Family holiday planning: The price difference between peak and off-peak seasons

James McCay

Feb 13, 2023

If you’re planning on taking the kids to a famous family holiday destination, there can be a big difference in the price you’ll pay based on when you travel. Different locales will be experiencing different busy tourist seasons, known as peak seasons, depending on a variety of factors like the weather and school holiday periods.

It’s important to plan your family getaway in advance for several reasons. It gives you a better idea of what to expect when it comes to local crowds at popular events. It can help you avoid the most expensive peak seasons and look for cheaper off-season rates. Also, it helps you secure tickets for popular attractions that may sell out if you wait to plan your itinerary and make bookings.

Planning ahead? Don’t forget travel insurance

Just as it’s crucial to plan your trip ahead of time so you can avoid paying peak season prices, its beneficial to buy travel cover early. Travel insurance covers you from the day you buy the policy, so you can be covered for cancellations, the cost of overseas healthcare if a family member is injured, delays outside the airlines’ control, lost or stolen belongings, and more.

For special events like music concerts, sports games, tours and activities, travel insurance can cover the cost of your tickets if something derails your family’s holiday plans and forces you to miss out on these experiences or spend more to ensure you get there on time.

When purchasing travel cover it’s best to get coverage early. If you had to battle just to get all the kids and suitcases in the car only to be held up in bad traffic caused by a storm which makes you miss your flight, your travel insurance policy could cover any additional travel expenses or cancellation costs . If you’d planned any special activities like skiing, going on a cruise or other sport activities, you might need a travel insurance add-on to be properly covered (subject to the terms and conditions of the policy).

Your coverage and the amount of money you can claim will depend on your policy. You should always read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) before you purchase to make sure the policy is a good fit for your family.

The family holiday destinations with the most expensive peak seasons

We sampled the prices of family-friendly hotels and family activities at some of the world’s most famous holiday destinations that are known for child and family friendly activities and attractions. We then compared the difference in peak and off-peak prices for hotels and day activities to calculate an average price difference between them. Here’s what we found.

Top three destinations with biggest price increase

Graphic showing Rovaniemi, the Gold Coast and Orlando as the top three destinations with biggest price increase.

1. Rovaniemi, Finland

Percentage increase in hotel prices: 230%
Percentage increase in activity prices: 15%

The Finnish city of Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland, in the Arctic Circle of the country’s northern half. The city is a winter wonderland and the “official” home of Santa Claus, making it the perfect white Christmas family destination for those with young children with plenty of enchanting and high-quality themed activities and experiences.

It’s also a great place to learn more about the region’s natural wonders and life next to the North Pole at the Arktikum Science Centre and Science Centre Pilke.

Given the big crowds that head to SantaPark for the most wonderful time of the year, its no wonder there is a big difference in hotel costs across the year. If you want to experience it at Christmas time though, as many people do, you have to be prepared to pay a pretty penny!

Graphic of percentage increase in hotel and activity prices for Rovaniemi, Finland.

2. Gold Coast, Australia

Percentage increase in hotel prices: 111%
Percentage increase in activity prices: 0%

Australia’s own Gold Coast is world famous for summer fun on the beach and a treasure trove of theme parks like Sea World, Movie World and Wet’n’Wild, making it a great destination for a fun day out with the whole family. For those looking for a closer connection with nature, the Gold Coast is also home to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.

Given that the season can have a big impact on how enjoyable the beach may be to your family, and the timing of Australia’s end of year school holidays, there is a big disparity in prices for hotels.

Graphic of percentage increase in hotel and activity prices for Gold Coast, Australia.

3. Orlando, United States of America

Percentage increase in hotel prices: 51%
Percentage increase in activity prices: 17%

Orlando is home to some of the biggest theme parks in the world, such as Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios Orlando. Each park is not a single destination, but a collection of different parks, offering fun, excitement and adventure for everyone in the family. It’s not surprising that out of all the activities sampled from all cities in our feature, Orlando had the biggest jump in activity prices.

This is particularly noticeable when most family-oriented activities we looked at charged the same price whether it was peak or off-peak. Four out of the five activities we examined in Orlando had a higher peak season price for activities, reflecting a greater demand for these activities at various holiday periods across the year.

Graphic of percentage increase in hotel and activity prices for Orlando, USA.

Table graphic of family holiday peak vs off-peak price differences.

What if I can’t travel in off-peak periods?

It can be hard for families to travel during the cheaper off-peak periods, whether its school term and holiday dates not lining up, a lack of annual leave hours, or the fact that a chosen destination may just simply be more enjoyable during peak season (they’re more popular at certain times of year for a reason).

There are a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning an international holiday for the family:

  1. Peak periods are dependent on a variety of factors, namely the season and when local school holidays are running (tourists may also be competing with local families taking the kids to a local holiday hotspot). Australian school holidays are not the same as those in other nations – especially destinations in the Northern Hemisphere. It pays to research your chosen destination to figure out if there is an off-peak season that works for you.
  2. Prices for accommodation and activities can vary depending on the day of the week, with weekends typically being more expensive than working weekdays. It may be cheaper to head to a big-ticket attraction like a theme park during the week instead of the weekend.
  3. If peak period prices are unavoidable, there are other ways to save, such as preparing your own lunches with local groceries instead of paying for food at the theme park or zoo, or comparing flights, hotel bookings and travel insurance to find good deals.
  4. Prices are always changing, and not every hotel or attraction will be taking bookings for the same time period, depending on how far ahead you’re planning to book. This can potentially make it a bit tricky to plan exactly what you want if you’re booking well ahead of your trip, but most popular attractions will clearly display prices for each day and whether tickets are available, helping you to plan ahead.


Compare the Market used TripAdvisor to find some of the top results for hotels and activities categorised as ‘family friendly’ in each location. Prices are based on a family of four; two adults with two children, one aged five and the other aged 10. Hotel prices are based on a stay of seven days, whereas the activity bookings are based on one day prices.

Prices were collected for peak and off-peak so that the differences in price could be calculated between them, which were then used to calculate the average difference between peak and off-peak times.

Note: Prices were gathered on 18 September 2022 and converted into USD from local currencies, and are subject to change. Choosing different tickets, having more than two children, having children of different ages and booking hotels for a different length of time will alter the cost of your family holiday compared to these averages, among other factors.