Families who want to travel abroad during the half term break are having to pay almost 70 per cent more om average than they would the week after, according to fresh research that highlights how parents are being stung by travel companies.
An overseas package holiday next week, when the great majority of schools break up for half term, can be as much as 135 per cent higher than those the following week, a survey by Santander Cards, a credit card company, found.
The average premium was 69 per cent, it found, after examining the prices of package holidays to places that offer some hope of far warmer weather than the current cold spell in Britain.
A week for a family staying at a four-star hotel in Lanzarote, flying out of London will cost just over £4,000, compared with the prices falling dramatically to £1,710 the following week.
Staying in a similar standard of hotel in Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt another destination where it is guaranteed to be warm at this time of year is at least £2,500 more expensive than the week after.
The survey also looked at Florida, the Canary Islands and Crete. All the destinations were more expensive in half term.
Parents have long complained about being held to ransom by travel companies, which charge higher prices after term ends in mid-July. But the discrepancy in price between school holidays and term time appears to have got worse. When the same company undertook a similar study this summer, the highest premium was 85 per cent.
A survey last year, undertaken by travelsupermarket.com, found that 49 per cent of parents had admitted that they had taken their children out of school at some stage in order to go on holiday.
Local authorities brought in a fines system in 2004 ago in an attempt to stop this practice. They can now issue offending parents with a £100 penalty, and some have been known to report the child to social services for truancy, even when the parents have warned the school about what they intend to do.
Over 18,000 penalty notices were issued in England in the school year 2007-8, a 10 per cent increase on the year before.
Ian Coles, Director at Santander Cards, said: Demand during school holidays is always high so some price inflation is inevitable, but our research shows that parents with children of a school age could face premiums of more than 100 per cent.
"With winter fast approaching and the cold weather setting in, half term is the perfect excuse for many to go abroad to get some sun, but with premium hikes like this the majority of people may simply not be able to afford it.
Travel companies have always argued that their prices were a simple reflection of supply and demand and it was inevitable that prices rose during school holidays and half-terms.
A spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents insisted travel companies were not taking advantage of parents lack of flexibility. "There are still ways to get a good deal if you book early.
"It was asked of the Government if they would consider introducing different holiday dates across different regions to ensure the demand was spread out. But there was no real appetite for this."
Source: The Telegraph/Yahoo