Important Cost Saving AdviceWednesday 15th May 2013
Flight Supplements - Why are they charged?
Airlines categorise their standard seats into ‘classes’ and each class
has a different price even though the aircraft seats are identical. The cheapest class is sold first then the next
class and so on, the process continues through all the classes with the
each time, eventually becoming prohibitively expensive (such late seats are
usually taken by business travellers). The later the booking the greater the supplement is likely to be.
Note: Supplements do not apply when using flight seats already held by Small Families Holidays, these seats are secured 12 months ahead of travel at a fixed price, however, once all sold, any additional seats will probably attract a supplement.
Releasing unsold flight seats
For most destinations we book 'group' seats, therefore our holidays are costed based on those flight costs but we have to release any unsold seats back to the airline 8 weeks before departure (this is strictly enforced by airlines). After that, we have to buy in flights at the current standard price which by then, almost always involves a supplement, this is why we always advise that you book well before this 8 week deadline.
No Late Deals with Small Families Holidays and a warning on flights for 2013
As with 2012, 2013 is seeing many airlines reducing capacity and even withdrawing some routes altogether, this puts even more upward pressure on flight prices as fewer seats are available to begin with. Booking late is not a way to ensure a cheaper holiday, quite the opposite infact.
Flights - Sometimes we are forced to cancel holidays – Why?
If we do not have sufficient bookings by the 8 week flight release deadline, we have no option but to cancel the entire departure.
It then becomes very frustrating
when we suddenly have a lot of late interest, enough for a very decent
size holiday group but by then it is not possible to re-instate the holiday at the
original price and the late booking supplements can then add literally
pounds to our original holiday price, by then there are often also
problems recovering our hotel accommodation.
We do appreciate it's not always easy to commit to your holiday many months ahead but whereever possible you should always book no later than 9 weeks before departure to get the best price possible.
Low £50 Deposits for 2013/14 (with the co-operation of our trading partners).
To try to encourage our single parent families to book early to avoid or at least, minimise supplements, our trading partners have agreed to accept lower booking deposits for early bookers, such offers minimise booking costs to you and also help hotels and us to plan ahead, so this is a win win situation for all.
Easy payments (A free service, no charges involved).
If you don't trust yourself with the holiday fund, then you are welcome to make payments directly to Small Families Holidays instead. Pay any amount as often as you wish, by phone, cheque, card or bank transfer, we will simply update your invoice each time.
Holiday ProtectionThursday 24th January 2013
To be protected or not protected - that is the question
There has been considerable confusion for consumers for a long time over holiday protection and many holidays providers themselves are confused too which is a worry! Traditional holidays, where all the travel requirements are purchased at the same time, i.e. as a 'package' (flights, transfers, accommodation, car hire etc) are more straightforward.
The confusion comes with the trend toward DIY holidays and what is called 'dynamic packaging,' where the various holiday elements are purchased seperately but even then there are a number of grey areas as to what constitutes a package, whether it qualifies or whether it doesn't.
On the surface, this might seem like just a storm in a teacup, after all it's just some wording but, and it's a potentially big but, if things go wrong, it could be the difference between getting your money back or losing it all and where holidays are concerned, it could be thousands!
The ongoing confusion has recently prompted the CAA to issue the follow warning:
CAA issues warning about unprotected holidaysTravel Weekly - Jan 07, 2013 08:03AM GMT
out of pocket by buying an unprotected air holiday.
The caution from the Civil Aviation Authority comes as travel companies prepare for their busiest day of the year today (Monday).
Only people booking air holidays with Atol protection can be confident they will be protected if their travel company goes bust.
Last year nearly half the people surveyed by the regulator were unsure if their last holiday was Atol-protected or not. But thanks to recent changes to the scheme, anyone booking an Atol-protected air holiday will receive an Atol.
CAA consumer protection director Richard Jackson said: “Millions of people in the UK will be planning their summer getaway this week. “They can get peace of mind that their holiday is safe whatever happens to their travel company by booking an Atol-protected air holiday.
“And with the new Atol certificate, holidaymakers will know exactly what protection they have.”
Atol ensures holidaymakers can continue their air holiday and return home safely if their travel company collapses while they are away, or get refunds if the company goes bust before they’ve started their trip.
It also means the travel company has to arrange new flights and/or accommodation if something goes wrong with their airline or hotel. The certificate tells them what is protected, who is protecting it and what to do if something goes wrong.
Anyone wishing to book an Atol-protected air holiday can check if a company provides protection by looking for the Atol logo on their promotional material, or by searching the company’s name at packpeaceofmind.co.uk (this website has an informative short video).
