Sitting on a chair lift, getting ready to go down a snowy slope and examining my life for misdemeanours, just in case I’m about to meet my maker, I overheard the conversation between my two co-lift people.
‘We are staying in the Grand’ – the lady said. ‘We probably wouldn’t have stayed in such an expensive hotel but we are here for three days only. And we are spending two days in Salzburg which will be much cheaper.’
She was talking to our ski instructor and the apology in her statement made me wince. You see, friends, talking through this lady’s apologetic statement was her frugality mentality. She was feeling guilty for staying in a hotel like the Grand because it went against her frugality conscious upbringing when she, as I’ll explain later, had really got her sums wrong.
It so happens that my son and I are staying in the same hotel – the Grand. It wouldn’t even occur to me to apologise for booking it. In fact, I believe that it is a very good deal, indeed. Staying at the Grand, as I’ll be arguing further in this post, is an illustration of how a seemingly expensive holiday can work out cheaper than a cheap one.
I believe in being a frugal artist and as frugal artistry goes, booking a skiing holiday in the Grand Hotel is an example.
This is how in this case, classical frugal thinking would have hurt my bank account; and we would have had a very expensive and inferior holiday.
We booked late so we got a (good) deal
My experience shows that there are two ways to get a good deal when skiing.
One is to use a friend’s holiday house or apartment. (We did this when we had debt and it was fine. Still, it was very tiring to organise life around skiing. Cooking when you are absolutely exhausted after five hours on the mountain is no simple thing.)
The second way to get a deal is to keep your nerve, book late and be flexible with location.
This is how we got to spend a week in the Grand Hotel in Zell am See for slightly over half of the usual price (e.g. the price for accommodation and half board worked out at £672 per person instead of approx. £1200).
You know, lower class hotels (bed and breakfast) were at over £500 per person: it is half-term week and prices are mad but we have no choice yet.
We have all out food included in the deal
Usually, I feel suspicious when we book half board: it can become repetitive and could have the feel of a canteen dinner.
Not at the Grand.
Here, our half board includes breakfast (and a very impressive spread it is), snack (every afternoon at 16.00 we go to the bar and have a light meal of roasted chicken, sausage, cakes) and five-course dinner.
And the food is delicious.
All these meals are included in the price we paid to stay in the Grand. I reckon that if we were to book a cheaper, bed and breakfast hotel we would have paid much more than £200 per person to feed ourselves (I know this looks a bit excessive but I’m talking like with like; and food quality is important). And restaurants are expensive in ski resorts.
All other costs are constant
Yes, skiing holidays are expensive.
Only part of the expense is the accommodation and food; and this is the part that is variable and you could do something about. The rest of the costs is for hiring equipment (I hate skiing boots but there we are) and lift passes.
The cost of hiring skiing and snowboarding equipment, and ski lift passes, is constant and you can’t get these cheaper never mind how inventive you are. Maybe, you could get ski list passes cheaper in some resorts (remember I was telling you how on a skiing holiday in Bulgaria I bought ski passes from people coming back at half price) but this is not one of them.
There are great facilities at the Grand
One thing I’ve learn to do when spending money is to think not simply about how much I spend but also about what I get for it.
Staying at the Grand looked like an expensive holiday but when you account for the great discount we got, the fact that all, or nearly all, our food is paid for as part of the deal and the exceptional facilities we have access to…well, our holiday starts making sense as part of a ‘frugal artist’ approach.
This hotel has great free shuttle service, swimming pool, gym, sauna and wellness area. People change your pillows (with allergy friendly ones) and generally pander to all your needs with cheerful friendliness.
Lest I forget, this is the view I wake up to every morning.
Here is my problem with the classical frugal thinking: often, what looks like the right thing to do to safe money, like booking a cheaper holiday, is wrong.
Were we to shy away from, what seemed to me, an expensive holiday we would have ended up paying much more (mainly on food).
Sometimes a seemingly expensive holiday can work much cheaper than a cheap one.
You just need to run your numbers properly and go for exceptional value rather than cheap price.