As half-term approaches, many families will be keen to take their children on holiday – perhaps for a sunny break away from the UK’s wind or rain, or maybe to hit the ski slopes.
But the sad reality is, unless they’ve already made a booking, most people will probably end up staying at home.
Because the high demand for hotels and flights during school holidays continues grow, with prices increasingly accordingly.
Since 2013, The Department of Education has introduced new rules making it much harder for families to take their children out of school during term time: head teachers in England no longer have the discretion to approve holidays of up to ten days in special circumstances.
If parents ignore the rules they face fines of £60 per pupil, rising to £120 if not paid within seven days.
Or, worse case scenario, they could end up in the same position as Stewart and Natasha Sutherland from Shropshire, who were recently taken to court and forced to pay fines and costs of £1,000 - all for taking their two daughters to Rhodes for a week.
All that said though, according to online booking agent Letsgo2, there has been a 500% increase in parents making term time bookings during the past two years, with the savings being far greater than the amount they have to pay out in fines.
The majority of parents would of course prefer not to disrupt their child’s education, but with the price of holidays to some ski destinations during February half-term almost quadruple the price (according to research by BBC Breakfast), they are left with little option but to ignore the rules or stay at home.
An e-petition (www.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/46455) for holiday companies to stop charging extra during school holidays has already received more than 150,000, with a number of Facebook posts on the subject going viral.
The trouble is, the majority of holiday companies couldn’t take the financial hit of reducing their prices during times of peak demand – lower prices throughout the year and early booking deals are often subsidised by these prices. So is it possible to do the seemingly impossible and bag a bargain during the school holidays?
One option is to look for the few hotels that stick to the same prices throughout the year; Smith & Family (smithandfamily.co.uk) offer suites (sleeping three) at Rebali Riads in Essaouira, Morocco from £115 per night.
Believe it or not, some agents also offer deals during this period; Letsgo2 have a special section on their website dedicated to deals during these key periods.
If you’re lucky, you might also be able to pick up a last-minute cancellation.
Blue Chip Holidays (www.bluechipholidays.co.uk) has a page for this purpose (live only when deals are available), and last year published at least one cancellation property per week during school holidays, largely due to customers cancelling for reasons like health problems.
But perhaps the best advice for getting both the price and the property you want, is to book early.
According to ABTA, rock-bottom-priced late deals are a thing of the past, with most of the best offers going to early birds.
So if you can’t get away this February half-term, perhaps spend it planning holidays for the year ahead instead.