including flights and half board||£4,652||£5,652||21%|
|Thomson||Atlantica Aegean Blue resort, Rhodes, all-inclusive||£3,333||£4,181||25%|
|Haven||Perrans Sands, Cornwall, standard caravan accommodation||£492.25||£907.83||84%|
|Club Med||Napitia resort, Italy, including hotel and flights||£3,706||£4,042||9%|
|James Villas||Villa das Palmeiras, Algarve, including flights and self-catering accommodation||£2,760||£3,488||26%|
|Natural Retreats||Trewhiddle, Cornwall, in two bedroom self-catering cottage||£983||£1,260||28%|
|Butlin's||Four nights at Bognor Regis resort, hotel accommodation||£480||£956||99%|
|Disneyland Paris||Four nights at Disneyland Hotel, including park tickets and breakfast||£3,840||£4,096||7%|
|First Choice||Blue Lagoon Resort, Kos, all-inclusive||£2,684||£3,454||28%|
|Eurocamp||Le Capeyrou, Dordogne, safari tent accommodation||£847.2||£1,178.1||38%|
* All prices are for a family of four (including two children between 5 and 15) and for seven nights unless otherwise stated
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image: © Ed Coyle Photography