People booking trips not covered by the Atol scheme, such as those without flights or holidays booked directly with airlines, should seek alternative methods of protection such as insurance or paying by credit card, the CAA advises.
(Small Families Holidays ATOL 5801 protected)
Games Maker, London 2012Monday 17th September 2012
London 2012 - Go team GB!Kam
Ruprah, Product Manager at Small Families Holidays, took time out this
summer to become one of the, (now famous) Olympic Games Makers.
"This was just an amazing experience", said Kam, "The Olympic Games is such an historic event, it's been 62 years since we last hosted them, so based on that, I'll be 98 years old the next time"!!
Here is just a brief journal of my Olympic experience as a Games Maker.
Day 1 at the Games. Today I have been controlling the access points to the athletes changing area (shame it wasn’t the football). Seen many the athletes but didn’t recognise any of them yet but sure that will change as the games progress, it's brilliant here, what an atmosphere!
Day 2 at the Games. Have been directing spectators to their seats today, I got to see all the matches which was great. The GB player, Rajiv, is looking good to go through. I'm really getting into this Badminton, I might take it up!
Day 3 at the Games. It’s raining men in uniform today, I was at a security check point for the RAF, police, firemen and ambulance teams (wow, lots of muscle around) a good day! Girls football team won at the stadium today – girls are the best!
Day 4 at the Games. I got best seats in the house today, court 1. Badminton made it on to the TV news today with the disqualification of the women’s doubles, they were booed off the court, Somewhat long days here, my legs are aching now.
Day 5 at the Games. Checking tickets today and looking out for the fakes. The public are in great spirits as usual, had a go on the megaphone today shouting ‘have your tickets ready’ which was good fun – oh the fame of it all! Aching now in my back, bum, legs and anywhere else you care to mention – this particular ‘athlete’ needs a day off!!!
(Photo - Kam 1st left)
Day 6 at the Games. Well today is my day off so off for a well deserved massage and time to watch other Olympic action – Go Team GB!
Day 7 at the Games. Been hanging out with the press today behind the TV cameras, have seen all the interviews with the players, hope to make it in front of the cameras tomorrow! Women’s final today and surprise surprise, China won gold, I got close to touching a gold medal today - well I'm never going to win one.
Day 8 at the Games. Fame at last, the spectators were taking photo’s of ME today. China won 2 more gold in the badminton today followed by a fantastic victory ceremony and I got to ‘High 5’ all the medallists – absolutely brilliant. Did anyone see me on the telly today in the gymnastics arena? Rhythmic Gymnastics next weekend, can’t wait – Go Team GB!
Day 9 at the Games. The Rhythmic Gymnastics were simply beautiful and amazing. The ribbons were my favourite routine. The Russians dominated and picked up gold and silver, I had the Russian coach on my section and she had her own bodyguard! Ok, I've decided, forget the Badminton, I’m taking up gymnastics!! Lol.
Final day at the Games. (Check it out, I’m on the TV right now!!!). The group gymnastics are even more amazing. Beautiful girls in beautiful costumes all in sync – fantastic, the Russians won and there was another great victory ceremony.
So sad, this is my last day at the Olympics and I’ve loved it all. It's the best job I've never been paid for! What an incredible and amazing experience, I am just so happy and proud to have been part of such an historic event.
Sadly time to hang up my Games Maker uniform for ever – I won’t know what to wear now lol. Well done to Team GB!
Kam – Small Families Holidays / (London 2012 Games Maker)
Andalucia? Where's that again?Saturday 4th August 2012It’s part of Spain actually and has eight provinces, Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga and its capital, Seville, about a 90 mins drive away. Ok, geography lesson over.
I hosted eleven single parent families on this, our first group holiday to Andalucia and we have just spent a very pleasant week in the province of Huelva. Arriving into Faro airport in Portugal’s Algarve, we made the one hour transfer over the border into Spain to our hotel, the impressive 4 Star Iberostar Isla Canela. Described by some, (well me actually), as a giant sand castle, it was located in a quiet, unspoilt setting well away from any busy roads and close to a very attractive small marina.
The beach was right there outside the hotel and as you’d expect of a good quality resort, was clean and attractive with miles of fine soft sand and remained uncrowded much of the time. The hotel restaurant was superb, stylishly decorated and foodwise, offered one of the best menus I’ve experienced in many a hotel.
