What an epic winter season we had last year. After the Metro magazine, The Sun and The Daily Mail all predicted the demise and doom of the ski holiday; the skies spewed tons of white fluffy stuff on the Alps. A lot of people got itchy feet and demand rose. Tour operators saw this, licked their lips, rubbed their hands together and saw dollar signs everywhere. Unfortunately, the cheap ski holidays that people got last year no longer existed.
Living in a house full of world travelers, I understand that while the desire to travel is high, the money more often than not is low. Never fear, I am here to use my insider knowledge as a ski holiday sales adviser to offer tips on how to make your ski holiday cost effective as possible.
Having spent the best part of two years working as a travel agent for a ski holiday specialist, I will pass on to you the pearls of my wisdom, including tips on cheap transfers, cheap accommodation and cheap ski hire.
Now, some people may be lucky enough to be able to blow their extortion banking bonus on a 6 star chalet with Michelin cuisine and a personal food chewer (perhaps that one’s not entirely true, but pay me enough and I would probably do it…), but believe me, if I had a pound for every client that said to me, ‘’I’m looking for a deal; what’s your best price?’’ I could be enjoying the life of luxury so few of us are privileged enough to receive.
If you’re looking for a great trip on a budget, here are my top tips:
Avoid the Cowboys
When you decide to book your ski trip, tell your agent what you want. Be specific rather than vague, or you may end up going to the next season’s up-and-coming resort. This may sound okay but when you get there, the lifts will not be finished and your room will have quite a breeze, as the windows won’t have been installed yet.
Some agents are also quite clueless about events in resort. Imagine turning up to a chalet, you and 12 lads, on tour. You’ve had a hard time at work and want to get on with the booze and potentially, the ladies. But what your agent hasn’t told you is that it is International Gay and Lesbian Week and the resort is full of exaggerated hand signals and glitter.
Choose an agent based on their knowledge; they will have tips on where to stay, eat and socialize, saving you money while you’re there. Good agents hire staff that have worked in resorts, know the cheap places to eat, the best bars to visit and the best way to utilize your hard earned coin.
When you book a holiday early, not only do you have time to save for it, you can take advantage of early booking discounts, a greater choice of properties, and if you’re lucky, the holy grail of ski offers… the free lift pass.
These offers don’t stick around for long, as companies stand to lose money. They will usually be offered for dates in January and March and be available in March and April the year before you go. Early, yes, but lift passes will not be discounted in resorts, no matter how much you ask, and agents are usually powerless to discount as well. The flip side to booking early to save is that you can also book really late and save. Late ski sites such as lastminuteskideals.co.uk will allow holidaymakers to snag last minute holiday bargains quickly and easily – and you might be amazed at the savings to be made (especially over the Xmas period when most people are relaxing with family and friends)
Catered chalets are a joy. No cooking and no cleaning. Seriously – don’t get an apartment or stay in a ski hotel – you will miss out on the inimitable post-card photo catered ski chalet experience.
Supermarkets in resorts are not that cheap. A baguette will cost you €2 a day and a packet of ham will be tipping €5. Most restaurants will see you coming and a margherita pizza and a beer will see you parting with a €20 note and not receiving much change.
Catering will ensure you need not worry about food. To save money in the day, wrap a few ham and cheese sandwiches up from dinner, or ask for a few hard boiled eggs. Most chalet staff are very flexible and will turn a blind eye to this. If they don’t, don’t tip them. But the chalet fruit bowl will always be a useful tool. A simple packed lunch will include a ham and cheese sandwich, hardboiled egg, piece of fruit and a drink. This minimizes your spending in mountain restaurants and enhances hill time, as lunch in most restaurants can be a lengthy process.
Chalets include free wine. Okay, not the nicest but if you are on a big night, drink this before you go out. Drinks in resorts are expensive, and going out topped up with wine will decrease your spending in clubs and pubs, where pints can top €7 and cocktails €10. For ultimate cheapness, take a plastic ‘traveller’ bottle for the walk, keep yourself topped up and dance until you can’t see.
Road trip it. Plan a few extra days for traveling and take a car. Four will pile in a car easily and the cost of gas and tolls split between a group is actually quite reasonable. Take turns driving, blast the tunes and you will have a great time. You can choose when to stop, take a leak when you need and there will be no screaming kids. Independent chalet operators can supply catered accommodations without the flights and transfers and can sell for peanuts. They are flexible with arrival times, and if you plan it right, you can ski the day you get there too.
Pre-Book Ski Rentals
Ski rentals can be a bit of a pain. It is an essential ingredient to a ski holiday, and can be quite pricey. To alleviate the cost, book before you travel. Go direct to companies like Skiset who have great discounts for early booking and Ski Republic, who offer 2-for-1 if you pre-book. There are Ski Republic stores in most resorts in France, with some resorts having more than one location. Service in here is spot on, and the kit is actually very good. To save cost, try ‘testing’ a board for the day. Tell a shop you are interested in buying and they will let you test ride a board for the day. Just don’t lose it!
At the end of the day, don’t expect everything for free but do go skiing or boarding. By following these tips, you can refrain from spending over the odds. It still won’t be the cheapest trip you ever go on, but it will be worth every penny.