With the end of the school term a week away, the plunging pound already means that families face spiralling holiday costs in Europe.
Now research for the third annual Post Office Travel Money Family Holiday Report has revealed that hard-pressed parents hoping to keep a lid on costs could come unstuck paying for holiday extras.
More than one in 20 families shell out over £200 per child by giving in to kids' 'pester power'.
On average, parents anxious to please their children admitted to forking out almost £80 per child on beach holiday extras that they had not bargained – or budgeted - for.
A whopping 87% of parents surveyed had paid out for kids' extras - 49% of them giving in to demands for ice creams and lollies. These topped a long list of kids' 'must-have' items that could bust the family budget.
Other budget-busters included sightseeing attractions, fizzy drinks, water parks, pedalo rides and beach gear like buckets and spades and lilos.
But prices for these items vary dramatically in European resorts, according to the 2011 Post Office Family Holiday Beach Barometer, which surveyed prices in 13 destinations.
Bulgaria emerged as this summer's bargain buy, where kids' beach extras cost half as much in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria (£47.93) as in France's Vendée region (£96.28).
More worryingly for cost-conscious parents, there were year-on-year prices hikes in every resort except Majorca (-1%). The highest rise was in Croatia (+58%).
How to keep 'holiday extras' down
Do your research before choosing your holiday destination, and you could save yourself hundreds of pounds. Kick off by checking out the Post Office's Beach Barometer comparison guide:
Beach Barometer Price Comparisons At A Glance:
• Bulgaria is a bargain for jelly shoes (£3.09), a third the price in Portugal (£9.80)
• A lilo is cheapest in Bulgaria (£2.58) but three times the price in Crete (£9.80)
• Best-buy bucket and spade is in Spain's Costa Blanca (£2.94) but Corfu is over twice the price (£6.86)
• Turkey is great value for an ice cream – one every day for a week will cost £7.06. Families will pay double that in Bulgaria and even more in France
• Taking an hour's pedalo or kayak ride twice during a week's holiday provides cheap entertainment in Bulgaria, Majorca and the Algarve (under £16 apiece for two hour long rides) – but costs almost double that in Brighton.
The Post Office barometer research found that family meals in resort restaurants could see costs soaring, too. Portugal's Algarve will set a family of four back just over £34 – but a meal would cost twice as much in Corfu (£68.63) or Croatia (£70.41). In Italy it would be almost three times as expensive (£98.04).
Sarah Munro, Post Office Head of Travel Money, said: 'Sterling has taken a battering recently and when you combine the reducing spending power of sterling with higher resort charges, it means that families will have to contend with spiralling holiday costs this year. As our research shows, paying out extra for kids' 'must haves' could bust the holiday budget – so the clear message must be to pack the suitcase carefully.
'For families who haven't already booked, it's worth considering Bulgaria or a cheaper eurozone destination like Portugal or Spain. They should also buy currency before leaving home rather than waiting to change money at the airport where they will get a poor rate and carry enough currency to avoid changing money abroad.'
Check out our tips on how to save money on your next holiday here:
How to cut the cost of your next holiday
Holiday 'pester power' costs you £200 extra a child
Silly though it sounds, the cost of a package is often cheaper than the cost of a flight. 'Tour operators have access to very cheap flights aren't available to the consumer,' says Emma O'Boyle from Tripadvisor. 'That's why you can book a seven-day holiday, including accommodation, in a destination like Bali for £600 even though a flight alone might cost £700.' You don't need to feel trapped by your package holiday if it's not what you're after - just use hotel as base and go exploring. 'Even if you add extra accommodation costs on top of the package holiday, it can still be cheaper than booking independently for many long-haul destinations. You'll also have the added benefit of being able to leave behind what you don't need on overnight excursions,' says Emma.
Unlike your credit card, a prepaid cash card in your chosen currency means that the exchange rate is fixed at the time of purchase, and there are no commission charges. Simply load the card with cash in the UK for free, then use it as a normal debit/credit card, or to withdraw cash. Overseas usage is free, whether you use it to withdraw cash, buy things in shops or restaurants. Mytravel currency cards are valid anywhere MasterCard is valid. Go to mytravelcash.com for more.
According to Emma O'Boyle from TripAdvisor, planning ahead can leave you quids in. 'The idea of the "late deal" can be a myth. Often the earlier you book, the better the deal. It also leaves options open – waiting to book until two weeks before your holiday means you'll have extremely limited choices, but by booking early you'll likely find availability in any destination you want. If your schedule is flexible, fly during the middle of the week, as you can often find cheaper fares that way.'
'Shop around for airports before booking', advises Tripadvisor's Emma O'Boyle. It's often cheaper to fly in or out of an alternative airport. For example, Fort Lauderdale and Miami are less than 30 miles apart, but flying to Miami from London can often be over £100 cheaper than the fare to Ford Lauderdale.'
The joy of the all-inclusive package is that you know exactly what you're spending - but remember to read the small print: many 'all inclusives' have all sorts of hidden extras that aren't actually, er, included.
First Choice offers some jolly good deals (and it reckons a family of four can save up to £500 on a week's holiday by going all-in), and for five star luxury without the hidden extras, check out The Platinum Plan at the five-star Lily Beach in the Maldives (pictured). Your price includes buffet and a la carte fine dining, unlimited cocktails and all premium brand drinks (including those from your mini bar) as well as activities such as excursions to other islands, a sunset cruises and fishing expeditions, gym entrance, water sports.....
If you're going solo, book with a small-group tour company like Explore, which charges no single supplements on its small group tours. Explore has introduced a new range of Solo Traveller tours in response to the fact that more than half of its customers travel alone. Destinations include Morocco (pictured) and Thailand, with single rooms for everyone at no extra supplement.
According to HomeAway Holiday Rentals, renting an apartment can be up to four times cheaper per square foot than hotels, and, as they sleep more people, they allow you to spread the cost if there are more than two of you. You get space and flexibility too. And best of all, they allow you to get out of the usual tourist zones and shop where the locals shop, which is always cheaper than shopping in city centres. For example, this lovely apartment in Paris (pictured) works out from 43 Euros per night.
'Most airlines are now charging some type of baggage fee,' says Tripadvisor's Emma O'Boyle. Some charge for additional bags, some charge by weight, and some even charge for your first checked bag. Do your homework and find out what your airline charges before you book. You could use a comparison service such as the new TripAdvisor Fees Estimator to avoid any nasty surprises when you get to the airport. Not only will it calculate additional charges for baggage but will even factor in additional sneaky meal and credit card charges.'
If you know you're going to want to go sightseeing, it's well worth pre-booking. For holidays to Florida, for example, you can buy exclusive combined tickets to theme parks before you depart which are not available on the gate. 'It's a bit like pre-booking a cheap train ticket in the UK, the earlier the better! Says Oliver Broad, Chairmman of AITO Specialist Travel Agents.
'Many travellers may balk at the idea of a holiday in Southeast Asia because of the flight cost, but it's worth considering exchange rates and the cost of living once you arrive,' says Tripadvisor's Emma O'Boyle. 'A flight to Italy may be cheap, but paying for meals, hotels and activities in Euros will quickly add up, while exchange rates in destinations like Thailand and Vietnam strongly favour the pound and meals are readily available for less than £1.'