Who says skiing holidays are only for those with a huge bank balance? Read our tips on how to bag a bargain break in 2019
Skiing holidays are often viewed as a luxury available only to those with a big budget. But if you’re prepared to do some research and shop around, a winter break doesn’t have to break the bank.
Here are our eight tips to help you do a ski holiday on the cheap.
1 Choose a cheaper place to ski
Expert skiers and snowboarders may rave about Whistler in Canada and Chamonix in France, but most people can have just as much fun in lesser-known – and much less costly – resorts.
According to the Post Office Ski Resort Report 2018, the cheapest resort is Bansko in Bulgaria, while other cheap destinations include Kranjska Gora in Slovenia, and Bardonecchia in Italy.
Separate research by holiday price comparison site TravelSupermarket.com shows that for a week in a four-star hotel in Bansko – including flights – prices can start from as little as £166 per person. This is based on two people travelling together and staying at the Balkan Jewel resort hotel on a bed-and-breakfast basis, with flights departing from Birmingham on 10 January 2019.
“Opt for a package deal, and you’ll get ATOL cover if anything goes wrong”
2 Pick a package deal
While it’s important to compare package prices with the cost of buying your flights and accommodation separately, don’t assume that going down the DIY route will always work out cheaper.
Emma Coulthurst, a travel expert at TravelSupermarket.com, says: “Flights tend to be expensive unless you book them as soon as they go on sale. You are likely to find a package is a cheaper option – plus you also get ATOL legal protection if anything goes wrong.”
3 Make savings on accommodation
You may love the idea of staying in a fully-catered chalet, but may not like the price tag that comes with it.
The good news is that there are now plenty of decent, cheaper two-star hotels and hostels. Some resorts may even have space for camper vans.
Booking an apartment through Airbnb is now an option in many resorts. In Bansko, for example, Airbnb is advertising a two-bedroom apartment for £65 a night, just two minutes from the main ski road.
If you are set on staying in a chalet, filling the spaces in a part-filled chalet is a good way to save money. For example, Chaletroom.com and Scott Dunn both advertise spare rooms in shared chalets.
How to do a week-long family ski holiday for £2,000 – the breakdown
Here, we look at how you can do a bargain basement ski trip to Bansko, Bulgaria (pictured above), for a family of four:
- Flights and accommodation – £323 per person – TOTAL £1,292
This is based on a flight departing from Stansted Airport on Monday 18 February (during half term) and staying at the four-star Balkan Jewel Resort on a room-only basis for five nights.Source: TravelSupermarket.com. Correct as of 25 October 2018
- Ski/boot hire – £72.40 per person – TOTAL: £289.60
Source: Post Office Ski Resort Report 2018
- Family ski pass for six days – TOTAL: £489
Make savings on the cost of a ski pass by buying a family pass.
Source: Post Office Ski Resort Report 2018
TOTAL COST: £2,070.60
4 Cut the costs of your ski wear and ski kit
Think twice before spending hundreds of pounds on clothes you’ll only wear for one week a year.
The cheapest way to get your hands on ski wear is to borrow it, so ask friends and family if they can lend you ski clothes and a pair of goggles.
Failing that, head to discount stores such as TK Maxx, Aldi and Primark. At Aldi, for example, you can kit yourself out with a complete ski outfit for just £60, while TK Maxx often stocks last year’s lines at less than half price.
Also look out for cashback deals. Current deals on TopCashback include 9.18% on skiwear from Skiwear4u.com and 4.2% cashback on online purchases at Snowandrock.com.
Quidco offers 5% cashback on North Face, 6% on Millets or Blacks, 5% on Mountain Warehouse and 4% on Snow and Rock. Or If you want to hire equipment, Quidco offers 6% cashback on Snow Rental, which hires gear in more than 600 resorts.
If you need more clothes, look into buying items secondhand from sites such as eBay or Preloved.co.uk.
If you need to hire gear, such as skis or a snowboard, at the resort, shop around online and book in advance.
5 Save cash on your ski pass
On a ski holiday, your ski pass can be one of the biggest expenses.
According to the Post Office Ski Resort Report 2018, a six-day pass in Bansko, Bulgaria, would cost £164.11, while a six-day pass in Bardonecchia, Italy, would cost £140.02.
Note, though, you may not actually need one.
Ms Coulthurst says: “Many resorts don’t charge for the drag-lifts on the nursery slopes, so if you’re a beginner you may not need a ski pass at all – or at least not for the first few days.”
