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There’s so much hype about getting last-minute holiday deals, but are there real savings to be had? Or is it just a ploy to trick you and get you to spend your money?
The answer is a bit of both. You can get great deals last-minute, but you’ve got to be able to make quick decisions and be flexible. With the coronavirus surging, travel operators are currently desperate for holidaymakers too – so there are deals galore!
If you’ve got your suitcases packed and are ready to escape for a week or two, here are our top tips on getting a genuinely good value last-minute holiday deal.
To understand how to get the best last-minute holiday deals, you need to know when, and why, prices are cut.
Travel agents buy holiday packages from tour operators in bulk. This means that they have already paid for the holidays that you go on, and your money pays back their investment with profits.
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 as the greater the need to sell it.
Each flight has a quota of cheap seats and when these have been purchased the next quota is a bit more expensive. Essentially seats get more expensive closer to the departure date.
This is because most last-minute travellers are businessmen or women who need to get to a destination promptly. Their companies will pay the higher price for the seat and so the airline will hike up the price to make up any losses they have from other unsold seats.
That said, there are always budget airlines or particular deals with bigger airlines that offer a good price on flights even just a few weeks before you go, particularly if you can travel outside of the peak season.
Getting a hotel room last-minute can be a bit of a gamble. If the hotel has filled enough to cover their overheads for the night you wish to stay, you probably won’t get a better deal. This is also true of booking a couple of nights ahead online. If they can get you to pay the full price, they will.
However if you are willing to try your luck by turning up to the hotel on the night you want to stay, you might be able to negotiate a price. But this depends on lots of different factors – including how full the hotel is, how many staff are working, what kind of mood the management is in… and also comes with risks, because you don’t want to end up with nowhere to stay!
A lot of people are currently very worried about travelling due to the coronavirus. This means there are some excellent deals to be had!
However, what happens if you book a holiday and either a) fall ill yourself, b) get quarantined when you’re away, or c) the FCO releases Do Not Travel advice for your destination?
The answer here is travel insurance! As long as you get travel insurance at the same time you book your holiday, you’re covered. Don’t wait until closer to the time! If, for example, you book a holiday and the FCO release No Non-Essential Travel Advice for your destination, most insurers will refund you. Make sure you check the small print!
The key to getting a great last-minute holiday deal is flexibility: To get the very cheapest deals you 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, as 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 5* resort in Mauritius for £199, no matter how hard you look.
Lastminute.com is of course the original destination for last-minue deals. It’s well worth a look for flights and holiday packages – their top secret hotel deals are a particular favourite of the Moneymagpies.
If you’re looking for a package holiday, there are loads of places to choose from. Teletext Holidays (yes, it’s still a thing – it’s just moved from your TV to online!) has fantastic value breaks on offer all year round, and deposits as low as £49pp. Great for families, they have a huge selection of last-minute holiday deals to popular European destinations – we’s snap up five nights in the Algarve from £99pp, if we were you.
Easyjet Holidays is always a good place to check for good deals. The offers on the site range from three to five-star hotels in locations including Benidorm, Egypt, Madeira, and more. Flights leave from all over the UK and there are some really great deals to be had!
When it comes to accommodation, if you’re looking for hotels we really like Hotels.com and LateRooms. Both have special offers running almost all the time, and discounted prices on stunning hotels all over the world. Both well worth a look!
Check out our guide to the best money-saving travel websites here.
If you want to go self-catered, you can take your pick from loads of private villas in hundreds of destinations at Holiday Lettings. All the properties are really competitively priced, and most offer substantial discounts if you’re prepared to travel slightly out of season. If you’re a big family, or travelling together with another family, this can often be a really cheap option for accommodation. You should also check out Airbnb and HomeAway.
For more deals on package holidays and hotels, sites like Groupon, Discount Experts and Wowcher offer fantastic holiday discounts with savings reaching over 70%. With holidays across the world including the UK, Thailand, Europe and more, you’re always bound to find something that tickles your fancy for an absolute bargain.
This is our fab flight comparison tool – it’s very easy to use. Just enter the destinations you want to fly between, the dates on which you’d like to fly, and the number of people who are flying. It will compare hundreds of deals from different airlines in a matter of seconds!
It’s great for searching last minute because you can just enter a country rather than a specific destination, and it will show you all the best flight deals to various destinations in that country.
If you want to get your flights and accommodation all-in, Holiday Pirates is another website worth checking out. They have flights going all year round from all airports in the UK to destinations all over Europe and beyond. And, generally the deals include accommodation. One promotion in February 2020 included a two-night break in a four-star hotel in Stockholm, Sweden, will set you back £161pp (including flights).
When booking a late deal you’ve got to remember that you have the power. The travel agent wants to sell their holidays and needs your custom to do so. This means that you can haggle to get a better price. The best way to do this is by following some easy steps:
First phone Teletext Holidays or another similar company that deals with several tour operators and has telephone salespeople. It is essential to phone as you can’t haggle on the internet. Get their best deal on the holiday you want and make sure you know exactly what the package includes. They may have to go off and see if they can get you a better price, but they will phone you back.
Then take the price you’ve just been given and search on the internet and call other agencies to see if you can get a lower price. You can use your first quote as a bargaining tool to ask other agencies to match or beat it.
Once you’ve spoken to as many places as possible and got the best price you can, take this back to the original company you spoke to and ask them to beat it. If they can’t, you’ve already got the cheaper quote from the other company and if they can, you can expect to make good savings.
Remember to negotiate a price per person rather than per package. This way, if you are booking for two, you are getting twice as much off as you appear to be getting. You can also speed up the process by shaving some money off the quotes you’ve got when speaking to other travel agents. Don’t go too far, but if you’ve got a quote for £300, shave it down to £290 so you should get a bit extra off any new price.
Don’t expect enormous savings – you can probably expect to get around 15% off at most. But 15% off an already reduced holiday should get you a pretty good price.
We hope this article has given you some inspiration to start planning the cheapest holiday possible. See you by the pool!
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