Tuesday 26 September 2017

How to curb the spiralling cost of the Easter school holidays

You could save €700 by picking Morocco for some spring sun - or by renting a holiday home if you're planning on a staycation

Morocco is currently 30pc cheaper than the Canaries
Morocco is currently 30pc cheaper than the Canaries
Louise McBride

Louise McBride

Schools around the country start to finish up for Easter this Friday - and parents are facing bills running into the hundreds to keep their children entertained over the two-week break. For those families which are heading to the sun, the bill for a week abroad could run into the thousands.

So with two weeks of entertaining - or organising childcare - for your school-going children ahead, what can you do to curb the cost of the Easter break?

Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains National Park are free to visit
Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains National Park are free to visit

Choose Morocco for your Easter sun

An increased demand for sun holidays over Easter means that should you be only booking your trip abroad now, you could struggle to get one - particularly if it's to one of the few destinations which will be warm in the second and third weeks of April and which involve a short flight. "Our bookings are up 38pc for Easter this year against Easter last year," said Tanya Airey, managing director of Sunway.

You can expect to pay about 30pc more for a sun holiday over the Easter than you would for a holiday in the week before the school holidays, according to Eoghan Corry, editor of the Irish travel publication, Travel Extra.

"The Canary Islands, Madeira and Morocco are your main choices if you want the sun this Easter as the weather isn't that good elsewhere," said Corry. "The Canaries will be very pricey though. A family could pay €3,000 for an Easter break in the Canaries."

You could save several hundred euro by holidaying in Morocco instead of the Canaries. "Morocco is coming in about 30pc cheaper than the Canaries," said Corry. "You could pay about €1,000 a head to go to the Canaries for a week over Easter, and between €600 and €700 a head for Morocco."

Your euro will go a lot further in Britain this year
Your euro will go a lot further in Britain this year

The bill will, however, depend on the standard of accommodation you choose. A two-star self-catering apartment can work out cheaper in both the Canaries and Morocco.

For example, one of the Easter offers available from Sunday recently was a week in Morocco's two-star Intouriste self-catering apartments for €1,676 - based on a family of four flying out from Dublin on April 15. The price quoted for a stay in two-star self-catering apartments in Lanzarote for the same week was €2,396. So in this case, the Moroccan trip worked out at €720 - or about 30pc - cheaper.

"If you really want the Canaries, going for one of the less popular islands could make your holiday somewhat cheaper," said Corry.

The most popular of the Canary Islands is Lanzarote, followed by Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Fuerteventura, according to Corry. "Fuerteventura prices will usually be a little bit less than the other islands," said Corry.

Easter camps can work out cheaper than short-term childcare (stock pic)
Easter camps can work out cheaper than short-term childcare (stock pic)

Bear in mind that many of the flights to Morocco and the Canaries are already heavily booked over Easter.

The best way to save money on a foreign holiday over peak travel times such as Easter is to book long in advance. "We are already taking bookings for Mediterranean cruises for Easter 2018," said Airey. "Booking a cruise in advance could save you €500 per person."

Visit Britain

As sterling has weakened since the Brexit vote, your euro is likely to be worth a lot more in Britain this Easter than it was last year - unless the British currency makes a miraculous recovery before then. On this day last year, you could have bought £80 with €100. By contrast, your €100 would have bought you about £87 in late March 2017. So your euro should go a lot further in Britain this Easter than it did last year.

Book a holiday home instead of a hotel

It could cost around €300 a week to rent a holiday home in Ireland over Easter - though the bill could be €700 a week or more depending on the location and how plush the property is. So as long as you don't go for one of the more expensive properties, booking a holiday home instead of a hotel could save you a few hundred euro.

Children’s art workshops take place at the Botanic Gardens (stock pic)
Children’s art workshops take place at the Botanic Gardens (stock pic)

A family room in an Irish hotel could cost anything from €130 to €400 a night (or more). Some hotels offer package deals. For example, one of the family deals recently advertised by the Galway Bay Hotel for Easter was €890 for a four-night stay - to include evening meals for two adults and two children.

Many hotel family rooms - and family deals - will already be snapped up at this stage. You might still be able to get a deal if you check out hotels which traditionally close for the winter and spring - but which will open for Easter.

"There's a whole set of hotels in the west and south of Ireland that only open in the summer but they may open a bit earlier this year to coincide with Easter," said Corry. "So you might be able to snatch an early opening deal."

Booking directly with a hotel, rather than through a third-party channel, could save you money. "Hotels normally have promotions so you might get 10pc off the price by booking directly," said Jennifer Ward, marketing manager for the Irish Hotels Federation.

Get a freebie

There are plenty of museums, galleries, and parks around the country that are free to visit, including Dublin's National Gallery of Ireland, the Natural History Museum, the Galway City Museum, Glendalough in Wicklow, Connemara National Park in Galway, and Dublin's Marley and Phoenix parks. A free exhibition - which explores the history of the Phoenix Park and the Royal Parks in London - is running in the Farmleigh Gallery in the Phoenix Park between April 7 and May 28. There are also a number of free guided tours running to the Magazine Fort in the Phoenix Park over Easter, as well as some Sunday lectures on the history of the park.

Enjoy Connemara National Park and the Galway Food Festival
Enjoy Connemara National Park and the Galway Food Festival

The Botanic Gardens, which are also free to visit, is running some free guided walks and low-cost children's arts workshops over the Easter break. There are also a number of festivals running over the Easter, including the Galway Food Festival, which could make for a cheap day out. So get planning now if you don't want to break the bank this Easter.

Book a Camp if you need childcare

For parents who must work over the school holidays and arrange childcare as a result, Easter camps can work out cheaper than short-term childcare. The bill for a week in an Easter camp typically starts from €80 a week per child but it could run to into the hundreds - depending on the camp.

Some of the best value Easter camps around are those being run by some GAA clubs. These camps usually cater for primary school children and typically cost between €40 and €50 per child for four days - with some clubs offering discounts for siblings. For example, Naomh Mearnog GAA club in Portmarnock, Co Dublin is running an Easter camp from Tuesday, April 18 to Friday, April 21. That camp, which runs from 10am to 2pm, costs €50 for one child, €90 for two children, and €120 for three children. The St Oliver Plunkett's Eoghan Ruadh GAA club in Dublin 7 has a four-day Easter camp running from April 10 to April 13 which costs €40 per child. Other GAA clubs running Easter camps this year include Westmanstown Gaels in west Dublin, and Offaly and Monaghan GAA clubs. Not all of the GAA Easter camps run for four days - some run for two days; some for three.

There are a range of other Easter camps running across the country which offer a variety of activities. Let's Go (letsgo.ie) has four-day Easter camps which run from 9:30am to 3:30pm. The camps cost €85 for the first child, €75 for a second child from the same family, and €65 for a third child. They run in various locations country-wide including Cork, Galway, Westmeath, Clare and Dublin and offer activities such as face painting, climbing walls, rounders, badminton and soccer.

Dance Theatre Ireland in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, has four-day Easter camps for children which cost €80 per person.

There are also camps which specialise in acting, film-making and archaeology - though these are usually pricey. For example, it costs €200 per child for the four-day film-making camp run by Dublin's Gaiety School of Acting.

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