No need to splash out

With tour operators and leading travel agents offering discounts between 10 per cent and 25 per cent on summer holiday bookings, families are shrugging off their fears about recession and booking their breaks.

As seven-night mobile home holidays in France and Spain start below £500 per family, the message is that Europe could be cheaper than Britain this summer, despite the euro, and with every prospect of better weather.

One mobile home specialist, Venue Holidays, offers family holidays in the Brittany region of France in May from £159, a 40 per cent reduction, including midweek Channel crossings. Thomson Cruises offers savings up to £600 per couple, while Simply Chateau has discounts up to 25 per cent in France and Italy on summer bookings until the end of February.

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Companies like Travel Republic, On the Beach and lowcostholidays.com are driving prices down by batching budget airline flights with accommodation in Spain, Turkey and Greece in May and June, ahead of school holidays, and in September, after the rush.

From the consumer viewpoint, money spent on these holidays should be protected under ATOL “Flight Plus” regulations which came into effect last year. “Just about every travel company has some sort of sale going on in January,” says Bob Atkinson at Travelsupermarket.com.

“It’s either discounts per person, couple or family, or the promise of added value for early bookings, like cabin upgrades and onboard spending money for cruise passengers.

“The travel industry may also be cashing in on the widely-held feeling that it is time to go abroad in 2013 after summer 2012 had the Olympics and the Jubilee, both good reasons to stay at home.

“The weather here is looking miserable, and people really need something to look forward too.”

Because no company can afford to get badly left behind in the booking stakes at this stage in the cycle, the eye-catcher this year is low deposit deals: easyjet holidays has slashed deposits to only £50 per person, and holidaymakers needn’t pay the balance until two weeks before departure date.

Atkinson says: “Among the big tour operators, Thomas Cook has a general 10 per cent discount message, while Thomson avoids a percentage and says early bookers can save £200.

“As a general rule, big operators like Thomas Cook and Thomson require holidaymakers to pay in full some twelve weeks before departure. That could be a squeeze in many households this year.”