Last-minute holidays: Top ten websites for finding and booking a break

best websites for last minute holidays

Looking for a last-minute holiday? Whether you fancy a luxury country break in the UK or an affordable beach escape in Asia, you'll want to know the right place to search.

The internet is teeming with sites trying to lure us in with promises of discounts and deals galore, but which are the best and most trustworthy? We've rounded up a few of our favourite travel sites for booking a last-minute holiday, where you'll find the best deals, availability and extras without needing to spend months planning.

Travelzoo

Travelzoo is ideal if you want to see where a last-minute deal takes you. More than 26 million people have signed up to receive its offers, including the brilliant Top 20 deals email, which lands in your inbox every Wednesday (trust us, it's one you'll be looking out for!). From flights to Berlin cheaper than your dinner, to that seriously indulgent trip to South Africa you thought you'd only ever dream about, this website is all about the 'real' deals, with 450 experts checking for accurate and available offers around the world. Don't spend too much time pondering over a deal on Travelzoo thought as they're snapped up pretty quick.

sunshine.co.uk

For cheap and cheerful holidays in the sun, look no further than sunshine.co.uk. The website prides itself in getting you from desk to beach in as little as 24 hours. Holidays are booked fully online, with everything under one roof (flights, hotels, airport transfers and airport parking). The best part is if you find your holiday cheaper elsewhere, sunshine.co.uk refunds the difference and throws in £5 for good measure! Getaways to Europe, the Caribbean, USA, Asia, Africa and UAE are available, with prices checked thousands of times a day to ensure you get the best deal. Just make sure you know where you're going if booking with sunshine.co.uk as there isn't an option to browse all last-minute holidays and it's not made for travellers also looking for inspiration.

lowcostholidays.com

For last-minute holidays clearly displayed so you don't have to do too much searching, opt for lowcosthholidays.com, brimming with choices for city breaks, European beach breaks and long-haul holidays, with pictures of the accommodation and ratings based on location and facilities. There are filters to make the process even faster, so there's no need to browse family holidays if that's not what you're after. The packages are selected by lowcostholidays.com but allow you to change the flight dates, times and airline with the additional costs displayed. Just be aware of the add-ons once you select a package - there's a £2.80 per passenger ATOL protection fee. Baggage is not always included (especially if you're travelling short-haul) so you will need to add this to your booking - although this may be an advantage if you travel light!



Secret Escapes

A members-only site that's free to join, Secret Escapes specialises in 'flash sales' on four and five-star hotels and holidays worldwide. Savings can be over 50 per cent and you'll find a variety of luxury, UK, Europe and long-haul hotel stays - perfect if you booked your flights months ago and left your accommodation to the last minute. Flight packages are available too, as well as all-inclusive holidays, cruises and ski breaks. The website encourages you to get a 'second opinion' and compares rates of holidays with other providers. A slight drawback is the booking fee of up to £20, although there is no charge if you spend less than £99.

TravelSupermarket.com

Holiday comparison website TravelSupermarket.com will compare last-minute holidays from all of your favourite brands, including Thomson, Expedia and On the Beach, saving you time (and money!). Whether you want to get away for a few days on a city break in Paris or spend a fortnight relaxing on the beach in Sharm el-Sheikh, the website will compare the most tempting offers from leading providers. You can search by type of holiday (city, lakes, beach, ski) and select your price range. You will also find some excellent tips and a checklist for booking a last-minute holiday. We would like the option to see larger and more photos of hotels before being directed to the holiday provider's website.

Explore!

Adventure tourists will love Explore!, which offers around 500 fascinating tours in over 150 countries and frequently adds these to its late deals, with various price packages and durations available. We'd recommend this site if you're stuck in a rut and need a quick escape somewhere inspiring and highly adventurous, such as a hiking trip in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains or a tiger trail in India. The holiday costs are shown with and without flights, but if you're particular about which airline you fly with or getting to a destination in short a time as possible, it's advisable to check you are happy with the flights offered by Explore! as they are often the most affordable and not necessarily the most direct, so you may prefer to book your own flight rather than be on a 20-hour indirect flight to China.

latedeals.com

We love latedeals.co.uk for the fact that it only publishes package holidays departing within eight weeks so you're only looking at last-minute holidays and have around 500,000 trips with up to 70 per cent off to choose from. As well as being totally tailored to short-notice deal-hungry travellers, latedeals.co.uk allows you to choose how much time you want to spend getting to a destination - either under or over five hours flying time. The holidays come from dozens of leading tour operators, such as Citalia, Thomson, Virgin Holidays and Hayes & Jarvis. The site is ideal if you know exactly where and when you want to travel but if you want to know when is the cheapest time for a beach break in Cape Verde, you'll need to do a few searches.

