Booking your holiday in advance can see you make substantial savings, and there’s nothing quite like having a trip pencilled in early to look forward to. If you are prepared to be a little more flexible and spontaneous in terms of your destination and departure date, last-minute travel can also be a cost-effective option.
Travel agents buy holiday packages from tour operators in bulk, which means that they have already paid for the holidays that you go on, and your money pays back their investment with profits.
Up to nine months before the departure date you can get a cheaper rate as this helps the travel agent sell lots of holidays in advance, giving them a good idea of how many they have left to sell.
When it gets to two months before the departure date, the holidays that remain unsold are marked down in price to try to fill the planes and hotels and at least make some of the invested money back. The closer to the date of departure, the cheaper the price of the holiday because there is a greater need to sell it.
Go direct to one of the tour operators such as On The Beach or Virgin Holidays. Online travel sites such as Lastminute.com also offer a large selection of late deals to a wide range of destinations, or try Holiday Hypermarket and which compare deals from all the major players including Thomson, Expedia and Thomas Cook.
Teletext Holidays is another must-see – you can browse through the offerings online and then call; quoting the code of the holiday you like the look of. Although it may seem like a bit of a faff having to call up to book your package deal, this is actually the best opportunity to try a little haggling, as we saw in Part I.
To get the very cheapest deals you’ll have to sacrifice being choosy. If you’ve left it to the last minute, you’ll invariably end up disappointed if you have a specific destination in mind or exact travel dates.
When it comes to flight times, try to depart midweek if you can – weekend flights are more expensive. And if you can bear flying at more unsociable hours you can make big savings too. Where possible avoid peak season as well – if you don’t have to travel during school summer holidays then steer well clear – prices can be twice as high at that time of year.
Deciding on a country rather than a specific destination, and a two-week or so time frame rather than a specific set of dates will give you more chance of getting the cheapest deal.
Above all you’ve got to be realistic. Don’t miss out on a great holiday because you are searching for a lower price that doesn’t exist. There are some absolutely fantastic bargains out there, but you’re never going to get 14 nights in a five-star resort in Mauritius for £199, no matter how hard you look.
Discover more fantastic last-minute holiday tips right here.