Well done to the Daily Mail!

They’ve discovered the appalling rip off that is:

British parents taking their children to Center Parcs this half-term will be paying hundreds of pounds more than their European counterparts.
The savings on the Continent are so great that even when taking into account travel costs, families in the UK could save £667 by going to a Center Parcs in France.
And they could save £900 by going to one of the woodland retreats in Germany.

Well, actually, I think they’ve found that half term dates in Germany vary by state, and in France by region (staggered across three regions). Meaning that those countries don’t in fact have everyone in the goddam country trying to keep the kiddies occupied during the same damn week.

Good work by the Mail there: not that they recognise what they’ve found of course.

47 thoughts on “Well done to the Daily Mail!”

  1. On the Dutch news last night some people were complaining that different provinces have different holiday periods. Why? Problems for a family living near a border with children in schools of two different provinces.
    Mind you, the complaint is only about the short Easter holiday. Nobody questions the good sense of staggering the main Summer holiday.

  2. It’s amazing the summer holidays still exist, I’d admit there may be somewhere where the kids still work the fields, but in our modern internet age why haven’t we moved to an even spread five term year, from my experience the worst times are the “demob happy” weeks before a term break holiday, having more breaks and spread out must be better for learning?

  3. Straight from the horse.gov.uk’s mouth: “School term and holiday dates vary across the UK.”

    Yet when I actually use the website, looking at the dozen or so parts of the country for which I can think of a postcode, I find that the upcoming half-term break is always 26-30th October.

    And if it’s that much of a problem, just pack up your car and drive to Center Parcs in France/Belgium/NL. Your kids might even pick up some language skills.

  4. @Runcie Balspune:

    Try telling the average teacher they aren’t getting their 6 week holiday but have to spread it instead.

    STRIIIIIIKE!!!!

  5. I used to work in a government office where around a fifth of staff had term-time contracts. That meant those without children could never get half-terms off except for exceptional reasons and found themselves grafting like Chinese, lol.
    Andrew M is right that english local authorities can vary holiday dates, but for the next one they all seem to have chosen the same dates.

  6. AC,
    I’ve never even heard of term-time contracts (other than for school staff obviously). However it makes perfect sense for an employer if the work isn’t time-sensitive: they gain access to a cheaper pool of labour.
    All those gains are then thrown away by union rules and sex-discrimination laws which say you must pay everyone the same rate, regardless of supply & demand.

  7. Staggered school holidays. The very idea. One of the saving graces is that I have certain periods of the year where I can fly without too much risk of being sat in front of a kid who kicks my seat for the whole journey, screams, goes to the toilet 50 times, decides it wants to change seats every 10 minutes or has a hand held game machine at full volume with no headphones.

    While the parents look on with blissful acceptance of everything…

  8. “english local authorities can vary holiday dates, but for the next one they all seem to have chosen the same dates.”

    Let me guess: teacher couples who work for different local authorities want to be able to take a break together. Producer capture, eh?

  9. What the Daily Mail also doesn’t address that, in almost every manner you can mention from cars to clothes, Britain is a fucking rip-off. Little surprise that the French and Germans don’t pay as much as Brits for their holidays, then. Maybe the owners of Centre Parcs believe that all those wealthy Brits living in £500k houses can afford to pay more for their holidays?

  10. Mid-term break in Scotland was this week for most, and the climate isn’t that different from England.
    Perhaps there is a place for the ‘Courageous State’ to impose something here – a sort of 4 colour map of local authorities, each colour represents different term dates, and authorities cannot have the same colour as one they share a border with.

    Fee-paying schools exempted of course!

  11. So Much For Subtlety

    There is an easier way to reduce prices and congestion. We should use the holidays for their original purpose – bringing in the harvest.

    We can have something run by those nice Woodland folk. You know, like where students volunteer to go down to the countryside and help bring in the harvest. But with a more Ecological tinge. I am sure there was a government or two that used to do something like that.

    Anyway, we can call it the Caring Community Folk Voluntary Green Land Corp or something. Every student over 12 has to spend a couple of weeks helping out farmers.

    I am sure the Guardian and the BBC would be on board. I am sure lots of Labour Party members would be only too happy to send their precious dears off. And then the tickets will be cheaper for the rest of us.

  12. I’ve been recommending Disneyland Paris at June half term to people. It’s about as cheap to get a break there as park tickets (if you arrive Sunday).

    Also, you don’t queue too long for the rides.

  13. Tim Newman,

    “What the Daily Mail also doesn’t address that, in almost every manner you can mention from cars to clothes, Britain is a fucking rip-off.”