Of course, too much good food (and the odd drink or three) meant a bit of exercise was the order of the day – except it was an order most of my group ignored I think, although personally, I managed a fair bit of brisk walking in the cool early mornings along a long and pleasant prom for the first 3 days – and what about the other 4 days? I'd rather you didn't ask! Food-a-plenty and a growing sense of, well pleasant laziness finally got the better of me but the area is very flat making it ideal for cycling (bikes available for hire in the hotel) and a very popular way to see the local area. It was also a bit of a paradise for strollers, powerwalkers and joggers.
The Isla Canela has a well equipped fitness room (free to hotel guests) and a smart Spa complex offering a full range of treatments. The daily entertainment activities around the hotel kept the children occupied for hours on end and the 3 outdoor pools were, as usual, extremely popular. Now I couldn’t allow the group to just laze about for the whole week, so on Monday, they all agreed to drag themselves, by private coach, for yet more strenuous lying about at a nearby waterpark – just where did we find the energy?
The Aquopolis waterpark was lovely, not large and not over busy but with plenty of sunbeds and lush grass and enough water slides to satisfy everyone’s needs, including a few quite hairy ones but that didn’t bother the kids who made a beeline to such ‘gentle’ rides as the Tornado, Kamikaze and The Black Hole while the mummies and daddies paddled in the pool – a wave pool to be exact (which did also have it’s choppy moments).
In reality, the most strenuous hour was probably when a couple of the dads suggested a sand castle building contest on the beach, a fun idea well received with all the kids being presented with a certificate for their efforts.
The children, all 15 of them, spent much of their days in the pools – surprise surprise with Jack, our youngest little boy at just 5 years, being mesmerised by both the Lion King show and what soon became his daily personal visit from Smiley, one of the kiddies clubs characters.
All in all, a lovely way to spend a week - or two.
Keith, hosting Small Families Holidays first single parent family group to the Hotel Isla Canela, Andalucia - July 25th 2012
Taking the Kids Away?Tuesday 10th April 2012With the main holiday season fast approaching it’s sensible to do a bit of forward planning if travelling with the little ones!
The list below is probably second nature to many of you but if not you might find it useful. Travelling to your holiday destination should be part of the fun so there's no need to get stressed out and with that in mind:
Ten Useful Tips when Holidaying with Children
1. Travel with compact hand luggage bags which can fit under airplane seats for easy access.
2. Suggest you keep a few handy snacks/treats available to ‘amuse’ the little ones.
3. Carry a small selection of comics, books, quizzes or crayons to entertain the children during the flight.
4. Those soft or inflatable headrest pillows are a very useful ‘bit of kit’ to keep them comfortable en-route – in fact, why not get one for yourself too?
5. Leave home in plenty of time, you don’t want to get stressed out through having to rush and children will almost always slow you down!
6. Take a bit of ‘emergency’ kids clothing; spilt drinks or other mishaps can be quite common and always tend to happen in the most awkward locations!
8. Pack all important travel documents, keys, money etc in an easy to access pocket of your hand luggage; you don’t want to be rummaging around in your cases in the middle of check-in, who needs that hassle while trying to hang on to the little darlings!
9. So you’re travelling with kids? Then pack wet wipes/tissues or damp flannel etc – you know it makes sense!
10. Finally, when you are prepared and organised yourself, you might just feel like you're having a holiday too!
Beware Ryanair (Hand Luggage)Wednesday 7th March 2012
Good old Ryanair
They never give up trying. You may need to use them from time to time either because of little other choice or the price is reasonable.
We’ve just returned from Faro with hand luggage only which we carefully packed to keep within the very strict weight and size restrictions Ryanair demand but I should warn you, beware when this airline is on the money-raising ‘warpath’!!!
On the outbound flight, one of the staff walked the queue at the gate visually checking on hand luggage and that it was the correct size, fair enough. However….on the return from Faro, each and every piece of hand luggage had to be placed in the size gauge (which I’m convinced is narrower than other budget airlines) and if it was a tight fit, there was no argument, it had to go in the aircraft hold at added cost (40 Euros). This now seems common practice especially on returning Ryanair flights and appears blatantly designed to get more cash out of passengers, all the more riling when the baggage size complied completely with the maximum dimensions stated on their own website.
In fairness to them, if the ‘hand’ baggage is clearly bigger than allowed, they have a point but when it’s half an inch wider because you’ve packed an extra pair of knickers – come on Ryanair!
One couple held up in traffic on route to Stansted were forced to pay a further £50 EACH just to take their two bags to the aircraft because they were a little late, this was in addition to the baggage fees already paid!
So beware if using Ryanair flights this year! Stick 100% within the ‘law,’ (99% is NOT enough)!
