Budgeting for family ski holidays
Ski resorts are dangerous places for frivolous families, with designer shops, mountain restaurants and stylish bars all vying for your wallet. Those hot chocolates and afternoon pancakes can really add up too and, if you’re not careful, you can easily overspend. The good news is that budgeting for your family ski trip needn’t be difficult and doesn’t have to mean sacrificing on quality. Here’s how:
Self-Catering ski holidays can be cheaper and more convenient for families. Stock up in the supermarket and cook filling family meals like roast chicken and spaghetti bolognaise, make tasty baguettes for lunch and look forward to hot porridge in the mornings. Use your kitchen to store drinks and snacks so the kids are never left hungry, and arrange a film night one evening, with take away pizzas and a DVD. Whistler (Canada) has a great choice of self-catering condos (apartments) where you can enjoy more freedom than a hotel – Stoney Creek Condos are particularly good value. For family ski holidays in America, Heavenly and Breckenridge have good condo deals and, if you follow the locals to the larger supermarkets rather than sticking to the mini-markets in resort, you’ll find your money goes much further.
Avoid eating on the mountain. Even if you’ve chosen a self-catering ski trip, it’s nice to treat yourself to a meal out but piste-side restaurants can be twice the price of those in the village, so descend to resort level for lunch and look out for day-time deals.
Take advantage of happy hours in the resort bars. Most offer afternoon or early evening ‘happy hour’ drinks, so take note of when and where to buy your booze and opt for draft beers and local wine rather than spirits, which tend to be pricier.
Choose a cheaper resort and compare accommodation, food and ski passes as well as factoring in things like free evening entertainment and special offers. Saalbach Hinterglemn may not appear to be Austria’s biggest bargain at first but look closer and you’ll find that accommodation, lift passes and average meal prices are all a fraction cheaper than St Anton and Lech – add up the total savings for a family of four and you’ll be feeling smug. Saalbach is also a good choice for teenagers, as its night-skiing program means they can stay on the slopes until 9:30pm every evening. In Switzerland, Andermatt is one of the country’s best value resorts and is far cheaper than Zermatt and Verbier. Across the pond, the lesser known resort of Jay Peak is a great choice for adventurous types looking for a cheaper family ski trip in America.
Avoiding the school holidays can be difficult for families with younger children or teenagers but if you’re able to depart or return on a term day, you stand a better chance of making a saving. Check the school calendar well in advance, as the first and last day of term is often designated as a training day for staff. It’s also worth finding out about the school holidays overseas: avoiding the European or North American school holidays can mean cheaper accommodation as well as less crowded slopes. To take advantage of the cheapest days to travel, book with an independent operator that can be flexible with dates and take advantage of half term offers and Easter holiday deals.
Travel with another family and stay in group accommodation, which tends to work out cheaper than paying for individual hotels or condos – Lakeland Village in Heavenly (USA) has some of North America’s best value accommodation. Travelling with other families also means you can cook together, buy food in bulk and share transfers or hire cars. Taking it in turns to babysit can save you a huge amount on childcare too and, with more children around, your kids are less likely to need entertaining.
Planning well in advance is often the best way to guarantee a good family deal, snap up an early or late season bargains, or take advantage of other special offers such as free lift passes. With several months to prepare for your holiday, you can spread the cost over the year and will have plenty of time to shop around for cheap travel insurance, pre-book your airport parking and borrow ski wear from friends.
Image credits: Paulijh and nonanet