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…
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?
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…
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
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!
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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