How To Do ‘Last Minute’ Without Panicking

When is it a ‘Last Minute Holiday’?

Any holiday booked in the last in the 6-8 weeks prior to departure is considered ‘last minute’, but when I talk about last minute, I mean the last 2-4 weeks before departure.

Some people find the idea of leaving planning a holiday so late absolutely abhorrent, whilst others love the thrill off not knowing where they might end up.

So what do you need to consider if you’re considering a last minute trip?

Choose a Destination

Having too many destination options makes searching for the best deal the search-engine equivalent of trying to find the shiniest needle in a hay stack littered with needles. Not completely impossible, but difficult to coordinate.

Many of the best search engine sites – such as travelrepublic, travelsupermarket and holiday pirates – allow you to search for ‘areas’ or for short haul vs. long haul holidays, but sometimes this still leaves matters a little confusing.

Most of the search engines work best if you can tell them where you’d like to go. If there’s more than one place try choosing 5 and then work your way through those destinations before narrowing it down.

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If you can get down to one chose destination quickly, then you can focus your time and attention on that one destination. You don’t have much time, so the less ground you need to cover, the better!

Ask Your Employer If They Can Be Flexible

If you’re looking for a good value last minute break, the chances are that the best deal you find will be 1 or 2 days either side of the holidays you’ve booked off at work. To avoid having to turn down the bargain of a lifetime, ask your boss if they can agree for your holiday to be flexible by a couple of days either way.

Most people I’ve worked with have been more than willing to help me get the best deal possible. Happy, well rested and well travelled employees are not a bad thing! 

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Can your employer flex your holiday by a day or two so you can get the best last minute deal?!

Be Flexible on Hotel Quality and Location

If you’re booking last minute then there’s a good chance that availability will be low in the most popular hotels in the most popular tourist areas. Consider either compromising on quality or location. Personally I’d take a high quality hotel slightly out-of-town over a central low-star hotel any day, but that’s because I’ve had a bad experience in a cheap-but-central hotel and I also don’t mind using public transport to zip into the city centre.

City-fringe hotels are often excellent value for money, so don’t constrain your search to a narrow radius around the city centre.

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Two hotels, for next week, pretty much the same rating – £100+ per night difference in price. One is a 10 minute metro journey from the other. Worth the saving? Most definitely yes.

Don’t Leave Longer Trips To Chance

The same applied for those with complicated itineraries / must see things to do.

Don’t just assume you can turn up and see the main attractions in your chosen desintation. Sometimes the most popular tourist attractions are fully booked several weeks – or even months – beforehand. I was surprised to find that tickets to Alcatraz are typically sold out 6-8 weeks prior, for example. Be realistic and be prepared to miss out on some of the main attractions if you’re taking a last minute trip- or at least be prepared to visit the attractions at less sociable times. For example, if there’s a restaurant you simply must eat in but which is always booked well in advance for dinner, consider eating mid-late afternoon as a compromise.

For tips on planning a multi-centre / longer trip, see my earlier post.

Check Visa and Immunisation Requirements

Some visa applications take more than a matter of days, so if you want to do a last minute trip to one of those places then you need to have all the relevant paperwork sorted out well in advance.

Similarly, if you need immunisation or other preventative medical treatment then often these are required at least 6 weeks prior to the trip. Don’t get caught out – traveling without immunisation is often at your own risk and many insurer won’t cover any treatment you need as a result of falling ill if it was expected that you would have sought the relevant jabs prior to travelling.

Check https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice for the most up to date travel and health advice, and be sure to visit your doctor / medical professional 4-6 weeks prior to travel if you think you might want to go further afield.

You can also try the fit for travel NHS site.

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Make Sure It Is Affordable And Scale Back Your Plans If It Isn’t

The chances are, if you’ve left booking your trip to the very last minute, you might not have as much to play with as if you’d booked early and chipped away at the payments! This means that typically the holidays you plan in advance are likely to be a little bit more epic than the ones you don’t.

It’s a total bummer coming home from a trip with a huge credit card bill to pay off over the next few months. Avoid it if you can by choosing a realistic last minute trip!

Make a Quick List, Then Pack Fast.

In my opinion, people stress far too much about holiday packing. It’s not an art form. Roll it. Fold it. Chuck it in. who gives a shit?! It’s all getting squashed anyway. 

Make your like easier and jot down a small list so you don’t forget the essentials (underwear, swimwear, phone charger & toothbrush) and the rest you can make up as you go along. If you’re booking last minute, you don’t always have the luxury of extensive packing time. Don’t make a mountain out of a mole-hill.

For more packing tips, see my post “The 5 Week Wanderer’s Packing Tips”.

Get Currency Before You Go!

Under no circumstances should you leave changing currency so last minute that you have to buy some at the airport. A captive audience is never going to get the best rates. Just don’t do it!

Most Importantly… Chill the F**k out!

Last minute holidays can be a little more ‘stressful’ to plan than those planned months – or even years ­– in advance. Don’t let that make it any more stressful. Wing it a bit. Take a chance. What will be, will be. There’s no point getting all stressed out before a holiday – it’s supposed to be an enjoyable experience!

Get into zen mode and let the holiday feeling wash over you.

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