Thomson

The Late Deals Finder on Thomson's website may first appear as just a list of thousands of late holiday offers but take a closer look and you'll find it's much more. On the left hand bar you can choose your dates. Not sure when you want to travel? It lets you choose the dates you want to travel between - even if it's from tomorrow to six weeks from now. Choose your airport using the handy map and just untick the places you're not interested in visiting and the offers list will update to match your preference. Once you click on the holiday that takes your fancy, Thomson will recommend other holidays that you might like. We like the variety of options and the ability to narrow down the packages but if you're looking for holiday inspiration the Late Deals Finder's list view might not be for you as you need to click through the deals to see images and more information.



lastminute.com

Just as the name suggests, lastminute.com is all about the short-notice bookings for hotels, city breaks, spa days and meals out. One of its most popular offerings is the Top Secret Hotels, where you can stay in four and five-star luxury hotels with savings of up to 45 per cent and the name of the hotel is only revealed to you once you book. A problem you may have with lastminute.com is that it appears to offer too much. So while visiting the website to book a last-minute holiday abroad, you'll most probably be tempted by its theatre offers or a cheap skydive and may end up forgetting why you landed on the site!


Trivago

Need a hotel? With Trivago you can book a room at short notice - even on the same day up to one hour before your arrival. The website compare prices of over 200 booking sites, such as booking.com, Expedia and hotels.com, as well as offerings from hotel chains, so you're often booking directly with the hotel. Trivago also works with local partners, which means if you're looking for a hotel in Spain, for example, it may be sourced from a Spanish site that offers hotels many UK websites won't. The only drawback we found is if you only want to see last-minute deals, as Trivago doesn't have a function to only display current offers. That said, most of the deals are often placed at the top, where you'll find the cheapest hotels and they are clearly marked with the percentage off in red. We searched for a Barbados break for next week and found a 60 per cent off deal for a three-star hotel from £119 to £44 per night - bargain!

Which websites do you use to book your late holidays? Leave a comment and let us know below.

And don't forget to browse AOL Travel's best deals gallery for money off last-minute holidays:

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Last-minute holidays: Top ten websites for finding and booking a break
Super Escapes Travel is offering a four-night all-inclusive holiday in Malta from £169 per person. The deal includes a stay at the four-star DB Seabank Resort and Spa and return flights from London Gatwick, Luton or Southend for departure on selected dates between December 2017 and February 2018. Other dates and regional airports are available for a supplement. Book by 14 August 2017.
CruiseDeals.co.uk is offering a 12-night full-board Thomson Cruises Mediterranean cruise from £699 per person. The itinerary includes just one day at sea, with stops in popular destinations across the Med such as Ibiza, Naples and Barcelona. The deal, which expires on Friday, includes return flights and tips. The cruise departs on 31 October 2017.
Loveholidays is offering a seven-night holiday in Cyprus from £378 per person (a saving of up to £59 per person), based on two adults and two children sharing. The deal includes a stay at the three-star Club St George Resort in Paphos on a half-board basis from Gatwick on 9th August 2017. Visit loveholidays.com or call 0203 870 6844.
easyJet Holidays is offering a seven-night holiday to Alicante, Spain for £365 per person. The deal includes a stay at the four-star NH Alicante on a room-only basis and flights from Manchester on 27 August 2017.
Skyscanner.net has sourced a ten-day family holiday to Miami, Florida for just £2,787 this summer. The deal, for four people, includes London Gatwick to Miami flights on 21 August returning 31 August and a room-only stay at the four-star Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay.

Emirates Holidays is offering seven nights for the price of four on a Sri Lanka getaway, priced from £585 per person for a week-long stay in a Deluxe Ocean View Room at Centara Ceysands Resort & Spa in Bentota on a half-board basis. The offer includes return Emirates flights with a 14 October 2017 departure from Gatwick (based on two adults and two children sharing a room).

TravelSupermarket.com is offering a seven-night holiday to Bali from £470 per person. The deal includes a stay at the three-star Puri Yuma Hotel on a room-only basis and return flights departing London Heathrow on 12 May 2017.
QHotels is offering AOL Travel readers an exclusive deal to enjoy a two-night stay for two at Slaley Hall in Northumberland for just £209 (Sunday to Thursday only). The offer includes a full English breakfast and a stay in a standard room, dinner on the first night, a complimentary bottle of red wine, 12pm departure and half price upgrade on check-in (Subject to availability). You can also take advantage of 20% off pre-booked spa treatments during your stay and 20% off pre-booked golf. Call 0844 8002949 and quote 'AOL OFFER' to book.

dealchecker.co.uk is offering a 16-night cruise on Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines' Black Watch from £999 per person. The deal is based on a full-board holiday which departs Southampton in May and June 2017. The cruise stops in Malaga, Cartagena, Cannes, Nice, Barcelona, Gibraltar and Southampton. Book by 26 April 2017 and quote call 0800 0355 078 and quote 'dealchecker' by phone or visit dealchecker.co.uk/real-deals

loveholidays is offering a seven-night holiday in Santorini from £320 per person. The deal includes a stay at the four-star Scorpios Beach Apartments & Studios in Monolithos on a bed and breakfast basis and flights departing from Manchester on 1 May 2017. Visit loveholidays.com or call 0203 870 6844 to book.
Oman Air has launched special economy return fares from London Heathrow, with prices starting from just £351 to a range of destinations via Muscat. You could travel to Mumbai from £351, Dar es Salaam from £419, Goa from £374, Kuala Lumpur from £373 or Singapore from £394. The offer is available on fares booked by 4 March 2017 for travel before 9 December 2017.

