Last minute travel – saving money on holidays
If you can be flexible on your travel dates and your holiday destination, it is often possible to find some really good value package holidays – or cheap flights. But whereas with package holidays you can often pick up last minute bargains, when it comes to flights with scheduled airlines you will find the opposite: the later you book, the higher the prices.
Shop around for last minute package holidays
If you book a package holiday through a tour operator you can often get cheap deals close to the departure date when they are trying to sell off any remaining places. Packages usually include accommodation, and because the tour operator books everything in 'blocks' for many guests at once they get cheaper rates, with some of these savings passed on to you. Check tour operators' websites for sections dedicated to last minute offers.
Book scheduled flights early
With scheduled flights it generally pays to plan ahead. These get more expensive as the departure date approaches, so if you can book well in advance you will nearly always find a cheaper price. When seats first go on sale, a certain number are available at special cheap fares – but once these are filled, and the flight is 'economically viable', the remainder of the fares start to increase. This means it's virtually impossible to find a bargain last-minute scheduled flight.
Consider a charter flight if you want to book last minute
The majority of seats on charter flights are filled by tourists on package holidays. If package holidays are not sold, charters have spare seats which usually go on sale just a few weeks before departure, often at a low price. Many flight price comparison websites return prices for charter flights as well as scheduled airlines, so you can compare the prices. Remember, however, that most charter flights fly to popular resorts rather than cities or places off the beaten track, so you will have a more limited choice of destinations.
Look out for flight sales
Most airlines launch sales from time to time, often offering big discounts on standard fares. This is great if you're flexible about your travel dates or destination. Sign up for the email newsletter of airlines operating from your local or most convenient airports, or follow them on Twitter so that you're amongst the first to hear about any flight sales as soon as they're launched.
The more flexible you can be over dates, the more choice of fares there will be, and the greater your chances of finding cheaper seats. Midweek flights are usually cheaper than weekend flights, as are those outside of the peak school holiday periods and those departing at unsociable hours (such as in the middle of the night).
Don't forget travel insurance
However cheap or last minute your holiday is, you can't afford to forget to take out travel insurance to protect your belongings – and pay for medical treatment if you are sick or have any accidents while you're on holiday. Don't scrimp - make sure the cover you take out is adequate for the type of trip you're making, and don't leave it to the last minute to take out cover. Buy travel insurance as soon as you've booked your flight or package holiday so that you are also covered if there is a last minute cancellation.