    Is it? I’m not so sure. My father-in-law bought a laptop in the US and brought it back and he got the sort of saving I wouldn’t have bothered about (like £20-30 on a £500 machine). I’ve seen comparisons of Apple stuff that shows that it’s basically VAT pushing up the price. I did shopping in France and other than foie gras (which is half the price) it all seemed pretty similar.

  14. >It’s amazing the summer holidays still exist, I’d admit there may be somewhere where the kids still work the fields, but in our modern internet age why haven’t we moved to an even spread five term year

    There’s a lot of talk in UK education circles about reducing the summer holidays. I don’t expect it to be as long as it now is in five years time.

  15. In my experience, prices in France, Italy, Germany and the UK are pretty much the same. Some things vary of course – eg a €10 claret in France will leave you little change out of £20 in the UK, while generic paracetamol will cost 20p a pack in the UK but a couple of euros or more in the eurozone, and branded toiletries tend to more expensive than the UK.

  16. Theophrastus,

    “Some things vary of course – eg a €10 claret in France will leave you little change out of £20 in the UK”

    I’d love to know where. I’ve been to Pauillac and the shops there seem to be more expensive than buying at Berry Bros. The supermarket claret is cheaper, but it’s always poor years.

  17. The Stigler,

    I don’t mean that everything in France is cheaper than in the UK. But a lot of stuff is: decent restaurant meals, the Paris metro, and property for example. And the article establishes that Centre Parcs is cheaper.

    What I mean is that Britain seems to be, at best, as expensive as Europe for most items but more expensive for others. What is Britain cheap for, compared to France?

  18. Our experience in France is that the cheap wines are cheaper but, Mr Stigler says, the good stuff is more expensive.

    “Mid-term break in Scotlandt”: another soft English habit introduced to Scotland. Shame! Shame!

  19. Dave,

    Are you the same Dave that:

    1) Insisted there is a “bro culture” in American universities which allows young men to rape women with impunity; and/or

    2) Thinks robots will be building factories?

  20. Dearime,

    The French buy the decent stuff direct from the vineyards at a huge discount or from the massive wine exhibitions, at an equally huge discount. Few buy top quality wines from a shop.

  21. Tim N:

    Road tolls in the UK are few, whereas in France…Then there’s non-prescription medicines and generic drugs. By and large, I find I cannot easily live more cheaply in France than I do in the UK. Things balance out overall. In Spain, though, I find I can live 20% more cheaply.

    The Stigler/Dearieme

    I was not talking so much about the quality as price points. You can find the same year cru bourgeois available in France at €10 at £16.99 in my local wine merchant, and (turning to Italy) the same €14 bottle of Barolo for £20.

  22. My father-in-law bought a laptop in the US and brought it back and he got the sort of saving I wouldn’t have bothered about (like £20-30 on a £500 machine).

    Depends on what you’re buying. Electronics doesn’t seem as much of a ripoff in the UK as it used to be, probably because of the ease of buying from other countries online.

    I earn a few thousand more in Canada than I did in the UK, but it goes a heck of a lot further. When we bought a new SUV last year, I looked up the same model in the UK, and the closest equivalent (smaller engine, few more gadgets) was about 50% more expensive. I never even bought a new car over there, because the price and rapid depreciation made it a crazy idea.

    Similarly, our detached house here cost less than buying half an ex-council terrace where I used to live. Though we don’t get the free entertainment of chavs setting cars on fire in the street over here.

    Cheese is more expensive, though. The cops arrested a gang of cheese-smugglers recently, bringing in cheap cheese over the US border.

  23. Road tolls in the UK are few, whereas in France

    Yes, but we don’t have road tax here in France and the roads are a billion times better. You say you can’t live in France cheaper than in the UK: does that include the mortgage?

  24. Funny how for the Mail market forces are evil in some respects, yet in others are sacrosanct and wonderful, eg house prices…

  25. But, as Tim points out, it’s not ‘market forces’, it’s government incompetence.

    Schools exist for the convenience of teachers, not to educate kids. Otherwise, parents could take their kids out at any time, and go on holiday when prices are low.

  26. Back on topic, this is refreshing. Fewer things made me want to punch somebody than having them bullshit about the terrible effects of taking a child out of school against the wishes of the useless school authorities.

  27. Bloke in Costa Rica

    I never understood the idiocy of treating parents who take their children out of school for a couple of weeks the same as those who let their feral brood bunk off permanently (begging the question that even that is a legitimate concern of the authorities). It’s as if they’re afraid that the children will be absent in the week they teach them arithmetic, so they’ll be condemned to life on the dole for ever after. I’m not sure what fraction of, say, my primary schooling I could have missed without unduly deleterious effects, but I’d be surprised if it were less than 30%.