'Most airlines pay check-in staff a bonus linked to the value of the excess baggage fees they collect. (Mail Online March 2012)
Carole & Allen (Owners Small Families Holidays)
Just the Ticket!Sunday 26th February 2012Memories of Morocco
It’s been three and a half years since my husband died, leaving me a single parent of two small bundles of chaos to look after..
I’m lucky enough to have a mother who wants to take us away on holiday in one direction and a father who wants to take us away in another. Hence we are lucky enough to have not been short of holidays.
However, that did not stop me wanting to take the kids away on my own... BUT my son is 8 and my daughter is 4 and as any parent knows, airports and travel are a test for anyones patience where children are involved! So I did an internet trawl and found Small Families.
The friendliness of the company seemed to jump out of the page and I felt instantly happy to book. I also thought that the type of person booking with the company is likely to have a similar outlook on life to me and, therefore, would probably be easy to get on with in a group such as ours. I was right!!
And so the day came to fly - Keith and the majority of our small families met outside the Swiss Watch shop in the airport. The big travel tags allowed us to meet and introduce ourselves without fear of talking to a stranger and the kids were instantly chatting.
And so the holiday had begun! On arrival at the complex we were taken smoothly to our rooms where our bags quickly followed and soon after Keith gave us a little tour. From that moment the kids were inseparable, meaning us parents were left to relax knowing the kids were safe, happy, and that as a group we had rather more freedom than usual... I heard several people say they hadn’t read a book in ages!
The week gave me a lease of life I hadn’t felt for a long time. (the massage definately helped!!). The ability to relax in such easy circumstances and with such a brilliant bunch of people was invaluable. THANKYOU to Small Families for everything you do and long may it continue!
Marie McNally - Guest post (February half-term 2012)
A Caribbean ChristmasWednesday 1st February 2012Christmas at home is fine but it usually means too much cooking, too much washing-up, too much clearing up and maybe too many relatives? And throw in a bit of cold, damp weather to boot!
Well all this wasn’t an issue for our wise group of single parents who opted for the Small Families Christmas Caribbean cruise. 11 days of glorious sunshine, beautiful picturesque beaches with azure blue seas, suburb cuisine in luxurious surroundings and of course, the atmospheric steel band music that abounds the Caribbean.
Sailing from Miami took us to Grand Turks, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Roatan, Cozumel and the Grand Bahamas. Lazy days, lazy nights, social relaxing meals, gala dinners - and no washing-up!
We swam in the ocean, climbed the awesome Dunns River Falls in Jamaica, swam with Dolphins and visited Mayan ruins, oh yes, definitely better than being at home. A lovely experience for us all.
Allen & Carole - Small Families Hosts
Moroccan ChristmasMonday 2nd January 2012
Sun, Santa and a Christmas day surprise!
So nice to get a bit of sun on the bones (instead of frost) over Christmas. Admittedly, first thing in the morning and late evening it was a bit on the cool side, nothing a light jacket didn't fix but daytime temps were wery pleasant with plenty of sunbathing.
Christmas Eve was great, the complex really pushed the boat out with a very impressive production of the Navtivity followed by nibbles and cocktails round the central pool before we all headed in for a special gala dinner. The table service proved a bit slow and it wasn't 5 star dining but perfectly acceptable and a lovely atmosphere.
Christmas day around the pool saw Santa and his helpers arrive on camels - yes I did say camels, ok not exactly traditional but hey, this is Morocco and reindeer are a little bit hard to come by but again, a great atmosphere and all the children received a gift.
This event was followed by another Christmas special - a total power failure, which lasted 12 hours, just the Caribbean Village was affected, (wern't we the lucky ones) and it caused a few difficulties when the sun went down but with hundreds of candles placed everywhere it was actually very Christmassy, (the old Dunkirk spirit prevailed). As a group, we decided to eat out on Christmas day evening and found a delightful local Moroccan restaurant and enjoyed a great evening with music. After one final day of tan topping up, Dec 27th saw us heading home to the UK in time for the New Year celebrations.
Keith - (Small Families host) Christmas 2011.
Lapland - Fond MemoriesMonday 5th December 2011I have got married again - something I never thought would happen nor indeed wanted after being widowed so young but I married a chap I've known all my adult life but had not seen for over 20 years but we met up, things happened and now we're married. My wonderful boys could not have a better step-dad.
