The ex­pert view

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - CONSUMER ADVICE -

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.

Ques­tions should be sent by email to ask­the­ex­perts@ tele­graph.co.uk. Please pro­vide your name and near­est town and, if your query is about a dis­pute with a travel com­pany, your full ad­dress, day­time tele­phone num­ber and any book­ing ref­er­ence. We re­gret that we can­not an­swer all the emails we re­ceive.

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