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How to reap the benefits of last-minute holidays

A last-minute holiday is one way to plan a surprise for a loved one who needs a well-deserved break. Plus, they can be a great way to get more for your money – whether interest rates continue to fall (or not) over the next six months.

Although future interest rates are never 100% certain, the heatwaves we saw in Europe in the summer of 2023 and 2022 are likely to arrive again in the summer of 2024. As Europe shows no signs of chilling out, travel agents may see a “dramatic spike” in travellers booking last-minute summer holidays once again.

Will you be one of them this summer? If you book a last-minute break in June or September – now the two of the most popular months to take a holiday – you should avoid the hottest months of the year and the most expensive.

To help you brighten your summer (without the heatwave) we’ve sourced some good destinations while pinpointing the benefits of a last-minute holiday. We’ve also looked at the best ways to book one and what to look out for. Let us explain all.

Why book last-minute holidays?

Booking a last-minute holiday can provide an escape from everyday life and comes with the following benefits.

The benefits of booking a last-minute holiday

  • Last-minute holidays remove the stress of booking because there’s a greater certainty that your chosen destination is welcoming, safe and open for travellers. You can check by referring to the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) website for independent travel advice.
  • As mentioned above the most expensive times to book a holiday are in July and August. However, if you book outside of these months there’ll also be fewer crowds. So, you should have a calmer and more relaxing experience while exploring your destination.
  • Booking last minute offers more excitement for you and your travelling companions because you don’t have to play countdown months in advance.
  • Heading for the slopes? Review the snow forecast before booking, to ensure you’ll be guaranteed a good snowfall throughout your break.
  • You can book a break easily and on the go, directly from a mobile device or travel app.
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The rise in natural disasters and travel insurance

If you book a last minute trip cover will not be provided if you’re unwilling to travel due to a natural disaster.

A natural disaster is an event such as:

  • Avalanche
  • Blizzard
  • Earthquake
  • Fire
  • Flood
  • Forest fire
  • Hurricane
  • Lightning
  • Storm
  • Tornado
  • Tsunami
  • Volcanic eruption

However, if your holiday was booked last-minute and is a package holiday you should have the greatest protection if something unforeseen happens. Package holidays with flights should have Atol Protection. Package holidays without flights (and cruises) should have ABTA protection. Therefore, it is wise to check that the travel provider provides either ABTA or Atol Protection before you book.

However, if your holiday was booked last-minute and is an all-inclusive holiday or package trip legal protection will be provided. Plus, any ‘flexi flights’ or ‘open tickets’  can be changed or cancelled post-purchase. Just look out for any small fees you may have to pay.

On balance, your travel operator will be able to recommend which last-minute holidays are still available to replace your holiday.

With reference to Free Spirit Travel Insurance, you can change the dates and destinations on your policy – if no claim was made – after booking a new trip.

last minuet wildfire

What cover does Free Spirit Travel Insurance Provide for a natural disaster?

  •  Travel Risks (section L) cover: The limits are up to £750 for additional expenses relating to additional costs for travel and accommodation.
  • Cancellation and Curtailment Cover (section A & D): £3,000 Super / £6,000 Super Duper if your pre-booked accommodation was damaged by a natural disaster and alternative accommodation was not provided.
  • Unrecoverable costs are covered. If you’re forced to cancel your trip before it starts or curtail your trip after you leave home, because one of the following happens, which could not have been foreseen: fire, earthquake, storm, flood, riot, or civil unrest in the country you’re travelling to.
  • Extended Journey Disruption Cover (section I – Super Duper only) if any of the below happens: You’ve had to move to another accommodation on arrival or at any other time during the trip because you cannot use booked accommodation due to a natural disaster, landslide, or an outbreak of food poisoning.
  • A Free Spirit (Super Duper) policy will pay up to £1,000 for additional accommodation (room only). Plus, transport costs that incurred up to the standard of your original booking that you can’t recover from any other source.

last minute holiday message

 

How to book last-minute holidays

7 steps to book a last-minute holiday

Step 1: Do your research

Visit package holiday websites and comparison sites. Note the most competitive offer on the market for a last-minute package holiday and how much it would cost to book flights and accommodation separately.

Step 2: Sign up for discounts

Once you’ve found the company offering the cheapest package holiday, sign up for their newsletters, to receive up-to-date discounts when they are available.

Step 3: Check flash-sale sites

When you’re ready to go and can travel within 48 hours, visit websites like Holiday Pirates, Travelzoo, and Secret Escapes to find a bargain, some of these might not appear on comparison websites.

Step 4: Be flexible

Don’t just refer to what you see in today’s newspaper or what’s sent to you via email. Consider calling a tour operator or travel agent directly. They should know which last-minute trips will be available throughout the year. Also, search for dates around the holiday you want. This way you can find the cheapest and change the filters, such as full or half-board and star rating.

