Most of us book our summer holidays in the dull, dark days of January, but if that wasn’t you this year, fear not. It’s still not too late to plan a trip at home or abroad.
Travel experts say 2014 is shaping up to be a good year for last-minute deals, with more holidays available this summer than in recent years. There are lots of options, particularly if you’re flexible and can travel mid-week.
There are good last-minute deals at home too. The spend on Irish holidays was up more than 7pc in 2013, with good reason - hotel prices have dropped about 30pc since the heady days of the Celtic Tiger.
Tips for last-minute holidays:
Go to a travel agent: It might sound like an obvious, or even an old-fashioned, place to start in these days of internet booking, but holiday-makers often overlook the advantages of a bonded, fully licensed travel agent. Going this route means you’re guaranteed safe passage to your tropical idyll (and more importantly a return flight home), but you won't have to lift a finger to get there. "People who go online to book holidays are looking for a glass of water, but they get a flood," says Tom Walsh of Tristar Travel in Skerries, Co Dublin. We've all been there - trawling through sites trying to put together the flight, the accommodation, the transfer, etc. A travel agent will do that for you at no extra cost. Sometimes it can even be cheaper, says Mr Walsh, as an experienced agent will know the destinations that offer the best value.
Travel mid-week: If you are free to travel during the week, you should get the best value. One travel survey found that Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays were the cheapest days to travel.
Be flexible: Your heart might be set on the south of France but if you find that tour operators are offering a week in Italy at an unbeatable rate, consider changing your plans.
Use a reliable operator: Lots of tour operators have dedicated last-minute-deal sections on their websites (to destinations including Italy, Spain, Bulgaria and Turkey) but make sure you know exactly what you are getting. And be wary of third-party agents. If you book through an operator who uses a third party agent, you will have little comeback if that agent lets you down.
Medicine: If you bag a great deal to a long-haul destination, make sure to check whether you need to take malaria pills or have immunisation jabs before travelling. Many of these need to be taken up to six weeks ahead, so last-minute travel might not be an option.
Book accommodation: Get at least your first three nights’ accommodation booked. You might nab a great deal to an idyllic island, but if the place is solidly booked for a wedding, what you end up spending on accommodation might turn out to cancel out what you saved on the flight.
Travel/health insurance: Don't forget it in the rush to get away on a cut-price deal. Travelling without it may cost you dearly in the long-run.
Great news too - if you have chosen GloHealth's International Health & Travel package, you get a free travel insurance policy. Click here to find out more.Check the small print: You might think you have secured the cheapest ticket, but double-check the conditions. It might be of no use to you if it has a no-refund, no-cancellation, no changes policy. Make sure you know what's included in the price.
Appy Holiday: If you are thinking of staying at home, download the Discover Ireland app. It's free, works offline and has a comprehensive list of places to stay and eat. At the time of writing, it had 141 family offers available around the country.
Read the reviews: Go online and read what the people who have been there before you have said. There'll be at least one negative comment, but the overall verdict can often be spot-on. It's probably not a great deal if the hotel offers you free ear-plugs at reception, as happened a staycationer in Ireland recently! TripAdvisor.com is the go-to reviews site, but look out also for a reviews section on any booking site. There are some great last-minute deals out there, but take a little time to do your research before heading off on hols. It will really pay off in the long run.
GloHealth offers travel insurance for the whole family when you choose their International Health & Travel package. . Click here to find out more.
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