THE modern nightmare faced by families trying to book reasonably priced holidays during the summer school break is revealed today.
Parents wanting to treat their children to a holiday either here or abroad face a Hobson's choice between paying through the nose, or risking grades by taking them out of school during term time.
The astounding extent of that dilemma is exposed in a shocking survey which found:
A family of four travelling to the French Riviera would have pay 89% more in August than if they travelled two weeks later;
A stay at a British holiday camp costs 42% more for a family of four in August than in September;
Florida holidays cost between 38% and 64% more in August than in September;
Patrick Muir, Morgan Stanley Consumer Banking's marketing director said, "Our latest research shows that Britons need to be careful when planning their holiday destination to avoid paying over the odds for a few days of sun."
A search for package deals available for a family of four from Wales yesterday also showed that:
A trip to Majorca was 20% more expensive in August than in September.
Cyprus was 18% more expensive during the summer holidays.
A holiday in Turkey would cost 62% more than it would during term time.
But holiday company representatives insist supply and demand leaves them with little choice than to mark up. And there are holidays which are less hard hitting on the pocket to be had, the Morgan Stanley Consumer Banking survey found.
A family of four flying to Spain would pay 5% more in August than in September;
A stay at a three-star hotel in the Lake District would only be 1% more in August than in September;
Tour operators have kept some August prices to destinations such as Greece and Spain roughly the same as those in term time.
Frances Tuke, of the Association of British Travel Agents, said yesterday, "It's an economic fact that when demand for something goes up so does the price - that's across the board. It's not up to one sector to control that.
"It's not just families with kids who want to go on holiday during that period. There's people who work in Parliament, civil servants, not to mention the rest of the continent. It's simply the most popular time."
But the National Union of Teachers in Wales said children were constantly being taken out of school for holidays during term time, despite risks to their education.
"It's been a real thorn in the side, and it's such a shame," said spokesman Rhys Williams.
""Just two weeks of school missed can make a big difference."
Education Minister Jane Davidson has always said she would discourage parents taking their children out of school during term time.
A National Assembly spokeswoman said, "She is concerned if this is happening for any reason.
"Parents do not have automatic right to withdraw pupils for holidays. Each request for holiday absence should be considered individually by the head teacher."
And a parent could face prosecution if a child does not have explicit permission.
So how does one avoid the threat of jail and achieve five-star holiday satisfaction for parents complete with A-grade results for their children, while helping to maintain holiday companies' business?
A Which? consumer magazine spokesman said, "What holiday companies say is that they have to raise prices during the peak times to pay for the rest of the year, when they say they make very little money.
"This is because there are so many people going away during school holidays and fewer travelling at other times.
"One thing which could force the situation to change would be if fewer people booked, which would force companies to give away more last minute deals."
Lembit Opik, the Welsh Liberal Democrat leader, suggested copying our holiday rivals the Germans by staggering timetables.
But he added, "It could have its pitfalls, and would need to be looked at thoroughly to iron out potential problems."
Welsh Assembly Conservative leader Nick Bourne last night urged education leaders to sit down with holiday companies to find a solution.
"It is something the Assembly could initiate," he said.