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How to book a last minute holiday without breaking the bank

January is a long, cold month and we're already dreaming of a getaway. Here are our top tips on bagging a holiday bargain.

24 July 2017Andre Spiteri 3 min read

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Most people think summer holidays work out cheaper if you book everything well in advance. While this is largely true, you can still snag yourself a bargain even if you’ve left everything to the last minute.

Here are our top tips to book a cheap holiday at short notice this summer.

Consider a package deal

When it comes to last-minute holidays, package deals are often the cheapest possible option.

Tour operators typically charter flights and make block bookings at hotels. This means they could lose money if they don’t sell enough spots. So they’ll often start slashing their prices in an effort to attract more holidaymakers to fill the spots they've already booked.

According to Money Saving Expert, discounts and special offers start around 10 weeks in advance. But if you’re flexible, it’s worth waiting a bit longer. The closer you are to the travel date, the more eager tour operators will be to fill up those empty spots. And the cheaper your holiday will be.

Not a fan of package holidays? No problem. Here’s how you can get a great deal even if you’d rather go DIY.

Get the timing right

The last week of August and first week of September provide a great opportunity to get away. Since it tends to be quiet, flights and accommodation are cheaper than at other times during the Summer. At the same time you’ll avoid any overcrowding.

Another alternative is to delay your holiday until October. This is usually much cheaper than the end of August. And while there’s a greater chance of cooler weather in some destinations, temperatures in many places will still be warm compared to the UK. And since you’ll be saving yourself some money, you may even be able to go a bit further afield.

How to book a cheap flight

Finding a cheap flight is almost a science in itself. There have even been studies done to try to find the ideal time to book. One of the more recent ones, carried out by, puts the prime booking window at between 21 to 105 days in advance.

There are also other ways to save when booking your flight:

  • Book on a Sunday. According to Expedia, flights are cheapest on Sundays. By contrast, Fridays are the most expensive days to book.

  • Buy your outbound and inbound flights separately. Buying two one-way tickets can sometimes work out cheaper than a round trip. You can check this out easily by using a service such as Skyscanner or Expedia to compare different options.

  • Clear your browser cookies before looking. This one is a bit controversial. While some swear that airlines use cookies to track your activity and raise prices every time you visit, others say it’s a myth. But seeing as clearing your browser’s cookies is fairly easy to do, what’s the harm in trying? Right?

Where to stay: cheap hotel accommodation

You can usually get a great deal on hotel accommodation by taking advantage of last-minute cancellations.

Websites such as Cancelon, Lastminute and Roomer have rooms for as much as 65% off. However, do bear in mind that some of these websites only allow you to book a few days in advance.

If leaving your hotel booking that late is a bit too spontaneous for you, it’s worth looking on websites such as Groupon for deals on hotels and even flights.

Alternatively, if you have a rewards credit card, check if you can use your rewards points. Here’s a great resource on maximising your credit card rewards to get hotel accommodation and flights.

Go off the beaten track

It goes without saying that holidays to tourist hotspots such as the French Riviera or the Algarve are usually the most expensive options. Especially at peak times like Summer.

By contrast, lesser-known destinations like Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, or Bulgaria are just as stunning and much cheaper. This means you’ll get more bang for your buck. And, as a plus, they’ll probably be much less crowded and more enjoyable.

  • Package holidays typically offer the greatest last-minute savings, because tour operators are keen to fill up vacant spots. However, you can snag a bargain even if you DIY.

  • The start of September tends to be quiet, so flights and accommodation are usually cheaper. You can also try October, but the weather may not be quite as good.

  • Less popular destinations can be just as beautiful as tourist hotspots, but offer more bang for your buck.

Andre Spiteri Image

Written by Andre Spiteri

Financial Writer

Andre is a former lawyer turned award-winning finance writer.