Families are saving hundreds of dollars by going abroad during the school term when the cost of vacations is skyrocketing.
A week in Spain this summer is now costing Irish families up to €600 more, once the prices of flights, accommodation and car hire are taken into account.
Rising inflation across Europe, coupled with increased demand for overseas holidays as Covid restrictions ease, has created a perfect price storm ahead of the main tourist season.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary warned this week that flight prices could rise by almost 10% this summer due to growing holiday demand in Europe.
Paul Hackett, CEO of Irish travel company Click&Go, said flights had increased by €40-50 per person at peak times.
A Irish Independent a survey of prices collected from four Irish travel agents reveals that it will cost an average family of four €2,532 for a seven-night package (flights and accommodation) at the four-star Sunset apartment complex Beach Club in Benalmadena, Costa del Sol, August 5-12, up from around €2,279 in previous years.
Travel agents said prices for vacation packages rose about 10% due to higher accommodation and airfare costs.
For the same week in August, the cheapest Ryanair flights to Malaga will cost the same family €839.92 in total, while Aer Lingus flights would cost €1,122.84.
If the family chooses to book directly with Sunset Beach Club, it will cost them €1,963 for their seven-night stay through Booking.com.
Similarly, an analysis of car rental prices from five of the major companies – Hertz, Avis, Enterprise, Europcar and Sixt – at Malaga airport shows that the family can expect to pay an average of €670 (€95 per day) to rent a five-seater car in economy class for seven days.
This does not include fuel prices, which have also jumped in Spain and are now in line with Irish prices.
Tour operators said more and more parents are pulling their children out of school before the end of term so they can take their family holidays before the more expensive high season.
Mary Denton, CEO of Dublin-based Sunway Travel, said families can save up to €100 per person by taking holidays outside the peak weeks in July and August.
She said people were “smarter” when booking now, and if they waited until the end of August they could save a lot of money.
However, vacationers should book early to avoid disappointment.
“A family of four can still get a four-star self-catering seven-night stay with flights and bus transfers included to Sunset Beach Club for £1,699 in late August before the kids go back to school,” Ms Denton mentioned.
“I know people are talking about the price hikes in the airlines and all that, but we don’t see it on everything.
“You’ll see it in the Canary Islands and places like that where the airfares are high during the summer, but I think for families there are some fantastic deals if they can get away when they’re not not pay the highest prices.”
Eoghan Corry, editor of Air and Travel Magazinesaid people looking to get away from it all will always look to the “deal end” of the season.
“It’s April, May and then after schools return,” he said. “Yes, July and August create this problem that causes some families to make the decision to take them out of school, which is not to be recommended, but it’s what people do to save money. “
Mr Corry advised people looking for value for money to look for new routes from Dublin this year, including Alghero (Sardinia), Nimes (France) and Madeira.
Click&Go’s Mr Hackett said: “In Spain and Portugal we are seeing price increases of around €40-50 round trip, per person, on average for the summer.
“When we run our numbers, that’s what he’s increased. I think this is the first time we have faced inflation.
“It’s unique in the travel business because we haven’t traveled for two years, so the pattern is off.
“To some extent the airlines, in my opinion, are considering that because consumers haven’t traveled for two years, they’re going to want to get away from it all and so they’re going to pay the price.”
Although not everyone needs to rent a car, for those who do, demand is a serious problem and prices have skyrocketed.
According to the UK-based travel guide Who?car rental prices in mainland Spain have increased by 110% between 2019 and last year and the demand is now even greater.
Customers have been warned that there is a serious lack of rental car availability across Europe as many small businesses have closed and most companies are struggling to properly replenish their stock of vehicles.
Indeed, companies that buy new fleets generally keep them for less than a year before reselling them on the second-hand market.
Covid-19 has seen entire fleets idle, some companies go bankrupt and others scramble to regroup after selling their vehicles.
In a statement, Avis said: “Like the rest of the industry, we are not immune to increased fleet and operational costs.
“Due to these external factors, in some cases we have to change our rates to reflect rising fleet supply costs, minimum wages, fuel and energy costs.
“With increasing customer demand, we recommend that all customers book as early as possible to secure their rental.”
Pat Dawson, chief executive of the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA), said Irish holidaymakers could still make big savings “on the ground”.
“It’s double or triple the price of a restaurant in Ireland,” he said. “In Spain, a glass of beer costs €1.50, a pint €2.50. A very good meal costs €25 or €30. You would pay €60 in Ireland for this meal.
“A good bottle of wine in a Spanish restaurant costs €18 to €20, in Ireland it’s €40. It is on the ground that people will save money.
On average, a typical three-course meal in Spain costs between €20 and €25 for an adult and €10 and €15 for a child, excluding drinks.
Analysis of the Bank of Ireland’s debit and credit cards for April revealed a notable increase in spending in popular overseas hotspots in recent times as holidaymakers seek to get away early.
Card spending in Greece increased by 162%, with Portugal (106%), Turkey (100%), Spain (45%) and Italy (38%) all seeing spending by Irish consumers increase last month.
Holiday giant TUI has confirmed it will not be offering last-minute, low-cost deals for the summer amid picking up customer demand.
Chief executive Fritz Joussen said the company would maintain its current prices, unlike in previous years.
“We’re not going to suddenly jump to discounting,” he said.
The company said prices for this summer had risen by 20%, but bosses pointed out that this was due to longer holidays and more expensive trips, including five-star hotels, as many people travel to new for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.