How to avoid peak prices and packed theme parks for cheap family holidays this year, even during the summer

Last year, I made a last-minute decision to wrap up my summer vacation by taking my family to Denmark for the August public holiday. When we got to Billund, the ground zero for minifigures, our first stop, somewhat inevitably, was Legoland.

I was a little worried about queuing for rides with our two young children. However, we found the original Lego theme park delightfully quiet. The short queues moved quickly, the crowds were sparse, and by 5pm we had the entire park covered.

Traveling east to the Djursland peninsula, we settled into the stylish Langhoff & Juul hotel, joined just one guest room, and enjoyed a deep blue beach day on Boeslum’s empty, white beach.

The fishing village of Muxia on the Costa da Morte in Galicia is a frugal choice for the May half term break (Photo: Enrique Diaz / 7cero / Getty Images)
Muxia, the fishing village on the Costa da Morte in Galicia, is a frugal choice for the May half term (Photo: Enrique Diaz/7cero/Getty Images)

Families and teachers can be hostage to the highest prices – often double the cost of a vacation during mid-season or low seasons – but you can be shrewd about where and when you travel during school holidays.

The UK summer holidays run roughly from the third week of July to the first week of September, but in Denmark, schools return on 9 August (the latest 14 August) and offer British visitors at least two weeks to take advantage of quieter attractions and cheaper hotel rates. gives week.

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A similar picture exists in neighboring Sweden, where the holidays run from 10 June to 16 or 18 August. The weather may be a little more unpredictable at the end of August, but you are still likely to enjoy sunny days and warm sea water.

The vast majority of Florida visitors are locals, so it's worth waiting until they get back to school (Photo: Alexander Spatari/Getty Images)
The vast majority of Florida visitors are locals, so it’s worth waiting until they get back to school (Photo: Alexander Spatari/Getty Images)

It’s a little trickier at the most popular resorts. Spain’s summer vacation lasts 10 to 12 weeks, from June 22 to September 7, so there isn’t much room for maneuver during these busy weeks.

While the English May half term has no Spanish equivalent, the popularity of holidays to Spain at this time of year means bargaining is unlikely. However, traveling to less busy parts of the country during the semester week can mean that hotels are quieter and cheaper. For example, the smart Cabo Sport hotel on the Costa da Morte in Galicia doubled from €45 (£40) on June 1 and 2.

Summer vacation in France runs roughly in line with England, from July 8 to September 4. Outside of the long hiatus, however, the picture is more fragmented, with schools in the country zoning and the Easter and February semester break in successive waves. Zone A (eastern and southwestern France), Zone B (north and southeastern France) and Zone C (Paris and southern France) and Corsica. This makes it even harder to avoid the hustle and bustle of French families at the ski resorts during the semester when the school holidays run from February 4 to March 5.

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The French spring holidays run from April 8 to May 9 this year and cover the Easter holidays in the UK, but there is no equivalent of the May half term holiday in France. Again, demand from abroad will keep prices high, but holidaymakers will not compete with domestic visitors.

The May half-term offers opportunities elsewhere in Europe, such as the Netherlands, which is held from 29 April to 7 May, and Belgium, which celebrates public holidays at Whitsun and Pentecost (28-29 May) but does not have a holiday for the remainder. of the week. There is a similar picture in Croatia, where the 10-week summer vacation began on 23 June. A long summer break (depending on the region) in Italy starting roughly the second week of June and lasting until the second week of September means there are also opportunities for British May semester breaks.

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Across the Atlantic, U.S. school dates vary not only by state but also by county. Summer vacation in Florida lasts roughly from May 27 to August 10, while in California it can be from May 25 to June 10 and mid-August.

According to Visit Florida, the Sunshine State welcomed 35.1 million visitors between July and September last year, including 32.6 million domestic passengers. Visiting during the US study period – for example, the second half of August – will make attractions and hotels less busy.

Religious holidays like Easter and Christmas are not eventful holidays and are therefore in even greater demand, but wait until late August or plan a great spring break for the half term and you might not be that much of a hostage to wealth.

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