Are Last Minute Deals Worth It?
Despite its connotations of freedom, travel (& dreaming about travel) has the potential to be pretty constrained. You decide exactly where you want to go, or at least where to begin. Some of us are tied to certain windows, time-wise, be they breaks from study or from work. The more specific you get, the more important it becomes to shop around & book flights well in advance – last-minute is not a reliable option once you have to go at a specific time, on a certain date. If, however, you’ve managed to save up a fair wad of cash without becoming fixated on one particular destination, it becomes possible to take advantage of the late holiday deals & last-minute flight discounts that can be really economical, providing you’re a bit flexible.
You know how much you have to spend, & perhaps you’ve vague criteria involving climate, culture or politics – but a certain open-mindedness about where to actually go will open up thousands of opportunities, some of which may not have even crossed your mind before you stumbled on them.
Don’t rule out Europe, either. Backpackers yearn for far-off lands, overlooking some seriously interesting experiences nearby. Although not so cheap on the ground – especially if you’re tempted by the Continent’s many marvellous festivals, clubs & watersport spots – you’ll save a good £400 or so on airfare, instead, especially if you move about by train. It’s a little easier (& perhaps less nerve-wracking) to negotiate direct with European operators & guest houses, too – always a good approach to filling seats & beds at a discount.
The trick is to establish your budget first, a lot like bidding in an auction. Assign a realistic portion of it to living costs once you’re abroad; the remainder is what you have to play with. Being absolute certain about this sum, & refusing to go above it, means you won’t, when you’re shopping around, get tempted by something you can’t actually afford, or swayed by any of the sales tricks employed to tease out further chunks of your cash.
Many of the travel comparison websites let you set upper & lower spend limits on your search – set the upper one to £100 or so less than your budget; the costs they’re quoting are usually “start from…” prices, & the price shown is often elusive once you click through to the search results. That said, the best ones offer all kinds of criteria to search on, & you can choose flights-only as well as hotel-included, so you’re by no means restricted to package deals. Don’t forget to check the rail & road section, too. Boat travel from the UK to Europe can also be absurdly cheap.
It’s especially common to find upgrades & swanky accommodation for knock-down prices – I once ended up in a penthouse suite with a jacuzzi, for the cost of a standard room, & that was before I’d even learnt any tricks – I just happened on it while searching for regular deals in Amsterdam! This is perfect if you’ve got a special occasion to celebrate but lack the funds for extravagance.
You can always find great deals that don’t have to be last minute though. Finding cheap tour deals will also help to cut the overall price of your holiday. Doing some research before booking your holiday and when planning your itinerary can help to save you money, combine that with good hotel and flight deals and you are well on the way to bagging a bargain.