Also check out what passes are available, as some resorts offer mini-passes aimed at people who only ski the green and blue runs. Others let children ski for free.
In addition, there may be deals on passes for families and groups, and discounts if you buy a weekday pass. Do your research before you buy.
6 Find ways to save on ski school
A simple way to make savings on lessons during your holiday is by taking a trip to a local dry slope in the UK before you go.
At the SnowDome in Tamworth in Staffordshire, for example, a single group lesson lasts two hours and is available to both adults and juniors, so family groups can learn together. Costs start from £37.80 per person.
If you are set on going to ski school during your ski trip, look into getting lessons in the afternoon.
Ms Coulthurst says: “Most people want to ski in the morning, so some ski schools will offer discounts to those who take their lessons after 2pm. For example, during the low season, ski school, ESF, in Courchevel 1650, France, charges €185 (£162) for a two-and-half hour private lesson in the morning, but just €135 (£118) for the same length lesson in the afternoon.”
7 Save money on your food bill
If you have meals in the restaurants on the slopes, you can burn through money very quickly buying just the odd raclette or fondue.
To keep costs down, opt for a self-catering holiday and make use of the big supermarkets in the valleys – rather than those in small alpine towns. These are often located on the way into major resorts or on route from the airport. You may be able to save up to 50% in some cases.
It is also worth noting that if you are packing your own lunch, many resorts now have heated picnic halls where you can sit down and relax.
You can usually save cash if you fly mid-week
Costing just £65 a night, this flat on Airbnb is just two minutes away from the main ski road in Bansko
8 Other tips to help keep costs down
Go out of season if you are not tied to the school breaks – prices may be lower in January or March than in February half term. Also check end-of-season prices too, as operators may offer discounts on deals after Easter.
- Be flexible on your departure date – packages often include low-cost flights, so you’ll normally be able to save money if you can fly mid-week.
- Fly with a budget airline – budget airlines offer flights to a range of ski destinations, but be sure to check for charges for taking your ski kit. If you don’t book ahead, these can soon bump up the cost of your flight.
- Get cashback – there are decent savings to be made if you use a cashback website when booking transfers and accommodation or car rentals.
Current deals on TopCashback include £21 cashback when booking airport transfers via Alps2Alps.com and 5.25% cashback via Ski-lifts.com. You can also get 6.3% cashback on villa, chalet and apartment bookings with Skifrance.co.uk and 3.15% cashback on chalet bookings through Skiworld.co.uk.
At Quidco, you can get 5% cashback on ski holidays with specialist firm Inghams and £40 cashback on holidays booked with Crystal Ski Holidays, as well as 5% cashback for air transfers with Ski-lifts.com. There is also plenty of choice for cashback on car rentals including Avis (8%), Argus Car Hire (8%) Budget (8%) and Europcar (7%).
- Check for ‘winterisation’ fees on car hire – this fee covers the cost of kitting out a rental car with winter tyres and snow chains.
A spokesperson for Rentalcars.com, says: “Our quotes include winterisation charges, but some car-hire companies add this on the desk. Always check the Ts&Cs.”
“I paid just over £400 for my ski trip”
Joe Rumsey (pictured above) has found that with careful planning, he can do a ski break on the cheap for under £500 – half the price it would usually cost.
In February 2017, the 56-year-old from Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, paid just £409 for his ski holiday to Bansko, Bulgaria.
“This included return flights to Sofia, transfers on the Bansko Express, eight nights half-board in a three-star hotel, ski and boot hire – plus a six-day lift pass,” says Joe, who works as a barber. “I shopped around to find the best deals on each of the elements. I booked flights with Ryanair, the hotel through Sunshine.co.uk, and ski and boot hire – plus my lift pass – through Bulgariaski.com.”
Joe has now been skiing in Bansko four times.
“I’ve done ski trips to Italy and France in the past, but started going to Bansko around four years ago and am a convert, as the trip costs half the price,” he says. “While there are only two black runs, the resort is perfect for someone of my skiing ability. In addition, you can buy a beer for less than £2, and there are lots of places where you can stay out and see live music until 3.30am. For me – and the friends I go skiing with – Bansko ticks all the boxes.”
Joe has now booked another ski trip to Bansko for January 2019.
“This is a 10-night trip, and my friends and I have already booked our accommodation – half-board at a four-star spa hotel costing just £28 per night,” says Joe. “We are going to book our flights last minute, as this should mean we only have to pay around £70.”
Esther Shaw is a personal finance and property journalist who writes for the Mail on Sunday, Mirror Online and Sun Online