How to find a last-minute bargain holiday

Top tips on how to find a last-minute holiday and save money

Marcus

by Marcus Webb | Independent Money Mentor

Editor of Delayed Gratification and independent journalist


The best way to get a great travel deal is usually to book far in advance, but disorganised and spontaneously-minded people need not splash the cash – you can get some great bargain holidays at the last minute. Here’s how to do it…

Be open-minded…

The Greek islands, the Caribbean, southern Spain – they’re all the same, right? Well, no, of course they’re different, although with beautiful beaches, wonderful food and plenty of sunshine they have lots in common. To maximise your chances of grabbing a bargain, you might want to consider widening your online search parameters to help you save a small fortune.

…and flexible

Few people have the luxury of being able to drop everything and head off on holiday without having to worry about those pesky things known as ‘duties’ and ‘responsibilities’. But the more flexible you are, the more likely you are to nab a bargain. The phrase ‘last-minute travel’ shouldn’t to be taken literally – the travel industry generally considers any bookings within two months of departure as ‘last-minute’. There are even some great deals to be found during the summer, despite the price bump that comes with the school holidays.

Don’t go to the airport

There was once a time when you could go to the airport and get a cheap seat on a flight leaving there and then. It makes sense – why not fill empty seats? But the way flight fares are generated is fiendishly complex and defying of common sense, and it’s extremely pricey to get a seat at the literal last minute, even on a quiet flight.

Use your air miles

While last minute fares are hard to come by, air miles come into their own at the 11th hour. Often reward flights are released 48 hours before take-off, meaning those with enough points can bag a flight for free – just forking out for taxes.

Shop around

The best way to find a last-minute deal online is to use a price comparison site such as Skyscanner or Holiday Supermarket. The former is amazing for finding the cheapest flights or hotels, and if you haven’t a destination in mind you can do a search from your preferred departure airport to ‘Everywhere’, and get a full breakdown on the cost of flying to, well, everywhere. Holiday Supermarket works in a similar way, but it also lets you search for ATOL-protected package holidays.

Hit the sales

At any given time you’ll find plenty of airlines and travel agents having sales. But not all sales are born equal – and some blink-and-you-miss-’em flash sales have eye-catching bargains. They last anything from a few days to a few hours – or in some extreme cases, just a few minutes – so it’s worth signing up to a few email newsletters to ensure you don’t miss out.

Get expert help

Websites such as holidaypirates.com and secretflying.com scour the internet for cheap fares on flights and holidays, while Jack’s Flight Club is a free email newsletter by “flight-hacking ninja” Jack Sheldon. His best bargains are reserved for his premium customers (£12 for three months or £35 for a year).

Beware the hidden fees

Are you sure that bargain is at bargainous as it seems? Look out for hidden fees: it’s easy to get stung by add-ons like airport transfers and parking, hotel taxes, food supplements and dubious ‘resort fees’.

Before making financial decisions always do research, or talk to a financial adviser. Views are those of our mentors and customers and do not constitute financial advice.