If you have the option to be flexible by 1 or 2 days around your planned trip dates, you can often find even better discounts. You could also be a flexible traveller by staying in quieter destinations like Rimini instead of Rome because it might not be as busy. Plus, there may be more offers for this destination. Also, lesser-known holiday destinations are where you can gain a fresh insight into a country’s culture and character.

Step 5: Read customer reviews

Refer to the online reviews past customers have written about the hotel or resort you may stay at. This will reassure you that you’re booking into highly commended accommodation.

Step 6: Know when to book

Book a last-minute break at the end of a season, outside peak travel times, or go for a mid-week flight to source the best deals.

Step 7: Haggle

Once you’ve found and chosen your holiday call the travel agent directly to start haggling. Although this is getting harder – if you don’t ask you don’t get. On the other hand, you could ask a sales-savvy friend/relative to help you. Alternatively, refer to the Money Saving Expert for tips to haggle, as well as a list of travel agents to call.

thinking about a holiday

Last-minute package holidays

Is a last-minute holiday cheaper?

Booking all-inclusive, last-minute package holidays can be cheaper, instead of booking a single last-minute scheduled flight. So find the time to do your research.

Travel Tip: Always book last-minute all-inclusive holidays or a package trip because all your legal protection will be included when you make your purchase.

As a UK customer, when you purchase a package holiday with flights, the travel company is legally required to hold an ATOL license. In the unlikely event that the travel company you purchase a holiday from goes into administration with Atol protection in place, you’ll be protected and shouldn’t get stranded abroad or lose any money.

If you want a cheap, last-minute package holiday, prices will usually come down closer to the departure date. From looking at the cities across Europe, Budapest in Hungry is not just one of the cheapest for a last-minute city break but one of the most exciting…

6 Top destinations to book for a last-minute holiday

Budapest, Hungary

Hungary’s capital Budapest is a beautiful place for a last-minute city break due to its collection of historical sites. Be greeted by warm hospitality, and enjoy a natural bath, while being pampered within one of many spas (there are 123 thermal water springs to choose from). After a day admiring Budapest’s amazing architecture and magical castles, sip hot goulash soup, one of Hungary’s traditional dishes.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is a great European city for a last-minute holiday via Eurostar. A river cruise or coach holiday is also a treat to admire tulip fields and grand gardens. However, if you’re in Amsterdam for a weekend book a relaxing canal boat ride through the city to drift past iconic merchant houses – or capture them on camera by foot. Enjoy browsing around art museums? Spend a day at some of the most famous in the world, like Van Gogh’s. Love flowers and gardening? Visit the ‘Garden of Europe’ – Keukenhof Park.

Ireland

Thinking about last-minute holidays for you and your partner? Try Ireland. You could book a last-minute spa break or wellness retreat that’ll provide many benefits in County Kerry, Mayo, or Donegal along the coast. For a slice of ‘the Craic’, experience Ireland’s true character by visiting Dublin to watch live music in a traditional Irish pub.

beach holidays in Ireland

France

During last-minute holidays in France, you could stay in a caravan or go camping. Spend time in the carefree countryside of Normandy, or along the south coast in a family holiday park. A lot come with kid’s clubs, splashing water parks, cafes, and/or restaurants. Either rent a tent/caravan or bring your own! If you stay in Pas-de-Calasis, this is only a 28-mile drive from the ferry in Calais.

activity holidays in France

Northern Europe

For a cooler, last-minute holiday destination, visit a Baltic country in northeast Europe. Situated around the Baltic Sea from the heatwaves experienced in Southern Europe last summer they include Denmark, Finland, Poland, Lithuania, and Estonia. Each one has something unique to offer an adventurous traveller!

Step back in time when wandering around one of Poland’s 2,500 palaces or explore one of four UNESCO World Heritage sites in Lithuania, before taking a dip in one of 200 lush lakes. To immerse yourself in a diverse environment set foot in Estonia’s dense forests to spot rare wildlife such as the lynx. Finland and Denmark also provide opportunities for photographers to capture more magical sights, from Finland’s Taiga (snow) forest to the fairy tale village of Odense in Denmark.

Germany is another Baltic country. However, it’s due to welcome more crowds this June for Euro 2024. If you’re considering a last-minute trip to see your favourite team play in the semi-finals or finals view our guide to travel, with confidence.

the Baltics

 

Free Spirit Travel Insurance for last-minute holidays

Interested in booking some last-minute holidays? Go for it! Just don’t forget your travel insurance. Although the price of a travel insurance policy is not something you can control (unlike narrowing down the price of the best last-minute holiday) it is still important to take it.

Luckily, Free Spirit Travel Insurance can cover you for the things that won’t cross your mind. Remember to purchase travel insurance the same day you book your break to receive all the key features and benefits, such as cover for most activities, medical conditions and disabilities.

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