As a single parent family we have such very fond memories of our holidays with Small Families. I held a WAY Foundation (Widowed and Young), coffee morning recently and some of our new members were talking about holidays so I became an ‘ambassador.’ It's so strange how things work out - only last night I was showing my new husband a copy of the Sami Museum leaflet showing just how far inside the Arctic Circle we actually were when holidaying in Lapland over Christmas.
Ok this might sound very sentimental but Small Families provided us with an escape from the sadness of the first few Christmases without Simon. We will never stop missing him and wishing that things were different but you allowed us to make new memories and to build a new life and we and the boys send our regards to the rest of your team, it would be great to meet up.
Melanie - Guest post (and former holidaymaker)
World Travel Market - LondonFriday 11th November 2011
The world's biggest travel event
The entire Small Families office workforce (ok the 4 of us) have just spent a hectic 4 days at the World Travel market (WTM) in London, an industry event where just about all the world's airlines, hotel groups, tourist offices etc have stands. (The WTM is where the global travel industry plan their forward programmes). As usual, we had many meetings (and the odd glass of champers) well all that talking!
Keith (Small Families Holidays)
Tunisia turns the corner!Wednesday 2nd November 2011
..and we were there!
Nine months after former dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali was deposed, Tunisia went to the polls on Sunday October 23rd 2011 for the first democratic elections for 24 years and we were there - when I say we, I mean Small Families. 'So what', I hear you say, as well you might!
I have tried really hard to look for (or invent) any relevance or omen for our holiday group arriving in the country on the very day of these historical free elections but just can't think of any, so I guess we must put it down to serendipity.
Tunisia relies heavily on tourist income for jobs and general growth and we at Small Families are quite proud to have ‘done our bit’ over the past 11 years by helping (albeit in a tiny way) in that cause with around 91 holidays so far. But obviously it not really us, it’s you, the single parent families without whom we wouldn’t have visited Tunisia even once, so we and our Tunisian partners salute you all.
Despite the oppression of the past, the local people have always been kind, polite, attentive and helpful. Now with the freedom that lies ahead, Tunisia is reborn and Small Families will of course, continue its long association and happily celebrate with them throughout 2012 and beyond.
Keith (Small Families Holidays)Tweet
Cruise Jitters?Thursday 20th October 2011To Cruise or not to Cruise?
It still surprises me how many of our customers will book a hotel based holiday without hesitation but are still very warey and nervous when it comes to considering a cruise. Of course, there are fabulous ships and there are the not so fabulous ships, just as there are very basic hotels and then there’s the Ritz!
During my career in travel, I’ve experienced both ends of the scale, I’ve been lucky enough (and unlucky enough) to have cruised on the best and the worst! – and yes, there is still the odd ship that make Butlins look positively 5 Star, they are cheap but certainly not cheerful and we will never use such ships - on one such ship, we all needed arms like Rambo just to chop through the Christmas pud - I'm not joking either! (But that’s a blog for another time), I laugh now but at the time it wasn’t that funny.
We don’t run many cruises but when we do, it will only ever be on a fabulous ship so it won’t be the cheapest but then you obviously want a great holiday and we obviously want the same for you too - after all, why would you pay out good money for a second rate holiday when you could stay in you own comfortable home for free!
So fear not about cruising, it’s fantastic for kids/teens too and there’s a whole heap of information out there on the www and we’re all experienced cruisers in the office too if you have questions. (I will tell you the full Christmas pud story some time).
Keith - (Small Families Holidays)
The new free TunisiaMonday 10th October 2011
Welcome to the Small Families Holidays Blog
The new free Tunisia – Still safe for tourists
Tunisia was Small Families first ever destination in 2001, since then, we have hosted approx. 90 single parent group holidays there and it’s popularity never wanes. BUT, as the world knows, Jan/Feb 2011 saw the popular uprising that finally ousted the dictatorial regime which kept the population oppressed for 23 years.
Small Families have always had great times in Tunisia but few people (myself included) ever truly realised that while we tourists were looked after so well, the lovely locals who did all that looking after, were themselves very much under the thumb of a hugely corrupt political regime.
Such major change brings its own problems obviously but these will be solved and life for the Tunisians is already so much better and the first free elections in 23 years are being held in October 2011, so it’s an exciting time for Tunisia.
Understandably, a number of you were nervous about going there and we had to cancel our Easter visit for the first time in 11 years! Our May half-term holiday was much better supported (12 families) and remained steady throughout the 2011 summer.
So for those of you who might still be nervous about Tunisia, put those fears aside, it’s still a great country but even better now and the ever friendly Tunisians are waiting to welcome us all back again, (did I mention the fantastic weather and gorgeous safe sandy beaches)?