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Holiday Destinations for Teachers

By Alan Peters,

24 Jan 2020

For those who haven’t already booked, or are already thinking of next year, this blog has some suggestions of holiday destinations ideal for teachers.

As I was taking the kids to school this morning, I decided it was time to switch to the summer glasses – the photochromatic ones that make me look like a seventies New York Cop.  OK, I had to defrost the windscreen, but the blue skies above gave due notice that Summer is on its way. The pessimists among us might feel that Summer has been and gone in that remarkable Spring heatwave of early April, but six weeks of not getting up at the crack of dawn beckons.

What to do, where to go?  Perhaps you are thinking of a last-minute break at half term, or what was always my favourite holiday time of the year, October half term.  Whichever, we have them all covered. Number One – An extended break in Perth, Australia with an ITIC Discount Card The card in question stands for International Teachers Identity Card and, for a small cost (£12 per year) offers some discounts on flights and hotels, entrance charges and savings in other fields.  It would be good to get some feedback to this site from people with the card; the savings looked OK at first glance – about £150 off the best price to Western Australia on the STA flight search website (there is a link between the card and the travel agency); not amazing on something costing over a grand, but still not to throw your chalk at. The only problem was that, when I did a wider search, I found that Sky Scanner offered a substantially better price on what was, it would seem, the same flight.  Still, other savings are possible, and the card might prove to be value for money. Perth is the best Australian holiday destination.  Warm all year round, without often hitting the excruciatingly high temperatures that can make a holiday a strain, the Fremantle Doctor (a light but persistent breeze that comes off the ocean) makes for very pleasant living. Outside the city itself, Margaret River is a beautiful region half a day’s drive away, and the famous Rottnest Island is easily reached by ferry.  Head north and there is almost immediately wilderness.  It could make a fine driving holiday for the adventurous but do your research; the area really is remote and much of the land belongs to the native Aboriginal population with permits needed at certain times of the year to enter the region. A typical holiday for two, staying for a month, should cost between £5000 and £6000 all inclusive. Number Two – Offset the Cost Through Your Professional Body…then head to Tuscany this Half Term Of course, the moaning element of the public who go on and on about teachers’ holidays (which are no lengthier than those offered by many professions and organisations these days) overlook the fact that teachers face a premium rate tax as we can only get away when prices are highest. One way of offsetting this is to check your professional body and see if they have partnered with companies offering a discount.  For example, it is possible to use NUT membership to get reduced insurance costs. Even if this is not possible, a perfect break to get ready for the final push of the year is to head to Tuscany this half term.  The north Italian countryside is truly stunning, and some of the towns and cities seriously take your breath away (although not as much as the descent through the Alps into Pisa airport).  A day in Florence is a must, but be there early to avoid the massive queues, and the small towns offer much.  My personal favourite is Volterra, which appears to have been dropped on top of the world.  Once you have driven up the hairpin bends the amazing cobbled streets, stunning architecture and luscious ice creams make the journey there worthwhile. It is best to organise your own itinerary, book your own flights, villa and hire your own car (although, pay for this in the UK to avoid the far too commonplace scams in Italy).  A budget of £3500 will provide a lovely break for a family of four. Number Three – Flanders Got a son or daughter coming up to GCSE? A trip to Flanders will mean that war poetry takes on an entirely new meaning.  And, on top of that; it is one of the most fascinating holiday destinations.  Everywhere you go in Flanders you find a First World War Cemetery, immaculately kept.  Impromptu stops and a step into that absolute peace, and mournful tranquillity, is a unique experience. Ypres makes a good base; it is a beautiful little city, with a central cobbled square surrounded by open air cafes.  Summer is a good time, because even in September it can be chilly in the countryside.  By October, Wilfred Owen’s line ‘…the iced East winds that knive us’ makes complete sense. Definites on any itinerary include the enormous cemetery at Tyne Cot, an astonishingly moving place halfway up the hill to Passchendaele; the German cemetery at Langemark to properly understand the difference between winning and losing a war; the Shot at Dawn Museum in Poperinghe and the Canadian Trenches.  However, a look in the Ypres tourist office opens up all manner of lesser known sites which are all well worth a visit. And if your interest begins to flag, Ypres serves the best waffles in the world.  A really excellent self-drive holiday will cost less than £1500 for a week. Number Four – Winter Sun – The Canary Islands Sometimes, getting away during August will prove to be just too expensive.  But for October, Christmas and February sun without breaking the bank, a holiday in the Canary Islands is ideal.  A trip here is really about relaxing by the pool, although there are some interesting fishing towns and inland villages on these volcanic islands.  A week at February half term, self-catering, can be found for a couple at around a £1000, including flights. Number Five – Disney If you haven’t, then you must.  It is useful to have the excuse of children, but really Disneyland is about the child within us, and as an adult we can cope with the nine-hour flight better.  Say what you like about the US, but they know how to put on a holiday.  Disney is a superb set up for an October break, when it is still very, very warm.  Outdoor water parks, theme parks and associate attractions abound, and it is hard not to have a great time.  And as teachers, we do need to rediscover the child in us sometimes.  It’s not cheap; for a family of four in an average resort at October half term the cost is likely to be around £7000 although by searching hard it might be possible to get the price down. Number Six – The Edinburgh Fringe A brilliant holiday destination for a short break.  The Festival runs to August bank holiday and starts three weeks before this.  For anybody who loves a touch of culture, and doesn’t mind a gamble (there are some truly terrible, as well as absolutely amazing, shows), it is an absolute must.  Avoid big names, they are often working out their tour material and can be a bit hit and miss, and seek out comedy at The Pleasance, student shows for that edginess of not knowing whether it will be embarrassingly funny or screamingly good, theSpace destinations show an interesting variety stuff, and so does Augustine’s on George IV Bridge.  As teachers, look out for shows by schools.  They are often really, really impressive…and quite cheap.  Tickets typically cost around £8, and there are all sorts of discounts around.  Three to four shows a day, some free street theatre, and a mix of Edinburgh’s other attractions makes for a tiring, but scintillating holiday. Best to stay outside the city and travel in on the excellent public transport.

