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With ferry firms discounting fares for Summer 2012, tour operators in the camping and mobile home sector have also slashed prices to convince families they can still afford a holiday abroad.

Nick Riggs, managing director of Al Fresco Holidays, part of the TUI-Thomson group, says: “The cheapest deals are early in the year and for families who want to go to a specific park. But for holidaymakers who don’t mind where they go, there could also be last-minute bargains.

“In previous years, January was the main booking month. However, we expect later bookings in 2012, as many families need to save for longer before they book.”

Al Fresco (0871 971 0600 and www.thomsonalfresco.co.uk) are currently offering seven nights’ self-catering in Park Albatros, Tuscany, only 65 miles from Pisa, from a total £143 for groups up to six, including the cost of each-way Channel crossings.

That price, saving £105 on brochure price, applies to arrivals between April 28 and May 17.

“In this sector of the holiday market, the top three destinations last year were Italy, France and Spain,” says Riggs.

“While Italy has benefitted from the cheap, regular flights in recent years, we expect France to be the most popular destination in 2012. The rise in air passenger duty (APD) and increased hire car costs could put families off flying, while ferry deals offer a quick and great value way to get to France.”

At I Spy Camping, a price comparison website launched in November 2010 to compare prices at 650-plus campsites across Europe, founder Will Goodridge says: “We have tracked holiday prices on over 150,000 European camping holidays and there is some great value for money for families, compared with hotel and package holidays.

“We are introducing some French camping operators to the UK market for the first time including Sunelia, Travel Horizon and Vacances Directes.

“Many smaller camping operators don’t run big promotional offers in January, but keep their prices the same year-round. It is worth comparing actual prices with other promotional deals, rather than just going for highest discounts.”

One deal at I Spy Camping (www.ispycamping.com) starts at £129 for seven nights, from May 19, in Lombardy, northern Italy – parents can enjoy a four-poster bed in a Lodgesuit tent, while the kids get a separate tent.