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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

How vaccine rules are throwing family ski holidays into chaos

It’s not the only trip the Card’s have had to cancel: “My eldest son was also going on a school ski trip to Italy in half term which has also been cancelled due to the restrictions there,” said Natasha.

“We have looked at various options but I can’t seem to find anywhere that allows a single vaccinated teenager to enjoy the same freedom as his unvaccinated 11 year old brother,” continued frustrated Natasha, who is now heading into the season without a secured booking for her planned peak-week break.

Natasha does have some hassle-free options though – Scandinavia has particularly lax rules on the slopes – but it comes at a cost. “I am now looking at Norway or Finland as an option for half term, but these are not the cheapest options and we do not have bottomless pockets, sadly.”

And she’s also concerned for friends who are heading into the seasons blind to the fact they’ll face restrictions once they arrive at their destination, not just at the border. “I have many friends who have booked ski holidays who are unaware of the possible restrictions to their teenagers. They are continuously being told by their ski companies that the entry restrictions into each country are the only things they need to worry about. I have told them their kids may not be allowed on lifts, in hotels and restaurants or into ski lessons. The ski companies are only following advice from the Government sites and are telling them they are all clear to go.”

Extra cost in usually budget-friendly Italy

It’s not just the French and American policy makers causing headaches for skiing families this winter, father of two Iain Martin plans to travel to Italy.

“We have a family trip, with our 15 year-old twins, booked for February half term to Roccaraso in Italy. We’ve booked our flights direct with easyJet and hotel, transfer and lift pass with a small UK tour operator called Ski Abruzzo. After two missed family ski holidays, we wanted to go twice this winter, and Italy is much better value than France and Austria.”

But Iain is fully aware that things might change before the foursome depart. “We’ve learned from the last two years that holiday plans can change at any time,” he said.

“If everything stays as it currently stands, the only issues will be with our single-vaccinated children. I think the worst case scenario is that they will have to take two or three Covid tests during the course of the week to be able to access the restaurants and ski lifts.” Italy is operating a ‘green pass’ this winter, requiring proof of vaccination, recovery or negative test in order to access ski lifts, restaurants and bars.

Iain admits the enjoyment of his family ski holiday will depend on resorts’ approach to the implementing the rules, but the additional cost will be worth it. “It could add an extra £180-£200 to the cost of the holiday. Of course, we’d rather not pay it, but in proportion to the total cost of the holiday and the value of taking a holiday together as a family I don’t consider it significant,” he said.

But that doesn’t curb his frustrations. “My frustration is less with the UK Government and more with the inconsistency in regulations on vaccinations and testing from country to country. However, I feel it’s inevitable that in the UK we’ll be offering second vaccinations to 12-15 year olds before long.” Indeed this week it has been confirmed that 16 and 17 year olds  in the UK will be offered a second dose.

Spurred on by his family’s eagerness to return to the slopes, the Martins have a second holiday booked this winter, if their debut in Italy goes without a hitch: “We’ll be going to France with four other families at Easter if all goes well.”

Complications on a multi-gen holiday

Rebecca Miles is planning a multi-generational ski holiday to Champagny en Vanoise, part of La Plagne, in France in the New Year with her daughter (age 5), husband and parents (both in their 70s). The family is travelling independently, so without the reassurance or knowledge of a tour operator, “we’re fending for ourselves,” said Rebecca.

“We’ve all missed the Alps a lot, so I can’t quite believe we might actually be able to visit again. But I have to admit, there’s a niggle in the back of my mind that it’ll be cancelled for some reason – France’s rates will rocket, they’ll close the border again, and we’ll be left disappointed. It’s hard to be completely confident about it, considering the past 18 months,” she explained.

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