Fire & Ice: the cost of family holidays

Last weekend, the Lady and I were sitting at home enjoying a quiet Saturday morning after the busy Christmas and New Year holidays.  It’s one of the favourite times for me, when there’s a bit of peace and quiet and no need to rush off somewhere.

I hear the postman drop off the mail and in the bundle of bills and letters was a lovely glossy brochure for family ski holidays for 2020.  And like a fool I opened it and proceeded to have a look with the Lady.  We can’t ski this year with the Little Lady being so young, but we can always go in 2020 and before that we can dream…

We must have spent the next couple of days running through different scenarios of how to make skiing affordable, fun and convenient.  We love skiing and have been almost every year since we got together 8 years ago but as our family grows, so does the complexity & cost of the annual ski trip.

We’ve tried different options ourselves to go skiing:

  1. Scotland – pro: we live in Scotland and the slopes are around an hour away. Con: the skiing isn’t great or reliable
  2. Package holiday – pro: all taken care of including childcare. Cons: higher cost, limited choice (with kids)
  3. Self organised holiday – pros: more of an adventure, cheaper, greater choice of skiing, fewer Brits. Cons: childcare not readily available
  4. Without kids – pro: freedom! Con: we now have kids
  5. With kids – pro: we get to go skiing. Con: kids come too and cost a bomb.
  6. Long weekend – pro: some skiing at least. Con: more expensive per piste!

So there you have it, we would like to go skiing next year but with kids that will be aged 1 & 3 at the time, we will need childcare during the day for them.  The Lady and I normally ski together and the idea of one of us skiing half the day and the other skiing the other doesn’t work.

Childcare is difficult to arrange and that’s the greatest advantage of the package holiday option.  People like Crsyal Ski have a range of ski holidays available but they come at a bit of a cost.

ski costs

I’ve looked at booking a week’s holiday for next January – low season.  This is the cost for all 4 of us staying in a catered chalet in a room with bunk beds and a sofa bed + cot (sounds snug to say the least!).  Included are flights, transfers, childcare, ski passes and the grand total if booked today is £3717.30!

Now, that might be a steal with Brexit trashing the pound – but it’s still a lot of money.  You could add that airport parking, new equipment (we have our own but nothing lasts for ever), coffees/drinks/meals out etc. will push the cost for a week’s skiing to over £4,000.  The last week’s skiing we did, the Lady and I did about 500km between us.  That would put this holiday at a cost of around £8/km of piste or 20p/metre up (and down)!  When you put it like that, you realise that skiing in an expensive hobby.  Skiing can be frugal – but it’s not so easy with kids.

£4,000 is about twice the budget that I have in mind for our family in FIRE or 15% of our annual budget.  We could just not ski, but that might be a compromise too far for the Lady!Related image

So what can we do?  The problem is childcare the cost and restrictions which come with that.  I could ask my mum to come babysit the kids but she’d maybe best offer to do that (she wouldn’t just come to help us out) if she thought that if my brother (single, family-less) didn’t come skiing with us, he’d have no ski holiday at all.

If my Mum did come, we could book a 10 day trip flying to Venice, spend a day or two in Venice/Verona and then drive to the mountains.  If we paid for Mum, stayed self-catering, we could get the cost of the trip comfortably down to £3000 for the trip.

It’s still a lot of money and maybe that’s why when you have a family, you don’t travel so much abroad and why Center Parcs is so popular!  But for those of us who remember the golden years of low-cost travel, where you could fly around Europe for cheaper than a train ticket, £4,000 is hard to stomach.

A cheaper option might be to move to the Alps for a month or two.  Presumably, the locals can get by on less than £200,000 a year – so cheaper options of a winter full of skiing might be on the cards for us.

Image result for hedonistic treadmillThe elephant in the room is that £4,000 a year is just one of the costs of work.  If you need holidays from work to make your life seem worth living and as you earn more money and get more stress from your job you need more expensive holidays to compensate.  And you become tired with the novelty of last year, so you need to keep travelling further and further and staying in nicer and nicer places – after all, you’re worth it.  Some people call it the hedonistic treadmill – but with skiing it’s more like the Hedonistic Skilift – only it costs you a fiver every time you jump on!

Have a

Image result for hedonistic ski lift


  1. What I’ll say is that with your kids at 1 and 3 you have yet to experience the full pain of going away during the school holidays. Not only is it wildly more expensive but it’s just so much more crowded.

    The flip side is that the childcare issue also goes away so you’ll find it easier to all do the same thing at the same time…just some people will be going to bed a little earlier!

    Not sure if FIRE will help with that or not. I guess you’ll have the option of taking them out of school for a while so the slow travel bit becomes easier. That would be amazing!


  2. I’ve not got kids yet but I always thought I’d bung them with their grandparents whilst we can go on a ski trip once per year. If they’re staying with childcare or their grandma whilst there, wouldn’t just leaving them at home be a cheaper option?

    You can then go on a ‘family holiday’ to Center Parcs or Butlins in the summer 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. it might surprise you, but some parents want to spend all their free time with their children. 🙂
      Also leaving them with their grandparents doesn’t work for us so well – distance is one factor.
      Personally, I think that FIRE could end up being a lot cheaper than a couple of foreign/family holidays a year. I think that without work, the need to holiday will diminish – but there will always be a need for ski!


  3. Christ on a Snowboard!

    I went as a singleton about 10 years ago and thought it was great fun but too expensive.

    We are doing the South of France for 2 weeks in May for the 3 of us for just over a grand (if we had another kid it would only be another £100 for an extra plane ticket).

    Bang for buck wise I just can’t see the attraction but if I was properly loaded I would probably go once a year 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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