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