Last Minute Dot Com – Does It Pay Off?

Which websites have the best last minute deals on hotels and flights and holidays?Last Minute Dot Com – Does It Pay Off?

We knew 6 months ago we had a week free but wanted to experiment with the world of last minute holiday booking. We’ve never done it before but we were poised to see if waiting till the end would pay off financially. Are flights cheaper last minute? Who do the best last minute holiday deals? When is the best time to book a holiday? And is it possible to get a bargain holiday last minute? Read on to see if ‘going last-minute’ could work for you and some travel hacks to help you book last minute…

Restrictions

Unfortunately, like half of Britain, we are restricted as to when we can take holidays due to having 3 kids, but we did have the slightly extra flexibility of being able to leave on the Friday before they broke up, although we could only do Friday to Friday due to work commitments. We also said that we didn’t want to travel too far to the airport, which left us with East Midlands or Birmingham. We would consider traveling further if somewhere amazing came up. We didn’t set any criteria as to where we wanted to go – this was an experiment and we are quite adventurous so literally anywhere was an option but I’ve got to say – I did have a unexplainable hankering for Gyros, Mythos and fat, hairy fishermen, so Greece was secretly playing my tune. Finally, it was just the two of us (kids were with their other prospective parents for the week) so we set a budget of £1,000 all in – flights, accommodation, car hire if necessary, and food. Could it be done? And how?
is it possible to get a good holiday if you wait till the last minute? Or have all the good deals gone?camplane

When To Book A Last Minute Holiday

The Weeks Before

A month or so before our dates we started looking at holiday websites for package deals, first of all for the week we had free but also for holidays that were available to leave within the next few days – just to see what was out there and compare price differences. We also checked on flights to several places (especially with the budget airlines) for our dates to see if there were any amazing deals.

One Week Before

One week to go and the nerves started kicking in – I had this awful feeling it wasn’t going to pay off and we would possibly end up breaking my life-time-ambition to never go to Skegness! We seriously devoted several hours a day between us to scouring websites. Here are some of them…

is it cheaper to book hotels last minute? Are there any good deals on hotels if you book last minute?Are flights cheaper if you book last minute? When is the cheapest time to book a flight?

Does booking last minute pay off?

I’ve got to say – my nerves were frayed. It seemed that if you could leave a few days before the schools broke up there were plenty of package deals about, from whichever airport you wanted to whichever destination tickled your fancy. They came down by about 30% in general, so, if that’s your thing, and you’re not restricted by school holidays, you could certainly take the risk and wait. They did seem to stay the same for the last week though, no last-minute-day-before amazing reductions. The days of turning up at the airport on the day for an absolute bargain are long gone.
Flight prices actually stayed a constant, give or take a few £’s, from a month before to the day before. From experience, we’ve discovered in the past that if you’re booking your travel and accommodation separately, it’s definitely prudent to book up to 3-6 months beforehand, sometimes even longer – the airlines just don’t seem to need to reduce their seat prices.
However, hotel prices are a different matter altogether. These were often slashed by up to 60%, making it very doable to find a gorgeous 4 or 5 star place at 2/3 star prices.

Did Our Last Minute Holiday Save Us Money?

Our options, due to school holidays, ended up being pretty limited. Greece was out of the question if we’d wanted a package deal at a decent place for under £1000. We could have gone 3 star to Corfu or Crete for around £1200 with transfers and all inclusive but it just seemed like a lot of money to be trapped on a beach for a week in an uninspiring hotel which might by day three have had me rocking in a corner! No thanks.
Then there was Spain or the Algarve – but again, you’d be a bit trapped unless you blew the budget and hired a car. £1000 would have got us all inclusive in a 3 or 4 star hotel.
City breaks started to get mentioned – we love Rome, maybe we could go there? Or Northern Italy, France or Inland spain? All very lovely, and very tempting, but not too many hairy fishermen about. (Plus, hotel prices are possibly only 30% cheaper last minute in cities)
So what did we book? A flight to Kavala, Northern Greece for £125 each with Thomas Cook. Ferry crossing to the beautiful island of Thassos – £3 each. Car hire – £95 for a week. 4 nights bed & breakfast in a gorgeous 4 star hotel on the beautiful resort of Golden Beach – £180. 2 nights bed & breakfast on the other side of the Island at 5 star Ilio Mare, Skala Prinous – £90. Our last night in Thassos town, near the ferry, £45 bed & breakfast. All in, including spending money and food £940. £940 for one of the best holidays I’ve ever had (read about it here), wall to wall sunshine on a beautiful island in 4 and 5 star luxury and we ate like kings. Was it worth waiting for? Absolutely!

