Booking Flights During the British School Holidays

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We’re nearing the end of the last half term of the year. Did you find that you wanted to book something but didn’t get around to it? I booked a holiday to Portugal alone with my oldest son who is still in nursery. As I approach his entering reception in the autumn, I have been compiling tips for booking travel with school-aged children.

The British school schedule is notoriously strict with attendance, so here are a few tips to get you started on that family holiday outside of term time and even do so as a family with points and miles.

Pick Destinations That Are Not Seasonally the Norm

I found Avios tickets to the Seychelles over February half-term. Why? Most Brits aren’t willing to go that far for a week, instead headed to Europe for a ski holiday. If you really want to get your kids on skis, consider going to Denver or Vancouver instead, both of which generally have much cheaper tickets or wider Avios availability.

For example, at time of publication, tickets to the Alps over next February half term are £500 each, while Denver is £267 return in economy. Read our tips on jet lag with little ones and take to the skies for that long-haul holiday. Readers have also alerted me to lesser-known Italian ski resorts for February half term that you can drive to from Venice, which is a less popular airport in the winter.

A large mixed race family with three children having fun at a water park on the lazy river. The parents are standing in the water and the two girls and a boy are lying on inflatable innertubes.
(Photo by Getty images)

Use Autumn Half Term

Fewer families look to hop straight on an aeroplane so soon after the summer holidays, so the autumn half term can be a great time to find reward redemptions or try out a new destination. My son’s school kindly moved its half term a week later than other local schools, perhaps giving me more options for reward availability. October can be a lovely time to travel to most locations, and by being flexible with your destination, this can be the easiest time to find points and miles tickets to Dubai, Egypt or Morocco without the extreme heat.

Consider Splitting Up

It may not seem like an actual family holiday if you are in different cabins or even on separate flights. But getting a mix of two business class and two economy seats on the same plane can help open up your options for finding award tickets if you want to travel during school holidays. Our family has even flown on different flights leaving close together to the same location to get prime dates. I noticed for a recent trip that some British Airways flights to Portugal leave 10 minutes apart from each other from Heathrow. If going from London, you could even try different airports and different airlines. Here is your chance for 50/50 parenting at its most exceptional — and a great opportunity for one-on-one time with the kids.

Book Ahead

As mentioned in our previous article on redeeming award travel as a family, booking far in advance can be your friend. Our son’s state school has kindly given us the next three years of school holidays so we can plan ahead and then book the day seats become available. You may be surprised that your school also offers the calendar for future years if you ask.

One Parent Goes It Alone

In a two-parent household, often one partner has a less-flexible holiday schedule than the other. To save on holiday days and costs, I often travel alone with my children to go visit friends and family over half terms or travel with friends. And just think, the single parents are doing it all the time. Multi-generational travel is also on the rise, and having the extra support can be very welcome. We love getting all of the cousins together and saving our small family holidays for the summer.

child in wheelchair at park
(Photo by Getty Images)

Use Miles One-Way, Cash One-Way

For my trip to Portugal, I redeemed Avios for our outbound journey and paid cash on the way back because I found availability. You can also mix up another low-cost airline like Ryanair, EasyJet or Norwegian if you can only find one of the ways on points and miles then pay cash for the other ticket.

Travel Before They Go to School

Okay, this one is a little cruel for those with school-aged kids, but just a reminder to those with younger children to go now and not wait “until they can appreciate it”. Because award availability is so much easier when you can go during the traditional term time and cash flights are so much less, it could be worth travelling earlier than you might think.

Once children get into school, you will start to face the sometimes-draconian British school system that penalises taking children out of school for holidays. If you have multiple children, this also applies before they are are all in school because pretending that one is sick before a travel day is much easier than the mysterious flu hitting your entire family the day before half term.

Take your baby in the pool to help with jet lag. (Photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen)
Travel before your child hits school age. (Photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)

Bottom Line

It’s never going to be as easy to book a holiday once you have a child turn 5. It will take some creativity, but you can travel during half terms and summer holidays without spending a small fortune.

Featured photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen.

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