For years the conventional wisdom held that you had to book early to ensure the best deal on your fortnight in the sun. More recently however, fuelled by the internet, the smart money has been on seeking out last minute bargains. So which is correct? Do you need to be über organised and book months in advance to secure the largest saving or does the current market reward those who act on impulse, hold their nerve and make like a bandit with tiny prices for departures that month, that week or even that day (trust us, it does happen)?
Firstly we need to agree what we mean by last minute. We're not talking about turning up at the airport and taking the first flight out (does anyone actually do this outside of romantic comedies?), which whilst possible, probably isn't the best way to get a good deal. Last minute travel is usually defined as taking place within 14 days of your booking date, and hence is probably something of a misnomer. For the purposes of this article we've extended this to looking at departures within a month. The reason being that four to five weeks ahead is when hotels are trying to fill their last remaining spaces and so are willing to offer reduced rates.
The overriding consideration as to whether late booking is right for you is that of flexibility. If you need to travel during a peak travel period (such as school or public holidays); if you simply have to stay at the new boutique gem as featured in the Sunday supplements; if this is a celebration or a once in a lifetime trip; if you want to travel in a premium cabin; or if you have a favourite room that you go to every year, then our advice is to book as early as you can.
If, however, you can travel at less popular times, to the less well known destinations (or out of season to a popular one); if you are flexible about hotel choice; in short, if you can surrender your plans to serendipity, then you can scoop a great deal at short notice.
These are our top tips for taking advantage of late booking deals:
- As well as choosing a quiet time of year, consider travelling mid-week which tends to be quieter and hence cheaper.
- Ensure that you've got a minimum of six months validity left on your passport. This goes for all travel, but with last minute departures it is that much more difficult to sort out if the worst does happen.
- Flexibility doesn't have to mean pot luck. Book with a reputable tour operator offering a uniformly high calibre of resorts. A member of the Caribtours team has stayed in each of our hand-picked properties so you can be confident of their quality.
- When comparing prices check what is included. Even if you are booking last minute you shouldn't have to compromise on the service you receive. Most of our holidays include lounge access at your departure airport and private transfers in resort.
- If you are a non-UK passport holder ensure that there is adequate time to apply for any visas that may be required.
- Sign up to our newsletter to receive details of all of our most tempting last minute offers.