Don’t try to park!  For £1000, a couple will enjoy a few days of excellent entertainment. But don’t forget to take a brolly. Number Seven – Working Holiday It might not appeal to everybody, but there are many charities and other organisations that desperately seek volunteers for projects across the globe.  A good starting point is The Saga Charitable Trust. Number Eight – Another Working Holiday Only usually suitable for singles, but have you ever considered taking a break for a year and acting as a private tutor to the children of a wealthy family?  Flexibility is needed, since you might be asked to do a lot more than teach – from child minding, to ironing to helping to sail a boat.  But spend some time doing your research, and you could end up yachting round the world, free of charge and earning some spending money at the same time.  Gabbitas and Thring is an educational company that hosts a number of private tutor roles. Number Nine – Somewhere Unusual – Birmingham Seriously.  Britain’s second city has an enormous amount going for it.  Firstly, it is cheap.  Secondly, for those who like the outdoors, the peak district is within an hour’s drive.  Museums abound, including the magnificent Ironbridge centre near Telford which can provide the best part of a week’s entertainment by itself.  There is the car museum close by in Coventry, and some of the most culturally diverse food in the country.  Stratford upon Avon is nearby, as are the Malvern Hills, or (for a hidden gem) the Lickey Hills near Bromsgrove.  Canals and country parks offer some brilliant walks.  And you can guarantee there won’t be anybody else in your school who spent a week there. Put aside £1000, and a fine holiday can be had, especially if you are a couple who don’t like the beach. Number Ten – Isles of Scilly Anecdotal research suggests that, relative to size, this must be the most popular holiday destination for teachers of all.  Even at its fullest, there are only around 3000 tourists on the islands and every other one is either a serving or recently retired teacher.  The little archipelago lies 27 miles south west of Land’s End and can be reached by boat (you need a sturdy stomach), plane (no fear of flying as you launch off the cliff at St Mary’s Airport) or soon, once more, helicopter. The islands are not cheap, but their sub-tropical climate and wonderfully clear seas make them more like the Caribbean than Newquay.  Little ferry boats transport passengers between the five inhabited islands – you can stay on them all.  Or, a visit to an uninhabited island is easily arranged.  St Mary’s is the biggest and has most accommodation and things to do (note, the weather is usually good, but when the mist sets in, it can last for days); Tresco is expensive, but really beautiful; Bryher and St Agnes are small, and rugged while St Martin’s stretches out lazily to the north. It is the perfect holiday destination for young children – easily reached, warm but not usually too hot, safe and quiet.  A family of four, self-catering, should budget about £3500 for two weeks travelling by boat. One final tip, it’s always worth asking for a discount or an upgrade, wherever you decide to take your break.  Many operators and owners have a touch of sympathy for teachers (it’s only the Government that doesn’t like us!) and recognise that we are always hit by the extra costs of having to travel at the most expensive times. Do let us know your own best holiday destinations, especially those that might appeal to the teaching community.  Your own experiences will help others.  Happy holidays.