Looking to score a great deal on a family ski getaway? Smart move. Ski vacations with the gang are a ton of fun but nobody every said they were cheap.
A four-day ski trip for a family of four at a top ski resort can cost $2,500 to $3,000, including lodging, lift tickets, and kids' lessons but before airfare, meals, or equipment rental. Taking your ski trip over the Christmas school break will cause your costs to jump even higher, while aiming for early- or late-season windows will help you save money.
Here are tips to make sure you pay less of the green stuff for your family vacation in the white stuff.
Save on Airfare on a Ski Trip
Air ticket prices are based on a surge pricing model, which is a fancy way of saying it's all about supply and demand. The old trick of saving money by flying into a local regional airport doesn't always hold up in ski destinations during peak season. For example, flights to Denver International, the largest hub for Colorado ski vacations, will typically be cheaper than flights to smaller airports during ski season.
Compare airfares at all the surrounding airports and be flexible with you travel days, as there is often a significant fluctuation between flying on weekends versus weekdays.
Consider Ease of Access
When planning a family ski trip, you will need to budget for accommodations, lift tickets, meals and other expenses. Don't forget to factor travel expenses into the equation. Choosing a ski resort within easy proximity to an airport can help keep costs down.
Weigh Rental Car Costs on a Ski Trip
Renting a car for your ski trip can be very convenient. You can save a lot of dough by booking through AutoSlash.com, which automatically tracks your rental fee and will send you an alert if the price goes down after you book.
Still, before you book a rental car, do your homework to find out if your hotel has a free shuttle service to and from the slopes. If you're staying at a slope-side resort, you may be able to do without the car and cut that expense altogether.
Find Ski Resort Packages
The first step is to figure out what kind of package you're looking for. Some ski-and-stay deals are very inclusive and include lodging, lift tickets, lessons, airfare, car rentals, or airport transfers. (Be skeptical of the term "all-inclusive," however, as very few packages include meals.) Other deals deliver a big discount on just one or two elements of a ski or snowboard vacation, such as accommodations or lift tickets. So if you are looking for a package that bundles different elements, make sure you get what you need included.
There are also many packages where kids can ski for free.
Is your family just learning to ski? Then you don't need the biggest, trendiest, and most expensive mountains. For the very best prices, consider steering clear of the top family-friendly ski resorts and look toward smaller (and less pricey) kid-friendly resorts around the country as well as a late-season ski trip for better prices, and look for packages that include lessons.
If you only ski once or twice a year, it probably makes sense to rent equipment rather than buy. Another way to save is to bundle your accommodation and lift tickets. If you only need lift tickets, buying in advance online from the resort will typically shave at least 10 percent off the price, or you could save even more by booking through Liftopia.
Book in Advance
It pays to plan ahead. By mid-summer, early-bird packages at top destination resorts start popping up, and typically need to be booked by mid-September to early October. These deals are some of the best of the year, and can shave as much as 50 percent off regular prices. Finally, sign up for e-mail alerts from your favorite ski resorts so you're the first to know about special offers.