herald

Sunday 22 April 2018

What's the cheapest way to get on the ski slopes?

Q Where can I get a cheap ski holiday with the family?

A For the combination of value and access, Austria is the place and St Patrick's week the time to go. Topflight, (and its cousin Directski) and Crystal are the ski specialist operators and both have excellent track records of dealing with families. Dublin-based High Life is an excellent chalet specialist operator.

Bulgaria used to be the answer to the "cheapest" query, but it is inaccessible from Ireland and the expense and hassle of taking two flights takes away form any price advantage. When you get there Bansko is 160km from Sofia and transfer time is about two and a half hours.

Andorra, which used to be the cheapest option and the bargain basement for beginners, is back in the price game somewhat thanks to a collapse in traffic from its key markets.

We may see a bit of price creep this season because demand is rising and capacity is not. Ski bookings for 2013- 14 are 9pc ahead of last year according to Crystal and 30pc ahead according to Topflight. Independent flyers found low-cost luggage restrictions a problem – a pair of ski boots can weigh 7kg. A late Easter (Apr 22) means that the charter season ends with departures on March 22, the week after St Patrick's Day.

As regards capacity, the withdrawal of Panorama and Inghams from the Irish market (Inghams are still active out of Belfast) and the cancellation of scheduled winter routes to Salzburg mean we have fewer direct flights.

The February mid term coincides in both jurisdictions on February 16 and this is selling particularly fast, 22pc ahead of last year at time of going to press. The Christmas December 21 departures are offering good value at the time of going to press.

Youth passes are on offer in an increased number of resorts winter. They average about 35pc less than the adult pass and are available at an increasing number of Austrian resorts, generally up to age 15. Children's passes, generally at half price, apply to under-12s in Norway, under-11s in Andorra and under-5s in France, Italy and USA.

Q What is the best way to book train travel in France?

It is a great way to travel and there is a dizzying array of price promotions available from resellers, sometimes cheaper than on the French rail website sncf.com.

Be warned that some of these are not available to Irish residents.

The railway website everyone goes to is seat61.com, an independent site maintained by a rail travel enthusiast (trainspotter?) but it is very focussed on the English market.

Can I bring my dog on holiday to France?

A Yes, it just requires some extra paperwork and to have the dog certified by a vet on the day of its return journey.

The requirements are that you need to apply for a passport through your vet (pet's photograph on its passport is optional), a rabies vaccination about seven months before the journey, a blood test after 21 days to show the level of rabies anti-bodies, and check for tick and tapeworm on the day of the return journey.

Your pet must be micro?chipped to provide identification. This MUST be done before or on the same day as the rabies vaccination.

Send your questions to ecorry@herald.ie

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