A ski holiday with the family can provide excitement and memories to last a lifetime. On the other hand booking the best family ski holidays can be something you’d rather forget….
The difficulty comes from the vast amount of options. Which resort, what accommodation, where should we fly from, where should we fly to or should we drive? The choices don’t end there, should we go catered or look after ourselves, do we need lessons and should book gear before we go?
The pressure of planning an adventurous and unforgettable trip for the whole family certainly doesn’t help. And if you are trying to coordinate with other families it suddenly becomes even more complicated.
Booking the best family ski holidays
Having organised five family ski trips I feel like I have enough experience to share some tips I have picked up along the way. So these are my top tips for booking family ski holidays:
Early bird catches the snow
The first thing I’d suggest is to plan ahead, I am not talking a few months but many months. If anything it is best to book next years ski holiday not long after returning from your last one.
The reason is simple, there is limited availability in family friendly hotels during the school holidays. Yes you will always be able to find late deals that might be suitable, but you’ll not get exactly what you want and could be left disappointed.
By booking early you can choose from the full range of options. Also many tour operators have special deals for advanced bookings. This often includes free kids places, discounted lift pass, free ski hire and catering deals that can save you a packet.
Furthermore, you only have to pay a deposit when booking the best family ski holidays in advance. This means you can spread the rest of the payment out over the year, or just settle up a month or two before the holiday.
If you don’t plan ahead, before you know it time has passed, autumn rolls around and you’re suddenly under pressure. Prices will be at their peak and you will probably end up paying more for something that is less to your tastes than if you’d booked earlier.
Specialist family ski operators rule
Whilst booking the best family ski holidays is possible with any tour operator, it really pays to go with a company that specialises in families. The reason is simple, specialists are always better at their specialisation than generalists!
By going with a specialist you can be sure the other guests have kids too, this means play mates for your kids and other adults to ski and socialise with. Specialists also have everything you need for your children, from cots and toys, to early dinners and night time monitors.
Specialists often have in-house crech/kids clubs and will take your children to ski school. This means no traipsing around resort carrying your kids skis to get your children where they need to be. Instead they are taken to, and picked up from, ski school by the tour operator giving you more slope time.
With a host of awards to their name, and according to my friends who’ve travelled with them, Ski Famille are one of the best family ski holiday operators. I personally have reviewed family trips with Crystal Ski and Esprit Ski both of whom I recommended.
Kids under 5? Ski as much as possible
If your children have not started school, or are in reception year but still under five years old, then you don’t have to wait until school holidays. Take advantage of this time, as once you are restricted to school holidays it becomes much more expensive.
Most of us winter sports enthusiasts know that taking kids out of school to ski is beneficial in many ways. Unfortunately, the government does not agree and you will be fined £65 per child, per parent, per day.
For a one week holiday with two kids this will add £1300 to the cost of the holiday. However, this may still be less than that additional cost of skiing during the school holidays. So it is something to consider.
Narrow down the options
When booking the best family ski holidays you need to decide what you want from the trip in order to narrow down your options. This will depend on the age of your kids, ability of the skiers and other interests.
Think about whether you want to go catered or self-catered, if you want to be in a chalet, hotel or apartments. Do you want a swimming pool, on-site childcare, somewhere with evening entertainment?
Consider if a big name, well known resort is important to you. Ask yourself whether size really does matter, or would you be happy with under 100km of piste? Are your kids – or you – into freestyle? Then make sure you go somewhere with a good snowpark.
All of these things help to narrow down the options making booking the best family ski holidays a little simpler. There is one other way to narrow down the options, we’ll cover that next.
Know your budget
Remember the price you pay for a ski holiday is considerably less than you will end up spending. Adult lift passes at big resorts cost over £200 for a week, lessons around £100, equipment hire another £100 and lunch on the mountain does not come cheap.
Whatever you spend on the accommodation and travel, you can add £500 per person when you are in resort. If you’ve gone self-catered, on top of this you need to consider breakfast and dinner. Supermarkets in ski resorts tend to have a small selection and big prices, plus eating out is expensive.
Once you know your budget use this to narrow down the options. If your overall budget is £1500 per person look at holidays under a grand. Otherwise you’ll end up spending more than you can afford which is never good.
Keep equipment in mind
If you own all of your own equipment, you will avoid the difficulty and cost in renting the right gear. However, it is well worth checking the fees involved in transporting your skis and boots etc to the mountains – this summary of ski baggage charges by different airlines is useful.
If you need to rent your equipment make sure you factor this into your budget. It can be expensive but it’s worth searching online for good deals – rather than automatically booking with your tour operator. These days you can make big savings by booking online in advance direct with rental shops.
Renting your skis, boots and poles in resort can be fairly stressful, with lots of queueing and unsatisfactory gear at the end. Advanced booking helps remove this element of stress, means you’ll get the gear you want and you save money.
Consider going independent
Warning this tip won’t make booking the best family ski holidays any easier. If anything it will make it more difficult. But if your needs are different to the regular weekend to weekend package ski holidays, or you have a small budget, it is worth considering booking independently.
This means booking your travel, accommodation and everything else on your own rather than through a tour operator. The advantage is your holiday can begin when you want and you can book cheap accommodation that is often not offered by tour operators.
You can even stay outside of ski resorts to save money and make your holiday very different. For example if you stay in Bourg St Maurice you can easily visit St Foy, Les Arcs, La Rosiere, La Plagne, Tignes and Val d’Isere from your base.
On the downside organising an independent ski holiday is more work than going with a tour operator. You also need to remember to include costs such as transfers, hire cars and petrol. Also if you book independently your trip is not protected by ABTA, TTA or ATOL.
Think about driving
Another tip that for many doesn’t make the best family ski holidays, is to drive to the mountains. From Dieppe or Calais to the French Alps is around 8-9 hours – not including toilet stops. There are also small resorts in Germany and northern France that are closer.
What makes driving to the Alps a good prospect is it saves a lot of money. For a family of four with all your ski gear the flying will cost over £600 once you include luggage and airport parking, plus you still need to pay for transfers or car-hire. Driving costs around £375 including ferry, tolls and petrol.
If you are self-catered driving gives you the option to bring some food from home. You can even freeze up some meals and chuck them in a cool box. Once in the mountains you can drive to big supermarkets to stock up, also you can travel to other resorts if you fancy a change or scenery.
For the best family ski holidays it is important to be physically prepared. Skiing is physically demanding, if you are out of shape you will get less from it and all that meticulous planning will have been wasted.
At the very least do some ski specific exercises to get you in shape, also try to improve your cardio before you go. This will mean you are in better condition to ski, it also helps to prevent injuries and will limit the inevitable aches and pains.
And remember it is not just you that needs to be in shape. For the best family ski holidays you need to get everyone in shape. Perhaps try working out together? Not only will it ensure you all make the most of your holiday, but it’s good family bonding time too.
Be sure to check out our skiing holiday discounts as you could save a fortune.