Cheap travel: last-minute holiday? Sorted!

Oliver Bennett shares tips from travel industry insiders on how to find low-cost high-season holidays at boutique or luxury destinations, including being flexible on dates and modes of  travel

There’s an idea that last-minute holidays are a bit seat-of-the-pants, particularly when children are involved. You’d like to get your hols wrapped up far earlier, surely?

Well, booking early is not necessarily the best idea. Tour operators are having to be flexible as so many people now book late. “We’ve seen a year-on-year increase on last-minute bookings,” says Gareth Crump of luxury villa operator Coastline. 

Paul Fogg of Mediterranean island specialist Freelance Holidays is offering any-day arrival and any length of stay. “This flexibility can save our guests £50 to £100 a head when they book their own flights to the Med – especially if they go for midweek flights.”

There are constraints, most notably school dates and price hikes on transport. “Customers need to be flexible on their travel dates and be prepared to look at options that they might otherwise not have thought about,” says Jessica Boston of Triptoes Canada. But maybe that’s part of the fun.

How to find peak-season discounts

• Mix and match low-cost carriers’ ‘unpopular’ flight days with flexible accommodation, says Paul Fogg, as a key last-minute problem is expensive flights.

•  Consider other modes of transport, says Lisa Leggate of To Tuscany: “When guests choose to drive, we’ve definitely seen an increase in last-minute bookings.”

•  Look out for larger villas renting out to smaller groups at a reduced rate.

•  Try companies who cater for adults alone. “School holidays are one of the least busy times for boutique hotels, which don’t tend to appeal to those with young children,” says Anatonial Skies’ Akin Cok. “Our gulet cruises don’t accept children under 14 or 16 so have great late deals for people who can travel in July and August.”

Be flexible, cast around, and you’ll find something fun. Here are several holidays with late availability to start you off. 

Safari trips

Chitwa Chitwa game lodge has private plunge pools and timber decks that overlook a popular drinking hole. From £7,541 for three nights for a family of four (two adults, two children under 12) on an all-inclusive basis including flights from the UK, through the Luxury Safari Company. Call 01666 880111 to find out what last-minute offers there are.

The same firm has Kigelia Ruaha and Sand Rivers Selous, which are in the wildlife area, so you can expect to see elephants and buffalo and big cats. This holiday is reduced to £4,324 per person for seven nights all inclusive, including flights from the UK. Call 01666 880111 for last-minute offers.

Kunisaki Trek. Through
The Kunisaki Trek, through WalkJapan


Holidays in Turkey

Seven-night stay at the Rhapsody Hotel in Kalkan from £649 per person (£150 down from the normal price), or a seven-night gulet cruise on the Semercioglu 4 boat from £799 per person (reduced by £260 from the original price). Through Anatolian Sky or phone 0844 2730656.

Costa Rica resort

World Cup wonder-country Costa Rica offers big adventures, including a ten-day adventure holiday from Rainbow Tours that includes riding rapid rivers and rainforest trips. From £1,695 pp based on two sharing a twin/double room on a B&B basis. Includes return flights from London airports and transfers. Book through Rainbow Tours or phone 020 7666 1250

Villa holidays in Europe

Villa Yianna is a two-bedroom villa in Kefalonia that’s contemporary, comfortable, has a pool and is close to the beach and a taverna. It’s now £1,393 (saving £203) for seven nights’ rental starting on 29, 30 or 31 July. Excludes flights and car hire. Book through Freelance Holidays or phone 01789 297705.

Il Molinaccio in Chianti has three weeks in August available to book with 15 per cent off for groups of eight. Through To Tuscany.

Villa Ca’n Noble, Mallorca is near the old town of Pollenca and if you depart on 12 July, seven nights is £2,721 (down from £3,221). It has a terrace with barbecue, rectangular pool, palm trees and children’s playground. Through Coastline or call 0844 557 1020.

Beach resorts

In Sicily at the Verdura Resort you can laze, play tennis, take part in golf clinics and use the football academy that is run in association with Juventus FC, with daily coaching sessions with coaches trained by Juventus. There’s also a large 60-metre outdoor pool and spa. It’s £2,090 per person (based on a family of four, saving £270pp) including easyJet flights from Gatwick to Palermo until 31 August. Through Exsus.

Cap Esterel holiday village on the French Riviera is at reduced price of £911 for a studio apartment for four to five people, departing 12 July for seven nights. Through Pierre et Vacances or phone 0870 0267 145.

Try the Nakasenda Way walk through
Try the Nakasenda Way walk, available through WalkJapan


Long haul to Australia, Canada, Brazil, Japan

This reef and rainforest holiday in tropical Queensland take in the beaches of Port Douglas and Mission Beach, the Great Barrier Reef, and the rainforest, with 13 nights from £2,059 per person including flights (flight availability permitting). Through Exsus

Considered Canada? Try Peggy’s Cove Cottage  for two weeks during August. This lakeside retreat sleeps ten and is a great place to stay to experience the wilderness of Ontario’s Near North but with the luxury and convenience of a beautiful and well-equipped home. The normal price is £2,700 for a week’s rental. As a late booking deal Triptoes is giving a discount of £200 a week. 

Brazil was expensive during the World Cup, but is cheaper for the post-tournament torpor, especially in some of the more out-of-the-way cities such as Cuiaba, Recife and Natal. The Brazil Nutshell two-week itinerary costs £2,395pp for departures between 22 and 31 July. Through Real World Holidays.

Off-the-beaten track tours with Walk Japan are coming to the UK market. The Summer Nakasendo Way tour is suitable for adults and children aged 12 and over. It starts in Kyoto and finishes in Tokyo, stopping in old towns en route and staying in traditional ryokans. From £1,583 for tours plus accommodation for six nights, flights not included. See Walk Japan for start dates.

Culture trip through France and Spain

Splendours of France and Spain is an 18-day journey from Paris to La Mancha, from £2,875pp (down from £3,285), leaving on 7 September. Through Insight Vacations

Yacht charter around the Greek islands

A private crewed charter out of Bodrum, Marmaris, Gocek or selected Greek islands currently has 25 per cent discount on a private seven-night charter departing 12, 19 or 26 July at £253 pp per day. The 100-foot yacht sleeps nine people in four en suite cabins (flights, alcohol and speedboat fuel not included). Through Dream Charters.

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