It’s no secret that a cruise holiday during school breaks means double the cost for families.

Gayle Doe has been cruising for more than 40 years, with her now-adult children and grandchildren.

Ms Doe says one-week cruises with Royal Caribbean during school holidays are generally about $1000 per person more expensive than those outside of the school holiday period. 

What do the experts do?

Ms Doe would take her kids out of school, rather than paying the school cruise holiday premiums.

“I took my kids out of school for a week rather than holiday time due to the prices. There were still plenty of kids but not the masses.

“We often delayed starting the kids back to school at the end of January. And we would holiday early February as prices are so much cheaper. This applies to all travel, not just cruises.

“We had opposition from teachers stating it would be detrimental to the kids’ schooling. But it never was.”

Sharon Summerhayes, owner of Deluxe Travel & Cruise says she sees this happen quite a lot. Especially more so with younger children.

“Parents of primary-school-age kids are more inclined to travel outside of school holidays. Just to save on their cruise. Parents of secondary-school-age try and stick to the school holidays.”

Ms Doe is very thankful that her job as a registered nurse gives her flexibility to holiday whenever. But unfortunately, those with less flexibility are left to prey to the price spikes.

“I feel sorry for families whose only holiday choice is school holidays but my career as a registered nurse gave me holiday options any time of the year.”

When she does have to travel during the holidays, Ms Doe will book 12-18 months out from the dates. In fact, she already has cruises booked for 2025.

Cruiser Taya Mac also warns that school holiday prices will increase if you’re not quick.

“We booked this cruise back in February and the price was approximately $3,800 for two adults and two children in a balcony room. We checked the price the other day due to the special and the same room was over $6,000. I think the trick is to book way in advance to avoid the exorbitant prices.”

Ms Summerhayes says you can expect to generally pay about 50% more for your school cruise holiday than if it was in the shoulder months.

“It can be 50% or more than a cruise in November or February which are generally the cheaper months to cruise.”

How can you combat the price rise

The key to beating the prices is to book right as school holiday dates release and plan ahead well in advance.

“The cheapest time to book as a general rule is upon release for school holidays. It’s not only price but also availability. Most cruise cabins cater for two people and there aren’t as many triple and quad cabins. These get booked out first.”

Another good tip is to look into two cabins if you can’t get, one or don’t want a quad cabin.

“The number one rule is to book early. But another tip is to check the price for two cabins rather than one quad cabin. Sometimes it’s not much more (and sometimes cheaper) for double the room and two bathrooms!”

Ms Summerhayes says parents are used to the struggle, but the cost of living has still been making the school holiday strain even harder.

“It can be really annoying for families when they see the prices outside of holidays are a lot less, but it’s something that has always happened, so people are used to it.”