How To Pick Up A Last Minute Travel Bargain

January 7, 2014 | By | Reply More
La Rambla Barcelona

La Rambla, Barcelona

It’s always a tough question to answer – when is the best time to book a trip? And are there really benefits to leaving it until the spontaneous last minute? I’d always argue ‘yes’ – and there are some easy ways to make sure you’re getting a bargain.

Earlier last year, I spent four days in Barcelona for less than £40 per day, including flights. It’s one of the best holiday bargains I’ve ever picked up, not least of all because there was no compromise on the quality and location of the hotel or the flight times.

The reason this holiday deal was such a catch was that it was booked less than two weeks before the date of travel. I spied the cheap flights on a ‘get-them-before-they’re-gone!’ type email, and then went on the hunt for a luxury hotel at a good price.

Booking a hotel at the last minute can be daunting – many people have nightmares that they’ll be left only with the dingy hostels or hotels that cost thousands per night. But the truth is, you’re likely to find a hotel which needs to fill its quota of guests as much as you need them.

I found a great hotel just metres from La Rambla, one of Barcelona’s liveliest and culture-stooped streets. As they were keen to fill their rooms, we even got a free mini bar thrown in each night of our stay.

Riding high on this successful trip, I booked a 2-night trip to Warsaw in Poland the following month. Departing ten days after booking, we paid under £100 each for bed and breakfast, plus return flights. Warsaw is a fascinating city; it’s steeped in rich history after the events of the Second World War and its dip into communism, but you’ll also be an eyewitness to its quickly evolving skyline which features soviet buildings and modern day skyscrapers raised metres away from each other.

The theory behind booking a last minute holiday is similar to shopping in the sales; if you really need it, it is worth the money and you can afford to do it, then be impulsive and take the opportunity. Many airlines and travel companies will send out flash sale emails in the first few weeks of a New Year, but make sure you don’t jump at the first deal that comes your way.

Research the area and the hotel first, and make sure that it is a genuine ‘deal’. If the flight times mean you’re hanging around until the middle of the night, it might taint the few days you have in a new country. Similarly, if you’re spending hours travelling in and out of a city centre each day because you booked the cheapest hotel you could find at the last minute, it might not be worth it.

A lot of city breaks tend to be hugely expensive during the costly summer months, but if you’re exploring a new city rather than lazing around in the sun all day, would it really matter if you went in October or November?
Booking a spontaneous holiday is exhilarating and can save you a fortune – just make sure you’re keeping an eye out for those flash sales with hotels and airlines, and you’ll bag a bargain break soon enough.

Stephanie Bartup is an experienced traveller and dedicates many a weekend to finding out how to make the most of a city in a short space of time. In the last 12 months, she has visited ten European cities on a strict budget, with no backpacking involved.

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