  28. BiCR,

    It’s worse than that: the statist pricks argue that taking a kid out of school has a detrimental effect on the other kids as well because, among other things, they apparently get “distracted” when the kid returns and start telling his mates about the holiday.

  29. “By and large, I find I cannot easily live more cheaply in France than I do in the UK. Things balance out overall. In Spain, though, I find I can live 20% more cheaply.”

    I’d say I live considerably cheaper in France & the differential for Spain must be more like 50%
    But all the chuntering on about wine prices & laptops might give a clue.
    In both countries I shop working class, Because that’s what I’ve been taught. So I’m very french in France & very spanish in Spain. And one thing I’ve noticed, it’s very much cheaper being relatively poor in either, than it is in the UK.
    But as you move up the income bands, with spending patterns to match, the differentials close. I wouldn’t be the least surprised if it’s actually cheaper to live wealthy, UK side

  30. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Tim N: that’s called “just making shit up”. I can well believe something like that being trotted out as a reason, what I can’t understand is anyone being able to do it with a straight face.

  31. So Much For Subtlety

    Bloke in Costa Rica – “I never understood the idiocy of treating parents who take their children out of school for a couple of weeks the same as those who let their feral brood bunk off permanently (begging the question that even that is a legitimate concern of the authorities).”

    Well 1. Dealing with ferals is a bloody nightmare. They kick, scream, swear, spit, scratch and much worse. The Middle class are so much easier to bully because they start out apologising and it just goes downhill from there. To a first order approximation, it looks like all law enforcement in the UK is not focused on the passive middle class who can be relied on not to fight back,

    And 2. Taking the children out undermines the teachers’ authority. If the children realise that they can safely miss a couple of days, they will realise they can miss a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months. Who knows? Maybe the children will clue on that they are not actually learning anything particularly useful at all. It is unpleasant to stand in front of a bunch of children and try to teach them, but it would be nigh on impossible if they realised that it is all a clown show and many of them would be better off outside.

  32. Yes, but we don’t have road tax here in France and the roads are a billion times better.

    You do have a road tax. It’s called the payage.

    British motorways are all freeways, French are mostly turnpikes.

  33. Vancouver real estate is shocking

    So’s central London. Both have a limited supply of land, and a lot of people who want to live there. Most of Canada isn’t Vancouver, just like most of the UK isn’t central London.

    Roads are, admittedly, quite crappy, but we have about half as many miles of roads as the UK, with about 2% of the population… and temperature swings of 80C between summer and winter. That’s one reason we bought an SUV.

  34. You do have a road tax. It’s called the payage.

    Yes, they’d be the toll roads mentioned in the comment I was responding to. And nobody forces you to take the toll roads, there is always an alternative, free route.

  35. “The cops [Canadian] arrested a gang of cheese-smugglers recently, bringing in cheap cheese over the US border.”

    Things must be bad if people are desperate enough to eat US ‘cheese’.

  36. Yes, the rules against taking children out of school are ridiculous, and tightening them up is about the only thing I think Gove got badly wrong (before then, with a sensible headmaster, we could wag off for 10 days a year).

    He should have made it worthwhile for them to be in school before he made it compulsory to be there every day.

    The most ridiculous are the days when they spend the whole day playing games or even watching movies, but I could be prosecuted if they aren’t there.

  37. Agree with BIS. A coffee or beer and sandwich in a French cafe is around 2/3 the UK price and the weekly shop likewise. Fuel for the car about 10% cheaper. Spain is even better. If you want to pay top restaurant prices, I guess the prices are comparable but everyday life is significantly cheaper.

  38. @Diogenes
    There’s a restaurant I regularly use in Spain will do you a quite palatable main meal dish with bread for €2. And a beer or wine to accompany for 80c. So £1.50 & 60p ( And this is the real Spain, where tapas are free with a drink – not overpriced bistros with framed bullfight programmes on the walls)
    Shouldn’t think you could find a bacon sandwich & a cuppa, here, for that.

  39. Bloke in Germany in England

    Well, I can confirm (from today’s experience) that Waitrose café (in East Bumfuck not-London suburb with eyewatering house prices) charges roughly central Stockholm prices (for worse food and coffee, of course).

  40. Down in Roussillon, a 3 course prix fixe meal for lunch at 10 Euros with bread and a carafe of wine…..don’t let’s tell the “experts” on the thread above.

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