Ski holiday travel
There are many different ways that you can travel to the Alps from the UK for your next ski holiday. Flying is by far the most popular method but it isn’t always the best way to get to the Alps. Taking the snow train is increasing in popularity and with a similar door to door journey time as flying it offers a very pleasant alternative. Self driving to the Alps is the 3rd method and if you are happy to tackle the mountain roads it can be a great way to get the Alps.
Four different methods of ski holiday travel
Scheduled flight to the Alps
The luxury ski holiday travel option
Approximately half the chalets we sell are managed by smaller chalet companies that do not have the required economies of scale nor the necessary financial bonding in place with the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) to arrange holidays that include air travel. These smaller companies may not offer the convenience of a holiday whereby the flights, accommodation and transfers are bundled together under one packaged price but they do offer a high quality of accommodation and very attentive in-resort service. As a general rule we prefer to sell these 'unpackaged' chalets because they give clients a higher quality of chalet accommodation. However, when we book an 'accommodation only' chalet with one of the smaller operators we then need to separately book scheduled airline flights and private taxi transfers to get the clients to and from resort.
A scheduled flight is operated by an airline at set times all year round. The seats on the plane are nearly always booked directly with the airline but can sometimes be bought through a 'consolidator' that has been authorised by the airline to sell a certain number of seats at a special rate. British Airways, easyJet and Swiss International all offer a huge selection of scheduled flights to many destination airports in the Alps. Not only can clients ask us to book a flight with arrival and departure times that suit them but they also get a greater amount of luggage allowance, extra leg room and the enjoyment of a private taxi transfer to resort.
Charter flight to the Alps
The popular travel option
Airlines offer charter flights to tour operators (holiday companies) who either block book the whole aircraft or book a chunk of seats with other operators booking the rest of the seats. The tour operator will commit to a block booking of seats on both an outbound and a return flight each weekend (rotating either Sat-Sat or Sun-Sun) of a peak winter or summer holiday period. As the airline is selling their seats to holiday companies in bulk they will offer them at a heavily discounted rate. By using cheap coach transfers and combining with cheap charter flight seats travel companies can offer 'packaged' holidays at very competitive prices.
The downside to the tour operator is that they are financially committed (week in and week out) to the seats they pre-purchase which is a huge financial burden to them. This is why packaged holidays are sometimes heavily reduced in price on a last minute booking basis - tour operators need to cover their fixed costs and will discount in order to achieve this if necessary. The disadvantage to the client is that the charter flights are usually at anti-social times of the day (usually very early in the morning), and they also experience less leg room and a lesser baggage allowance. Charter flights are sometimes prone to heavy delays.
There are several charter airlines that are used by the ski holiday market place. Monarch Airlines was first established in 1968 with the majority shareholding owned by the Swiss Mantegazza family. In 2014 it was bought by Greybull Capital who cut the fleet from 42 to 34 aircraft and pumped £165m into the airline. Monarch Airlines have largely swapped to offering scheduled flights (80%) but still remain one of the best known charter flight operators in the ski holiday industry. Titan Airways has been operating charter flights to and from Europe since 1988. Thomas Cook Airlines was created in 2000 (although it was branded JMC Airlines at the time) and today carries 6.5 million passengers a year (2016). Jet 2, Aer Lingus and British Airways all offer both charter and scheduled services. Germania (founded 1978), Small Planet (Lithuanian est. 2007) and Austrian Airlines offer charter flight seats to the UK ski holiday market. Thomson Airways was created by the TUI Group in 2008 after the merger of First Choice Airways and Thomsonfly and today is the world's largest charter airline, carrying over 11 million passengers each year.
Snow train to the Alps
The most relaxing ski holiday travel option
There are 4 different snow train options that you can take to the French Alps and we discuss these in more detail on our snow train page.. The journey using the daytime direct Eurostar service takes about the same length of time (on a door to door basis) that flying does. However, the whole journey is far more relaxing and there is also no lengthy coach transfer at the other end. The overnight train service gets you two extra days of skiing time for a week's holiday and for keen skiers is often the best choice of travel.
However, there are drawbacks to getting the train to the Alps. Firstly you are largely limited to the main French ski resorts of the Tarentaise Valley and secondly you are limited to chalets and hotels that have a changeover day on Saturdays.
Self-drive to the Alps
The cheapest travel option
The drive from Calais in France to the ski resort of Meribel in the centre of the Three Valleys is approximately 600 miles and 8.50 hours of driving time. If you live in London, or the south east, the door to door journey time can sometimes be not much longer than flying and the per person costs are considerably cheaper providing you have a minimum of 4 people in the car.
The motorway tolls through France cost not far off £100 in each direction and you also need to factor in extra costs such as insurance for driving on the continent, snow chains and parking in resort. Including a typical cost for a ferry or Le Shuttle channel crossing the return cost from London for a family car to the Alps is approximately £1,100 (excluding wear and tear on the car itself).
We explore the self-drive option in greater detail on our driving to the Alps page.
- Make sure you have ski holiday insurance booked before you travel. Use our discount code, ALPA10, through the Ski Club of Great Britain to get 10% off. We recommend booking insurance at the same time that you pay your holiday balance. An element of the insurance will cover you against cancellation charges should you have to cancel before you go.
- Make sure you have the correct visas for the country you are visiting and that you have a valid passport.
- Take copies of important documents and keep them separate from the originals when you travel, or store them online on a secure website.
- Make sure you fill out the emergency contact details in your passport.
- Take enough money for your trip and make sure you have access to back-up funds.