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To ski or not to ski? For winter sports loving families, there’s really no questions!
Parents love to see their little ones out on the snow, but it presents some challenges…
Skiing holidays with children can be a daunting prospect, but it really doesn’t have to be, especially if you choose the style of holiday that’ll suit you best. It may be one that provides in-house childcare as well as catered chalet accommodation or a self catered option that gives you the space you need.
Those of us who were lucky enough to be taken skiing as children will probably remember those times as some of the best of our young lives. Tthe mixture of speed, snow & adventure goes straight to the heart and can hook you for life.
However, finding the right family ski holiday can sometimes be quite a hassle.
The decisions can be bewildering; do you book a package or do you want more choice over the particulars? Do you drive to save money, get the train or fly? Do you want to employ a childcarer, use a creche or find a chalet with in-house childcare? Do you go for a cheaper coach transfer or is it better to get a private transfer?
Putting all of this together and comparing options can be awkward. We list thousands of great options for family skiing and can advise on specific needs if you give us a call or drop us an email. Below are our tips on arranging the perfect family ski holiday.
When looking to book a family ski holiday, it’s often a good idea to work out the means of getting out there first. There are several main options, all which could impact your decisions for the rest of your holiday.
Flying is the most common way to travel; there’s no quicker way of getting from the UK to the Alps and there are many major airports to choose from within a few hours of most of the top ski resorts. The cost to fly is typically high, especially during the school holidays, with the budget airlines the list price does not include ‘optional’ extras like a suitcase and should you be bringing ski gear, prepare for a big price-hike when you look a little closer.
The train is a possibility to many resorts though not an enormously popular method of travel for UK skiers. Trains have the lowest carbon footprint of all modes of transport for a ski journey but take almost as long as the drive depending on your exact route. There’s no extra charge for baggage, making it generally cheaper than flying, but it’s rarely so much cheaper that it makes up for the extra hours travelling.
The great family ski drive is a fantastic British tradition and to families of 4 or more, it’s nearly always the most cost-effective way of getting out to the Alps. The drive can take between 8 and 16 hours depending on your destination, driving style & number of stops. Avoiding toll roads is possible and can save significant amounts of money but will certainly lengthen the drive.
Flying is the most expensive but usually most convenient. Packages can make flying cheaper but you’d be best taking care over who you book with. Family ski specialist tour operators like Ski Famille and Mark Warner ensure their packages are perfectly suited to parents and kids alike.
The ski drive can be a grand adventure in itself, but it’s not for every family. The value for money can be excellent compared with flying and it suits those who love their own space and like the idea of a self-catered chalet.
Those driving out the Alps don’t have to worry about transfers. For those booking independent flights, the option may be to hire a car, but most book transfers. If you’re looking for a range of transfers to suit your needs, the Transfer Finder service offers a great way to compare options, but what exactly will you look for?
Private transfers don’t have to be expensive, with many operators providing small comfortable vehicles at decent prices. The very best value for money will come from a shared coach or bus. A typical journey may cost as little as £150 return for a family of five. The disadvantage is the time taken to reach your destination; some shared coaches are direct but most will stop at other resorts on the way to yours which can strain tired travellers after an already long day.
A good value private transfer is probably the best ‘all-rounder’ for families. Ski busses & coaches can offer the very best rates and for those with a larger budget there are luxurious transfer options offering great comfort, but at a cost.
Ski accommodation for families can mean a great many things.
Packages usually include catered accommodation, which is always convenient, but some families prefer to have their own space and go for a self-catered option in which they’ll cook as a family and sometimes head out to the town. The self catered option is often preferred by those looking for the ‘mountain lodge’ experience, isolated in a winter wonderland away from the busy streets of bustling resorts. Self catered options are also great value for money, typically, a self catered chalet sleeps 8-16 guests; a little large for the average family, but perfect for two families or extended families and friends.
There are however a few smaller lodges if you know where to look. The team at ChaletFinder are independent travel specialists with over 20 years in the business of finding chalets.
Catered chalets and hotels have the big advantage of taking care of the food so Dad and Mum can relax a little more. The best specialist childcare operators offer catered chalets ideal for families and sometimes include childcare services as part of the package.
Best value for money will be found by shopping around for a self-catered chalet or apartment. Families staying self-catered will have more to take care of on a day-to-day basis but can often add some assistance by using a local creche, ski school or childcare service. This can add to the cost but also to the convenience. Catered ski holidays involve less cooking for Dad and Mum for sure, they will cost more but often the cost saving with self catered isn’t quite worth it for the family who value convenience.
Specialist family operators always offer a catered option as their businesses are about reducing the hassle for the family.
Spending time with your kids in the snow is surely one of the priorities for every parent as they consider their upcoming ski holiday. Nevertheless the days are long and the needs of both adults and kids are probably not going to run in parallel the whole time (any parent would surely agree!).
The secret to a great family ski holiday is often having time together and time alone in ideal proportions. Parents of young children can find this a difficult ideal to realise.
Ski schools will occupy your kids for half a day and are the most common source of some ‘adult time’ for parents. Children aged 0-2 can’t get ski lessons but parents can find a creche or activity group to give them some time alone whilst the kids have a great time. Some specialist family ski tour operators offer a more comprehensive service. We spoke to Ski Famille a leader in family ski holidays who explained the difference between some extra help & a comprehensive in-house childcare service.
Children are looked after at the chalet where you are staying which works really well for them, particularly the younger ones, as they’re in familiar surroundings and don’t have to get dressed early in the morning to be taken to another chalet or childcare setting. The chalets have playrooms with lots of toys and games, and there’s an activity programme that keeps all ages happy and entertained. Children going to ski school are taken to and from their lessons in the morning and you can choose for them to have lunch at the chalet before either joining you on the slopes or our afternoon childcare club.As for you, you get delicious meals cooked for you, the chalet tidied and cleaned, and there’s even a hot tub or sauna to relax in after a day on the slopes. The children have a separate tea earlier in the evening so there’s plenty of time to get them bathed and ready for bed before your “grown up” evening meal. It really does work!- Jules, Ski Famille