The expert view
First the bad news. Earlier in the year I was putting a relatively positive gloss on the value of the pound against the euro. Even though sterling was languishing around 1.15, it was still about the same as it had been for five of the past 10 years. But the last few weeks have seen another dip – with the pound buying fewer than 1.10 euros – and that makes things as bad as they have been since 2009.
The good news is that the dip in 2009 lasted only a year or so – and, despite the uncertainties of Brexit, the pound will surely recover some ground before too long. In the short term, we may, however, be in for one of those winters when skiing in particular seems like more of a luxury.
Again, there is some good news. Even if the pound stays weak right through to next spring and prices on the ground look high for British skiers this winter, most major tour operators have already priced their packages. And they did so when the pound was nearer 1.20. So if you pay for as much of your ski holiday as you can in sterling in advance, you can benefit.
If you buy a full-board package with all extras included, the only expense in the resort may be a few lunches. Chalet holidays which offer these arrangements, and often include wine at meal times, look attractive this season.
Should you therefore book now and take advantage of incentives advertised by some operators? For example, Crystal (crystalski.co.uk) is offering a third off lift prices and ski packs in some European resorts for bookings made before Monday. Or should you wait until the snow falls and see what last-minute deals are available instead?
I’m always tempted by the latter option, because you can at least be confident of choosing a resort or a week with decent conditions. But such strategy only works for a few weeks in the season when demand is relatively low and availability likely. This winter, there will be fewer of those weeks than usual. The timing of Christmas and Easter means that only one departure weekend at the beginning of the season (December 9/10), the four January weeks, and the first three weeks in March can be considered mid or low season. This is good news for families, because it makes the last week in March a feasible and cheaper alternative to the mania of February half-term. But it is not so promising for last-minute bargain hunters, because there is likely to be more pressure than usual during the off-peak weeks, and therefore fewer late deals.
Skiers who are flexible about when they take time off will still find some good options by booking a week or two ahead of departure. For those who need to plan further in advance – and certainly for the school holidays – this is probably a season when it’s a good idea to take what’s on offer now. And either way, to pay for as much as possible upfront and in sterling.
told me that, as I was a parent travelling alone with a child to South Africa, I must get my husband’s letter of permission signed by a solicitor. I tried to find a solicitor near Gatwick, but it was a Sunday and phones went unanswered.
I asked Emirates if they could put me on Monday’s flight once I got the letter signed but was told this was not possible and that only my agent, Travel Up, could help.
The manager at Travel Up, while sympathetic, says there is nothing to be done other than for me to buy a new return ticket. I am devastated as I can’t afford to spend another £700. Can you help? JOANNE CAPUTO
AYou are the third person to contact me in as many weeks to say they’ve been refused travel to South Africa as a lone parent because they don’t have a parental consent affidavit.
An affidavit is a signed letter sworn under oath in person before a solicitor or a commissioner for oaths. It costs £5. This requirement has been in place since June 2015 when the South African Department of Home Affairs brought in new regulations to prevent child trafficking. All children under 18 must travel to South Africa with their unabridged birth certificate showing the names of their parents – even if travelling with them. If the child is accompanied by one parent, South African immigration requires consent – in the form of an affadavit – from whoever is registered as the parent on the birth certificate.
The affidavit must be sworn within three months of travel and a certified copy of the absent parent’s passport attached. If you had booked direct with Emirates you could not have failed to see the warning about the documentation needed for children entering South Africa as it is set out in full on the “Review Your Itinerary” page before payment is taken. However, you booked through Travel Up which, like most online agents, does not alert customers to this and is not legally required to do so.
Your confirmation merely states that you should contact the visa agent CIBT to check entry requirements and that Travel Up is not liable for denied boarding due to invalid documents. Emirates could perhaps have flown you the following day as a goodwill gesture if you had booked direct with them, but it could not change an agency-issued ticket.
Travel Up is claiming that a warning about entry requirements for children is set out in its flight confirmation email. It may be now, but it was not when you bought your ticket in May. I don’t think this is a satisfactory situation. Both airlines and agents should have a legal liability to warn passengers about this complex issue.
For further information, see southafricahouseuk.com and click on the “Foreign Citizens” tab.
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