Last minute holidays – the best way to book

Does a package holiday beat booking yourself? And where to find the best deals.

Isn’t it better to book early?

Well, if you have set dates you need to travel, a destination you really want to visit or requirements that need to be met, then yes. The later you leave it, the less choice you’ll have.

But if you’re happy to be flexible where you go then you might be able to pick up a cut-price holiday by booking anywhere up to one or two months before you want to go away.

You can increase your chances of getting a bargain by travelling out of season, so heading somewhere cooler when everyone is off to get some sun for example. But if you definitely want sun you can still save during peak beach season. Yes school holidays are expensive, but you can pay less if you go away towards the end of August rather than as soon as schools break up.

You’ll save if something is less convenient too. Getting flights early or late in the day or departing midweek can help make your holiday cheaper, as can departing from less popular airports.

Packages vs DIY

Some people prefer the DIY approach. It can give more choice on where you go and what you do. You can sometimes get exactly the same holiday you’d get with a package by booking the components yourself for less.

But when you’re looking at a beach or resort holiday, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get the lowest price via a travel agent or tour operator website. And this is even more likely if you are booking last minute.

When holiday companies produce their package, they commit to the flights and hotel rooms. This gives some decent buying power that means they can offer competative rates – or make a tidy profit. But if any seats on the planes or rooms in the hotel are empty then they could lose money. So it’s better to sell them at a lower cost or offer extras such as free upgrades. You might even be better off going all-inclusive if the operators are keen to fill spaces, so don’t rule them out.

How to pick your holiday

The more flexible you are, the more choice you’ll get.

Yes, price is going to be a big indicator – but there’s no point choosing something you can’t afford. Please don’t be tempted to whack it on a credit card – it’ll cost you even more in the long run! And don’t forget to check how much things cost when you get there. Turkey for example will likely be cheaper than Spain.

But cheap doesn’t necessarily mean good. Always read the reviews. A quick google of the hotel should bring up some results, and there’s always TripAdvisor.

You should check your rights too. With packages sure the holiday provider is ATOL protected. We’ve seen a few holiday companies go bust over the last few years, but if it’s part of ATOL you’ll be flown back, or refunded if you haven’t travelled yet. If you’re booking it yourself use a credit card (as long as it costs more than £100) to give yourself some additional cover – though you should get travel insurance too, however you book.

Where to find a last minute package holiday

You can check prices and offers direct with different operators or agencies such as Tui, Thomas Cook or Virgin Holidays, or use a comparison site such as  Ice Lolly , TravelSupermarket , Trivago or Tripadvisor

You can also check out deals sites such as Holiday Pirates and Travel Zoo, while Teletext Holidays still exists online.

Compare the package price to a DIY booking

Before you book anything, I do think it’s worth seeing how much you can get the same trip for by booking each part yourself. Use the  Skyscanner comparison site to compare flights and hotels.

And while you’re at it, look for any destinations you fancy which aren’t offered by the travel operators. You might be able to pick up a fantastic late deal.

Not a fan of packages? Check the prices anyway

If, like me, you think a package destination isn’t for you, you probably won’t even look at the likes of Tui and Thomas Cook. But you should as sometimes you can get packages cheaper than separate flights.



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