Tuesday 27 September 2016

The ultimate family travel guide

Family travel special

Published 12/06/2016 | 02:30

Family holidays don't come cheap but there are shortcuts and workarounds.
Family holidays don't come cheap but there are shortcuts and workarounds.

Family holidays don't come cheap, writes our travel editor, but our guide will make them a lot easier.

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S​ummer holidays are bittersweet for me.

On the one hand, this fortnight is the sweetest quality time I'll spend with my family all year. We'll loll around, try new foods, read Harry Potter and run up lists of favourite ice-cream shops in a glorious detox from the nine-to-five.

On the other, there's the bill. Families with school-age kids are like fans in a stadium or punters at Disneyland Paris - completely captive, at the mercy of a market where everybody wants the same thing at the same time. We'll remember our summer holiday forever, but we'll pay handsomely for the pleasure.

This year, that goes extra.

Terrorist attacks have taken Tunisia and Egypt off the brochures, and recent events in Turkey and Greece have pushed even more holidaymakers towards tried and trusted sun holiday resorts like Spain and the Algarve. Canary Islands prices began rising early this year, and I haven't seen them slow down since.

There were almost 1.7m Irish visits to Spain in 2015, according to CSO figures. Throw in another bump in bookings as the economy recovers, and you've got the perfect storm... heading straight for my credit card (and yours).

The 'Costa del Crowded' effect is sure to impact on summer holiday experiences too. Last year, Barcelona put a cap on tourist accommodation. Recently, Italy's Cinque Terra restricted visitor numbers, and Majorca is introducing a tourist tax that could reportedly cost a family of four €85 over a two-week holiday.

Traffic jams, theme park queues, crowded beaches and stressed-out locals - you get the sense that something has to give.

What can we do about it?

That's one of the things we've set out to answer in our family travel special. Jillian Bolger has consulted some of the savviest parents in the industry to compile our top 25 family travel tips; Garry Toal and I have run the rule over two of Europe's top family theme parks (Legoland Windsor and PortAventura), and Michelle Jackson has distilled a lifetime's worth of US holidays into an indispensable guide to travelling with children in the great American cities.

Sadly, there's no golden ticket. If you want to take your family overseas, you have to pay. But there are shortcuts, workarounds, tips, tricks and websites that can help cut corners, reduce costs and get the most out of a precious opportunity that, for most families, also happens to be the biggest single purchase of the year.

As always, we'd love to know what you think. Email me at travel@independent.ie, or get in touch on Facebook.com/IndoTravel.ie. You're the real experts!

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