Families travelling during the winter vacations, at Dubai International Airport, Terminal 3, Dubai. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: As the holidays begin and fun and frolic beckon, families in the UAE say they are hard-pressed to meet the rising costs of summer.

Whether they are going on a vacation or planning to stay back in the emirates, they claim there is no escaping the exorbitant expense.

Forget fancy destination holidays, even trips back home come at a price as they must factor everything from peak season tickets to gifts that must be given. If they are going nowhere, just keeping the kids occupied is an exercise that can go way over the budget. And it goes without saying, even the utility bills skyrocket during summer.

Mark Buckley, a Dubai-based Briton, said he dreads the summer months as costs soar along with the temperature. As he prepared to fly out to Singapore en route Dava in the Philippines along with his Filipina wife, two daughters and their nanny on July 4, he said, “The tickets alone for the five of us cost me around Dh15,000. Add to that the three-night hotel stay in Singapore, the sightseeing and then the gifts for everyone back home in Dava, the amount has so easily doubled.”

But that’s just three weeks of the summer covered. “When we come back, we have to look at something for our girls to do as the holidays will go on. They want to go to a gymnastics class and that means an additional Dh4,000 for me.”

Kids enjoying learning art and craft during the summer camp at Al Nasr Leisureland in Dubai. Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf News Archives

Buckley is lucky he made the travel bookings two months earlier.

Holidays plans can weigh in heavily on families making last-minute bookings, with peak season tickets costing anywhere between 100-300 per cent more than non-peak rates. Some families said they were forced to drop their travel plans as they could not afford it.

Supriya Kumar, an Indian mother of two boys, aged six and four, who will be in the UAE itself this summer, said, “We were planning to go to Mumbai but have changed our mind as tickets are too expensive.”

However, with the holidays stretching till September 1, she is at a loss on how she will keep her children entertained without having to loosen her purse strings.

“I am trying to find a good summer camp for my children but they are unaffordable. I am being quoted anywhere between Dh1,000-Dh1,500 per child per week for a camp that covers basic activities. That’s far too much than what I can pay, and even if I could afford it, would it be value for money?”

Filipina Venus Ramos said it’s important to stick to a budget and get the kids to do something they are genuinely interested in. “We are planning to enrol our daughter Gabby into a French class or we might continue her drum lessons. Keeping her busy during summer depends on our budget (Dh500-Dh600 a month). We make sure we enrol her into activities she is interested in so that it we will not be a waste of our money.”

Venus Ramos and her family Image Credit: Supplied

The affordable options, said parents, are often untenable.

“You can always take your kids to parks and beaches which are free. But then it is too hot for them to be spending time outdoors. The minute you look at an indoor option, you end up spending money,” said an Indian father of two boys and a girl who did not want to be named.

Most parents agree as they must factor not just the cost of summer camps, but also trips to the mall, cinemas, play dates with friends, meals and shopping.

Naila Arbid, a Lebanese mum of two, said, “I believe summer is costlier than any other time of the year as you need to engage the kids in more activities (sports, entertainment, sports camps etc) to distract them from Playstations and the social media. We register our two kids in a summer camp and it costs Dh200 per child per day. The hot weather restricts activities here to the indoors. For us, travelling home is cheaper — there are plenty of outdoor activities that are cost effective there.”

But that’s not the case with everyone.

Abdullah Abdulaziz, a Palestinian dad of an 11-month old girl, said, “Summers are usually more expensive for us due to many reasons. We usually plan our yearly vacation in summers and that would increase our expenditure on air tickets, gifts and souvenirs for friends and family, food and beverages, car rentals etc. Usually, travelling is more expensive than staying in Dubai. Also, summers are expensive because of an increase in the consumption of electricity, chilled water and water. My daughter Sama is 11 months old and we are planning on enrolling her in swimming courses next summer (so that will be an additional cost).”

— with inputs from Mohammed Bassam, Intern

Tips to stay on top of the summer

  • Set up a summer vacation savings account
  • Make your travel bookings well in advance
  • Look for good hotel or holiday rental deals
  • Be realistic about your plans, be flexible
  • Research avenues for entertainment locally
  • Keep an eye on promotions, offers
  • Collaborate with other parents, pool in resources