Press Release

09 February 2018

Half-term family holidays up over £120 annually but winter sun destinations are 21% cheaper than hitting the slopes

  • Overall, the cost of a family holiday this February half-term has risen 2.6 per cent, or £121 year-on-year
  • Ski breaks cost over £1,000 more on average than winter sun holidays
  • Portugal’s Algarve is the overall best value destination costing families £3,632
  • Bansko, Bulgaria is the most affordable ski destination at £4,588 in total

Research from M&S Bank reveals that families looking to hit the slopes this February will pay on average £130 more than this time last year, while families looking for some winter sun will find prices have increased by £111 on last year, 15 per cent less than a ski break. Those hitting the slopes will pay on average £1,000 more in total than families looking for some winter sun.

The most affordable half-term holiday can be found in the Algarve in Portugal at £3,632 per family, or £908 per person and with an average flight time of just under three hours it is ideal for families looking for a short-haul sunshine break.

Malaga in Spain is the next most affordable destination at £3,784 in total. With seven hours of sunshine and average temperatures of 13 Celsius in February, Malaga is one of the warmest short-haul holiday options. The Italian island of Sardinia is the third most affordable destination at £4,404 for a family of four.

Table 1: Top ten most affordable half-term holiday destinations

Location Type of Break 2018 price per person 2018 price per family 2017 price per family Difference £ Difference %
AVERAGE £1,188 £4,750 £4,630 £121 2.6%
Portugal (Algarve) Sun £908 £3,632 £3,536 £96 2.7%
Spain (Malaga) Sun £946 £3,784 £3,695 £89 2.4%
Italy (Sardinia) Sun £1,101 £4,404 £4,307 £97 2.2%
Malta Sun £1,121 £4,484 £4,371 £113 2.6%
Bulgaria (Bansko) Ski £1,147 £4,588 £4,412 £176 4.0%
Croatia (Zagreb) Sun £1,177 £4,708 £4,549 £159 3.5%
Slovenia (Bled) Ski £1,257 £5,028 £4,888 £140 2.9%
Andorra (Soldeu) Ski £1,326 £5,304 £5,271 £33 0.6%
France (Meribel) Ski £1,415 £5,660 £5,521 £139 2.5%
Germany (Garmisch-Partenkirchen) Ski £1,477 £5,909 £5,745 £164 2.9%

Bulgaria is the most affordable ski destination this half-term

Families looking to hit the slopes this half-term can make the biggest saving by booking a ski trip to Bansko in Bulgaria, which costs £4,588 for a family or £1,147 per person. Bansko also offers lower food costs, with a meal out costing £9 per person compared to £21 in Meribel, which has the highest costs for eating out compared to the other ski resorts researched.

Although winter sun generally offers families a more affordable break, with a holiday to Bansko costing £956 more than the most affordable winter sun destination, it is still £120 cheaper than a winter sun break to Croatia (£4,588 vs. £4,708 in total), which has the highest flight costs of all destinations researched (£1,956 per family).

While it’s the cheapest overall ski destination, a holiday to Bansko has risen the most year-on-year overall, costing 4 per cent (or £176) more than in 2017, with sterling down 1.6 per cent on the Bulgarian Lev annually.

The most expensive holiday destination this half-term is the popular German ski resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen at an average cost of £5,909 per family, where eating out costs twice as much as Bansko (£20 vs. £9 per person) and ski pass/equipment rental is 15 per cent more expensive (£743 vs. £645 per family). However, given its proximity to Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, it offers the highest snow levels with 360cm of snow on its upper slopes.

Paul Stokes, Head of Products at M&S Bank, said: "While holidays are up £120 on average this half term, there is a significant difference between the cheapest and most expensive destinations. So, whether families are looking to hit the slopes or the sun loungers this half-term, we would encourage them to look at some alternative destinations and not just the more popular resorts to make their holiday budget stretch further."

Table 2: Top five ski and winter sun holiday destinations this half-term


Location 2018 price per family 2017 price per family Average temperature (°C) Snow Report 2018 (lower/upper) Snow Report 2017 (lower/upper)
Average £5,298 £5,167
Bansko £4,588 £4,412 1 20cm / 162cm 55cm / 125cm
Bled £5,028 £4,888 -6 53cm / 74cm 38cm / 52cm
Soldeu £5,304 £5,271 -3 87cm / 104cm 74cm / 105cm
Meribel £5,660 £5,521 4 105cm / 229cm 20cm / 113cm
Garmisch-Partenkirchen £5,909 £5,745 1 175cm / 360cm 57cm / 64cm


Location 2018 price per family 2017 price per family Average
temperature (°C)
sunshine hours
Average £4,203 £4,092
Algarve £3,632 £3,536 13 6
Malaga £3,784 £3,695 13 7
Sardinia £4,404 £4,307 11 5
Malta £4,484 £4,371 13 7
Zagreb £4,708 £4,549 10 7

Follow Paul’s top travel money tips:

  • Be prepared to be flexible – flights leaving at less sociable hours or during weekdays, rather than weekends, could prove cheaper
  • Shop around and use a comparison site to compare the price of flights, accommodation and, if you are planning a ski holiday, ski pass and rental fees
  • Plan your holiday budget to work out how much your holiday will cost and how much travel money you will need. Even if you’re staying in half-board or all-inclusive accommodation, don’t forget to factor in currency for taxis, tipping and other extras
  • Research the cost of tickets for activities or in advance online – it may be cheaper to buy before you depart
  • Don’t rely on internet rates if buying travel money in-store; many providers have different rates online and some change their rate throughout the day
  • Don’t leave your holiday money until the last minute; airport bureaux often offer less competitive rates and may not have a wide variety of note denominations


All holiday costs are for a family of four for one week. Costs include seven nights’ accommodation, flights, dinner, spending money and either ski rental/hire for one week or one holiday activity. All flights and accommodation booked for a family of four from 10th to 17th February. Accommodation costs are the cheapest available 3 star family room from (opens in a new window). All restaurants from (opens in a new window). All flights represent the cheapest direct flight, departing from any London airport. Flight costs are from All weather data for winter sun destinations from (opens in a new window). Snow Reports for 2018 and 2017 from (opens in a new window) for the destinations of Meribel, Soldeu, Bled and Bansko. Snow Report for Garmisch-Partenkirchen from (opens in a new window).

All exchange rates from M&S Bank correct for 15 January 2018 and 15 January 2017.

The total holiday cost includes spending money of £500 per person, the average amount identified by UK families in M&S Bank’s July 2017 survey among 2,002 nationally representative UK adults who have been, or are going on holiday abroad this year.

For further information please call the M&S Bank press office:

Louise Wheble on 01244 686 177 /

Alex Henshall on 01244 686 092 /

About M&S Bank

M&S Bank (the trading name of Marks & Spencer Financial Services plc) was founded in 1985 as the financial services division of Marks and Spencer plc. In November 2004, HSBC bought 100 per cent of the share capital of Marks and Spencer Retail Financial Services Holdings Limited.

Today, M&S Bank operates as a joint venture arrangement between HSBC and Marks&Spencer, however, M&S Bank retains its own board.

M&S Bank offers a broad range of financial products, including current accounts, the M&S Credit Card, and a range of loans, savings and general insurance products, while its travel money offering boasts the widest range of currencies available on the high street. M&S Bank has 29 branches and over 120 bureaux de change located in M&S stores across the UK.

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