Val d’Isere unpackaged: the real cost of a family ski holiday

Val d'Isere

Follow Alison’s budgeting advice and you’ll have happier ski holidays with your kids

The Trunki Files’ ski expert Alison Wood recently returned from a ski holiday to Val d’Isere with her husband and 2 children (and, by her own account, had a fabulous time). Eschewing the package option, and being the ski-pro that she is, she put the trip together herself. However, for the intrepid novice, there’s a lot to think about: not only the usual transport and accommodation, but also ski school, kit hire, even car parking in resort. Pretty quickly, costs can spiral, so it’s better to know upfront what you’re getting into and avoid nasty surprises. Here, Alison gives the lowdown on how she did it, and what it all cost.

1. Getting there and back

Return fares on Eurotunnel: £110

“Flexible fares give you more leeway but as long as the trains are not chockablock, the company allows you a two-hour window to use your standard ticket.”

Fuel: £500 

“We drove about 1600 miles in our fuel-thirsty Land Rover Discovery. We found diesel in France to be marginally cheaper than in the UK.”

Autoroute tolls: £170

“We have a Sanef tag in the windscreen to avoid stopping to pay each time (there is small annual administration charge).”

RAC European breakdown cover: £74 (two weeks)

“There were cheaper options but I trust the RAC to get me home. Drivers in France must carry two disposable breathalyzers, a high-vis jacket and a warning triangle. Snow chains or snow socks are required for mountain driving and a torch is recommended in case you have to put them on in the dark. Factor in a trip to Halfords before you depart.

Don’t forget your driving licence and a decent road atlas. AA 2012 Big Easy Read France has autoroute service stations marked as well as decent route planning and large-scale pages that show points of interest. On a long journey, an overview of the route is easier to take in from paper. And if you need to re-route you can assess the implications. It’s not unheard of for sat-nav to suggest a route via a mountain pass that is snowbound, for example. I like to think the kids occasionally take in the up and coming landmarks that mummy points out – we did manage a sensible conversation with our son about the poignant site of war memorials in quiet fields of northern France.”

Car parking: £10 per day

“Val d’Isere has underground car parking. Booked in advance online we paid about £10 a day. Val d’Isere and its satellite hamlets are spread along the valley floor so it’s flat to walk…and there is also an excellent free bus service linking every nook and cranny that runs every five minutes all day until 8.00 pm and then every 15 minutes in the evening.”

Bed’n’board

Stopover hotels: £85 per night

“Allow around 99 Euros for a decent family room, especially if you don’t want to deviate too much off the motorway. Find a wide selection on www.booking.com and www.logishotels.com.”

A week in a chalet: £3230

“A peak week’s chalet board with a specialist like Fish and Pips is around £850 per adult (10% off for children). This includes bed and breakfast, daily housekeeper, unlimited soft drinks, beer and house wine, afternoon tea (which our kids often came back and had for their lunch), early dinner for the children and a five course evening meal cooked by a qualified chef. This small company prides itself on its catering and, whilst it doesn’t offer package trips, can advise on all arrangements you need to make for a successful ski trip. By way of comparison, around £900pp would also buy you an acceptable week’s ski holiday package consisting of charter flight, coach transfers and chalet bed and board. Most chalet companies will either ask you to take our their insurance or provide evidence of your own policy. Accidents can happen so holiday insurance, that adequately covers winter sports, is essential. Ours is catered for by an annual policy so there was no additional charge.”

A week in a hotel: £1820

“There’s a huge range of hotels in Val d’Isere, which can work out cheaper than a catered chalet. Allow 300 Euros a night for a family suite in a good 3 star or 4 star hotel during the Easter holidays. Since returning I’ve discovered www.simplyvaldisere.com, a travel agent specializing the resort. I wish I’d known about them before! We used La Toviere and L’Aigle des Neiges.”

On-mountain sustenance: depends on your appetite!

“Prices reflect the fact that everything has had to travel up 2500m to be there. A bottle of water is 3 Euros (and few restaurants offer drinkable tap water due to their isolated location), a hot chocolate or coffee 5 Euros. Frankly a hip flask is a good investment. It’s easy to spend 20 Euros a head for lunch. Many restaurants also ask for a 50 cent donation to use the toilets. Our chalet hosts told us many items are half the price in Bourg St Maurice, so if driving up it makes sense to stock up on snacks (especially for the kids’ pockets) and water there before heading up.”

Kit and caboodle

Ski passes for the family: £850

“The Espace Killy (which covers the 300km of pistes in Tignes and Val d’Isere) pass for two adults and two children over 5 for 10 days set us back the best part of 1000 Euros.  As well as skiing this covers one entry to the swimming pool, which has a lap pool as well as a toddler pool and leisure pool with jets, lazy river, bubbles, etc. There is also a gym and climbing wall in the same complex. You can find all the ski pass permutations on www.valdisere.com.”

Ski lessons for the kids: £686

“Val d’Isere has many ski lesson providers. There’s a good round up on YSE. YSE is a British owned company that has been arranging chalet holidays in Val for years. We favour Progression. Six days of four-hour, small group (max 6) lessons with English speaking instructors costs £343 per child. Mountain Masters can arrange private one-to-one lessons for slightly more. Larger group lessons will come in considerably cheaper around £200 but you need to offset the saving against how much personalized instruction your child will receive and if they feel happy in a larger group.”

Ski hire: £85 per child per week

“There are a huge array of providers, most are reputable. We used Snowberry, who will whisk you up to the shop from your accommodation and will also collect your kit after the holiday. This company provides a very thorough boot fitting service and offers a range of kit (from brand new to a couple of seasons old). Book in advance online to ensure you get the best discount.

Tour operators and/or accommodation providers offer discounts with favoured providers. Allow 100 Euros a week for good children’s kit, which should include a helmet. Walk out of anywhere that doesn’t ask you what you weigh and what standard of skier you are (or they won’t be setting your bindings to release appropriately in the event of a fall).

Lessons and ski hire must be booked in advance for busy weeks or you will struggle to find something.  Tour operators do buy ski hire and lessons in bulk so will offer slightly cheaper options. This can work well but there’s no flexibility if some aspect doesn’t suit.”

Nanny care: £440

“We booked a nanny for four hours a day to pick up the younger children from ski school and give them lunch. After lunch the nanny either came to find us for an afternoon ski together or she entertained the kids in the chalet or out and about (sledging for example). There are two British run nanny agencies in Val d’Isere – T4 and Jelly and Ice Cream. Allow £440 for six half days – this is the total and the usual ratios apply. So the more kids the cheaper it gets per parent. Provided you have more than one child, this compares favourably with the prices charged for in-house childcare offered by tour operators.”

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