I thought I’d be a pretty cheap date on holiday abroad this summer. I’ve abstained from all alcohol for the past eight months, including my beloved Siglo rioja, as I get ready to become a mum. So I expected the savings we’d make by only one of us drinking while on our road trip through France and Italy to offset the crazily expensive road tolls we clocked up as we travelled through the Mont Blanc tunnel, passing over the top of Milan to get to Venice. Boy, was I wrong.
In most of the restaurants and cafes we visited it was actually cheaper to order a glass of wine than a soft drink. An Orangina was easily €3.50 in Annecy, Strasbourg and Lake Garda. But in Lake Como and Venice, things got silly. A can of Coca-Light (that’s continental for Diet Coke) while eating often cost €5. In St Mark’s Square one evening, we were stupid enough to pay €20 for a small bottle of water and an Amaretto. Of course, we knew we were paying over the odds to soak up the atmosphere of this particular tourist hotspot on our last holiday as non-parents but it seems the price we’ve paid for drinks abroad has soared in the 11 years we’ve been away together.
In fact, it’s now possible for a family of four to travel to Europe for less than the cost of the drinks – alcoholic and soft – they will consume during a week’s hotel stay. Direct Line Travel Insurance found EasyJet flights for this month available through Skyscanner for two adults and two children under 12 between London Southend airport and Paris’s Charles de Gaulle for a total of £209. However, Direct Line also discovered that a family visiting France this summer will spend 50 per cent more than these flight costs.
Its number crunching of hotel prices revealed an average bar bill of £307 per week for a family of four, including two children. A single-measure gin and tonic costs £9.19 on average, while a pint of beer costs £4.64 and a pint of Coke £3.95.
Unfortunately for me and my husband, France came top of the insurer’s list of most expensive holiday bar tabs, with Italy just behind – where a G&T costs £7.82 on average, a pint of beer £5.26 and a pint of Coke £3.40. So the total hotel bar tab for the week amounts to £261.82. To find the cheapest soft drink, or pint of beer, we should have travelled to Portugal, according to the insurer, where a Coke is just £2.16 on average, and a beer about 50p more at £2.65.
However, seeing as the total drinks consumption costs put together by Direct Line are based on government guidelines for weekly alcohol consumption at 14 units per adult – and I don’t know anyone who either knows about the guidelines or would pay any attention to them, especially while on holiday – the chances are that families and other holidaymakers end up shelling out far more.
I dread to think how much the ‘Boozy Brit Abroad’ must spend. Or the costs they incur when they end up so drunk they injure themselves, usually invalidating their travel insurance in the process.
While I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of savings we made on our holiday spending for food and drink, there's one upside to expensive drinks abroad that I welcome. If a G&T really does cost almost a tenner in France, or anywhere else, perhaps it might deter some of the vile boozy behaviour we hear about all summer long through the national press – such as mid-air brawls that put passenger safety at risk and can even force pilots into emergency landings. In the two years leading up to March 2016, 442 British passengers were detained by the police for their drunken antics on-board flights, according to Press Association.
The situation is getting so out of hand that the Government’s aviation minister Lord Ahmad has been put in charge of determining how to prevent young families from having their holidays disrupted by hooligans – which could include a crackdown on airports selling alcohol.
If Lord Ahmad is successful, I’d be willing to pay €5 for a Coke or a tenner for a G&T to escape the lager louts on our first EasyJet flight as a family.
Laura Whitcombe is knowledge and product editor at ThisisMoney.co.uk.