Teletextholidays.co.uk is offering a 41% saving on a seven-night holiday in Madeira. The deal, which includes a stay at the four-star Alto Lido Hotel in Funchal on a bed and breakfast basis, costs from £165 per person and departs from London Gatwick on 3 February 2017. Call 0203 001 0628 to book.

loveholidays is offering a seven-night holiday in Malta from £130 per person (a saving of up to £74 per person). The deal includes a stay at the four-star Santana Hotel in St Paul’s Bay on a room-only basis and flights departing Stansted on 21 January 2017. Visit loveholidays.com or call 0203 870 6844 to book.

Emirates has launched a global Hello 2017 fare sale until Tuesday 31 January 2017, offering incredible deals on flights to popular destinations across the world. The sale includes Economy flights from London Gatwick to Dubai from £299 return, Glasgow to Hanoi from £449 and Manchester to Sydney from £679. It also includes Business Class fares from London Heathrow to Dubai from £1,999, Birmingham to Phuket from £1,839 and Newcastle to Christchurch from £3,809.

Skyscanner has found a short city break to Timisoara, in Romania, from £60.50 per person. The deal, which is valid for departure on 16 January, returning on 19 January 2017, is based on return flights from London Stansted with two adults sharing a double room with breakfast at the four-star Hotel Delpack. Flight details here. Hotel details here.

Oman Air has launched a Global Sale running until 10 December 2016, with cut-price flights to the Middle East from London or Manchester. Sale prices include return flights to Muscat from £369, Dubai from £316, Abu Dhabi from £336, Bangkok from £383 and Goa from £414. Discounted fares are for travel from 1 January to 30 September 2017.

Virgin Trains has launched a three-day online First Class Seat Sale from today until Thursday 1 December, with prices slashed on First Class seats on the Virgin Trains West Coast Mainline. The deal will allow travellers to save at least 33 per cent on fares between Saturday 10 December 2016 and Sunday 08 January 2017. Discounted First Class Advance Single Tickets include London to Manchester (before £43, now £28), London to Birmingham (before £26, now £17), Glasgow to London (before £55, now £35) and Preston to London (before £42, now £28).

Looking for some winter fun? Head to New Hampshire for your ski trip this winter with Virgin Holidays' fabulous holiday deal. It's offering a seven-night holiday from £745 per person, including return flights from London to Boston with Virgin Atlantic, car hire and seven nights' stay at North Conway Grand including breakfast. The deal is for March 2017 departures and must be booked by 2 December 2016. With a backdrop of over 700,000 acres of protected White Mountain Forest and boasting the tallest peak in the East (Mt Washington at 6,288ft), North Conway is close to five separate ski resorts and offers some of the finest cross country terrain.
Cruise Nation is offering a bargain cruise to Italy and France, taking in the likes of Civitavecchia, La Spezia, Savona and Marseille over six nights from only £299 per person. The cruise, which includes a saving of £400 from the original price of £699 per person, includes a free one-night stay in Barcelona on a room-only basis and return flights from Luton. Book by 25 November 2016 for the 12 December 2016 cruise.
Monarch is offering a December city break to Barcelona for as little as £129 per person. The deal includes return flights departing Manchester on 9 December and a two-night stay at the three-star Astoria Hotel on a bed and breakfast basis.

Hilton has launched its Winter Sale today with savings of up to 30% available at hotels in some of the world’s most exciting destinations, including a range of cities boasting Christmas markets, both in the UK and Europe. The offer is for bookings made by 31 January 2017 for travel before 31 December 2017. Examples include 25% off stays at DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester Piccadilly, with prices starting from £119 per night, 30% off stays at Hilton Garden Inn Krakow putting the rate per night as low as £41, and savings of 30% at Hilton Garden Inn Florence Novoli, with prices starting from £60 per night.

On the Beach is offering a week in Majorca from just £205 per person. The deal includes seven nights at the four-star Marina Luz Hotel on a bed and breakfast basis and return flights from London Stansted on 3 December.
Canadian Affair is offering a Christmas break for just £399 per person. The special package including return flights from London Gatwick plus three nights at the plush Westin Harbour Castle Hotel, with flights departing on 24, 28 November and 4 and 5 December 2016. Offer must be booked by 15 November 2016.

loveholidays is offering a seven-night holiday in the Algarve from £152 per person. The holiday deal includes a stay at Baia Cristal Beach & Spa Resort in Carvoeiro on a bed and breakfast basis and flights departing Stansted on 13 December 2016.

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