If you suddenly find yourself with a bit of vacation time and an itch to travel, don’t let the fear of last-minute travel overwhelm you. Whether you’re looking for a packaged holiday, or have the desire to do some independent travel, it can be done at the last minute, with just a little bit of research!
Booking a last minute vacation means that you won’t have much time to plan the details. If this stresses you out, consider a package holiday, where much of the organization is done for you.
Many North Americans are accustomed to the “all-inclusive” types of holidays which are popular for vacations in the Caribbean. This is less common for European travel. A European package holiday generally includes a charter flight to your destination and accommodation; food and drink are not often included, but all-inclusive packages can still be found, particularly with seaside packages.
Package holidays can be quite cost-effective, since it helps tour operators ensure that hotels and aircraft are being filled to maximum capacity. The best deals can usually be found outside of the school holidays.
You can also save a bit if you’re able to fly mid-week rather than on or near the weekend. In Europe, Spain tends to be the most popular vacation destination, especially for those looking for a seaside holiday. The Balearic Islands offer plenty of sun and sand. However, Portugal, Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus are also travel favorites among Europeans. If you’re travelling with children, look for a package that offers a deal on children’s accommodation.
If you’re travelling on your own, your biggest expense will likely be your flight. If the timing works for you, consider flying in the last week of August; this is when many schools start up, meaning that students and families with children are no longer travelling. Other good deals can usually be found in October and November, and in May and June. Check groupon. If you do find a deal on a flight, don’t hesitate… you’re not the only one searching for last minute deals, and if you don’t act quickly, you’re likely to lose it.
If you’re looking to rent a car, car rental agencies do sometimes have last minute specials, but try to avoid renting a car from a location at the airport; this tends to be pricier than other locations. Also consider looking at local rideshare websites. These websites help hook up travellers who need a ride with individuals who will be driving to your destination in the near future. Popular European ride share organizations include Road Sharing and Ride Finder.
The key to booking last-minute accommodations is flexibility. Be aware that you might not get your first choice, and don’t be afraid to consider alternative accommodations. Remember: the more flexible you are with your dates, the more likely you are to snatch a good deal. There are many travel websites that can help you find last minute specials on hotels, but don’t hesitate to pick up the phone; calling a hotel directly and straight out asking if there are any last minute specials on any rooms can produce surprisingly positive results.
The “shoulder season” (generally April to mid-June and September and October) usually produces good deals on accommodations, as there are far fewer tourists filling up the rooms. However, keep in mind that some smaller towns more or less shut down outside of the peak travel season. Make sure to do a little bit of research on your destination before packing your bags!