Pro’s and Con’s of Booking Last Minute

pro’s…
  • Waiting till late on means you can check the weather forecast and choose accordingly.
  • Slashed hotel prices so you can afford an upgrade.
  • The excitement of not knowing where you’ll end up.
  • The possibility you’ll end up somewhere you’d never usually have considered, or even heard of!
cons…
  • Not being able to spend hours on Pinterest beforehand planning your trip.
  • The not-knowing, and the risk of not getting anywhere.
*Incidently, we were equally enamoured by the thought of Sicily too – flights just over £100 each and plenty of accommodation at good reduced rates but the big, fat, hairy Greek fella’s were calling. Maybe next time Sicily.
I’d love to hear if any of you readers have booked last minute before and what the results were. Or maybe you’re considering doing it but haven’t made the leap yet? How far in advance do you tend to book your trips? Leave me a comment, I’d love to know!
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13 Comments Add yours

  1. Amanda says:

    Oh we’ve never done this either, I’m intrigued (and a bit too nervous) to give it a try. Love the idea of your trip and moving around a little, that seems ideal! For 1,000 you did amazingly well!

    1. Alex says:

      I was a bit nervous too but it paid off! We LOVE road trips and moving around. Maybe I have A.D.D 😉

  2. I’ve never done last minute because I don’t usually have flexibility in my schedule. But it sounds awesome when you do have that room to just go wherever on any timeline.

    1. Alex says:

      Yes, and even with us being restricted to specific dates wasn’t a problem. We’re so glad we did it! Thanks for your comment.

  3. What an experience! We’ve never done this. We have three kids who always travel with us and we also have a strict school holiday schedule, so we book our trips long in advance. What we found is that the flights don’t get cheaper in time (not during school holidays, anyway), family rooms at the hotels get booked long in advance and car rental prices sky-rocket if booking last minute… We looked at last minutes a couple of times when we had not planned any trips for one or another holiday, but it just never worked out for us. Glad it did for you!

    1. Alex says:

      Yup-those factors definitely affected us too but maybe we struck lucky because we found a relatively unknown place. I don’t know that I would risk it with kids in tow.

  4. So interesting! It sounds like you wound up with the perfect deal – going to check out your post about Thassos, sounds beautiful. Have you heard about the app Hotel Tonight? It’s great for London in particular, but basically hotels release their excess inventory for the night onto the app and you can snap up a room for much less than the rack rate. It’s risky, but a fair few of my colleagues use it and swear by it.

    1. Alex says:

      No! How have I not heard of that!? Great info – I’ll take a look now. We might actually be doing a last minute night in London next week. Thank you.

  5. I’ve never done this and honestly, I’m too scared to try it. I love planning things way in advance. I would have been a nervous wreck! I have also found that airfare prices do not change within the last few days BUT I still hear about people making those last minute buys and saving a lot. Maybe I am just not-so-lucky!

  6. Mandy says:

    Wow! You did a great job booking your trip for a great price last minute! I’m not sure I could do that. I’d be so anxious… Plus it pretty much takes me a week to pack, so there’s that. 🙁 The one time my family tried to do the last minute thing, we ended up paying double the hotel price for one of the few rooms left in the city. (We were driving, so no plane problems there.) Anyway, it took our vacation from a 4 night stay to a 3 night. Frustrating and anxiety-provoking. I think around that point I decided never again. 🙂

    1. Alex says:

      Oh dear! Bummer! I think we were lucky but we also learnt some good tricks too, I’d definitely do it for Greece again if it’s slightly out of season. Thanks for your comment!

  7. I’d love to try this one time! I might be too anxious about it though

  8. You have nerves of steel, lady!!! Well done!

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