This Week’s Topic
School Holidays

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Q. Hubby and I love to travel but I’m a teacher and can usually only go away during the school holidays when prices are sky high. We’re not hostel types, either. What ideas can you suggest to help people keep their costs down when they travel during peak times — including August. It seems a waste not to spend at least some of our six weeks’ holiday travelling.

Athena Marina, via email

A. Athena makes an excellent point. While those of us who can’t, and therefore don’t, teach wring our hands in jealousy at the annual bounty of time handed to teachers each summer, there are some downsides.

The first piece of budgeting advice I always give is that in order to keep costs down you should avoid school holidays. This is a tough ask for Athena’s mob, but there are still some things you can do. Firstly, accept that it’s peak season in most places. If hotels are a must book early, budget carefully, avoid the real big-hitting cities and beach resorts. Outdoor pursuits cost the same in August as at any other time, and walking and cycling by their nature take you away from the big crowds. Self-cater and pack a tent and you’ll save even more. If you’re hitting the continent, look at rail passes — they’re no more expensive in August than at other times during the summer.

August is also not peak time everywhere. It’s too hot in much of the Middle East and North Africa to work for many people, so if you can handle the heat you might just bag a bargain. The same goes for India, sweltering and soggy in the Monsoon but with fewer crowds and, hey, it’s still India. Seat sales rarely do very much for travel at peak times so I’d follow the old advice — find a reasonable fare early, book it and look forward to your trip.

Driving Europe

Q. My boyfriend and I are planning on buying a car and driving around France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and then taking a ferry over to Greece. I hold a New Zealand driving licence. Do I need to get an international driving licence for these countries and, if so, how can I get one?

Codie Hawkins, via email

A. The International Driving Permit is a strange beast. Dating from the early days of international motoring, it existed essentially as a translation of your domestic licence. The idea was that if you turned up on a desolate border crossing and produced this document along with a Carnet de Passage customs document, you’d be allowed to continue even if the border guard had never heard of New Zealand.

You still need one of these documents for travel in an ever-diminishing number of countries, but not in Europe and definitely not where you’re visiting. You should have your domestic driving licence and also motor and travel insurance, but with these you are free to roam Western Europe. The RAC ( website will tell you what you need to know, including where to get one of those natty International Driving Permits should you feel like an old-school driving adventure.

By the way, thanks to everyone who wrote in to say that Easter Island’s airport code is IPC in reference to the island’s Spanish name, Isla de Pascua. Anthony Trenwith and Tim Harrison — who also sent in some lovely photos of the big heads — win the guidebooks.


Lonely Planet’s Tom Hall will give you the benefit of his infinite wisdom if you email your questions to If he answers your question, you’ll win a Lonely Planet guide of your choice. TNT readers can also get 20% off all Lonely Planet guides valued at over £12.99. Enter the promo code PTNT01 at the Lonely Planet Shop.