Sea view from a hotel room balcony

Simple steps to stress-free last minute travel

If you’ve had the week from hell at work, the perfect antidote is to whisk yourself away on a sun holiday. Forget deadlines, line managers and client reports; focus on cocktails, sun loungers and ocean views for the next seven days. The same is applicable for university students who want to treat themselves after working hard on essays or dissertations all year long.

However, heading straight to the check-in desk and asking for the next flight to xyz is not an option for many travellers as it offers almost no value. With the dawn of mobile and tablet devices, you can search for flight prices in the taxi on the way back from work to check if your chosen destination is affordable.

However, knowing how the tourism industry works when it comes to prices can also help last-minute travellers get the best value for their buck.

Flights

The best way to secure a cheap flight is to be flexible. This means opting for an unsociable departure time, a low-key destination and an alternative airport.

Let’s do a quick search for flights to Malaga, Spain from the UK departing in one week’s time. Flights leaving from Newcastle with British Airways cost £214 while flights from Bristol with Ryanair cost £83. Even better: flights from London Gatwick with Norwegian Air Shuttle costs a mere £58, a clear saving from other airports*.

Obvious money-saving tips like avoiding school breaks or major holiday periods help in cutting costs but did you know that even the time of day you book can make a major difference? Try searching for flights at midnight on Tuesday compared to Saturday afternoon; you’ll be surprised at how much you can save.

Hotels

Like flights, there is never a fixed price for a hotel room. The same five-star room may cost £1,000 for seven nights on one site and £650 from another. In order to find the best deals for hotel room, it’s worth waiting until as close to the departure date before booking which will help those who are looking for last minute trips.

You’ll normally find that two or three weeks before departure offer the best prices for hotel rooms but if you’re going last minute, you’re going to want the best prices immediately. Try a number of hotel comparison sites – Kayak, Trivago, Travel Supermarket – which can sift through thousands of brokers and hotel chains to offer the best deal. Match this up with review from TripAdvisor and you could just nab a quick, easy bargain.

Insurance

You wouldn’t grab a taxi to the airport after work without your passport and nor should you neglect purchasing travel insurance for your break. It’s easily as important as booking flights and hotels and it could save you money in a huge number of ways.

Travel insurance should offer delay/cancellation coverage, emergency medical expenses, protection against damage/theft of your personal belongings and a low excess. However, it can take time to send over your details, receive a quote and go through the purchase process – time which last-minute travellers simply don’t have.

Try looking for an online insurer that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week to get a quick quote – even if you’re searching for the best deals at midnight. As they operate round the clock, you can get a great quote quickly, receive your documents direct to your email address and head to the nearest airport as soon as possible.

Other

If you have a chance to change your currency before you get to the airport, take it. Many high-street operators charge much less than the airport’s bureau de change due to the latter’s high commission fees. However if the airport is the only option then you’ll have to make do.

If you need to book an airport transfer then do it post-haste. You don’t want to be catching a cab in a foreign country straight from the airport as it could prove to be extremely expensive. Check if the hotel will send a bus or a coach to pick you up or search online for specialist transfer firms who can take you from airport to hotel with the minimum of fuss.

Sometimes you just have to get away from it all. Hopefully these tips and tricks will help you secure a last minute holiday without breaking the bank!

*prices used are for example only and were taken on 23rd January 2014.