Travel Insider: Spending freeze

CHEAPER OPTION: Consider delaying the family snow holiday until spring when prices are cheaper.
CHEAPER OPTION: Consider delaying the family snow holiday until spring when prices are cheaper.

Bruised knees, sodden socks, runny noses and frozen fingers ... what's not to love about the first pilgrimage to the slopes in winter?

And that's just you - throw in a backseat full of goggled brats in merino and highlighter onesies and it becomes a sub-zero patience test.

Snow holidays aren't known for being budget friendly either, with prices seemingly rising with the altitude. I can't guarantee you'll be free of T-bar tantrums this season, but if you follow these tips, the damage will be confined to your knee joints rather than your credit card.

1. I've previously written about weighing up season passes, but if day passes suit your family better, consider delaying the annual snow trip until September or October. Mt Ruapehu promotes spring skiing in these sunnier months, with hefty discounts on lift passes.

2. If you're jetting off to Christchurch or Queenstown, factor in extra luggage costs for skis, boards and boots. It's worth noting that for checked baggage Jetstar operates on a by-weight cost basis, regardless of the number of luggage items, while Air New Zealand will sting you for two bags even if the combined weight is within your 23kg checked bag allowance.

3. Consider buddying up with another family or two. Yes, it will ensure more fights over Scrabble and the last muesli bar, but it can lower the cost-per-person of food, accommodation and fuel considerably.

4. Opt for a hotel room with a kitchenette. You'll rake back the cost and more by cooking breakfast and dinner in-room. Having the space and storage to pack lunches means you can avoid ridiculous on-mountain food prices.

5. Better yet, if you're with a group, shop around and book a bach, crib, yurt or holiday home. Bach bargains can be found in lesser-known slope-side towns like Raetihi, Darfield and Arrowtown, still within 45 minutes of the slopes.

6. Ski areas like Mt Hutt, Mt Ruapehu and Porters are offering various discounts or free skiing deals for children this season. The resorts are keen on attracting families up the mountain, so investigate these deals (and the fine print, too).

7. The on-mountain discounts aren't just for the kiddie-winks. Porters also offers 2-for-1 Mondays, which add to the benefits for mum and dad too.

8. Start trawling through Trade Me listings now for bargains on new and used snow clothing and gear. If your child drops a glove from the chairlift into the foggy abyss, it's comforting to know you got the pair for $15 online.

9. If you can't beg, borrow or steal mountain-ready gear, don't hire it on the mountain. Better bargains (and often better quality) can be found in town or even before you leave - put those ski-racks to work!

10. Family members often differ in on-mountain ability, so it makes more sense to opt for a mix of full-day, all mountain passes and half-day or half-mountain passes where available, depending on their skill-set and your patience. It might be best if little Johnny has the morning in ski boots and the rest of the time on a toboggan or making snowmen.

- Josh Martin is a journalist with the Fairfax Media business bureau. Contact him at

Sunday Star Times