No hol­i­day? There’s still time to take the plunge

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - LEAVING IT LATE -

Don’t worry – there are plenty of deals left this sum­mer. Nick Trend in­tro­duces our four-page guide to last-minute get­aways

There are two types of hol­i­day­maker. Type one is the su­per-ef­fi­cient and or­gan­ised per­son who plans and books their sum­mer hol­i­days months in ad­vance. When Jan­uary comes – of­ten even be­fore that – they get straight on­line, hunt down the early book­ing of­fers, the cheap­est flights or the most at­trac­tive look­ing vil­las, and they snap them up. Then they re­lax and look for­ward to their hol­i­days.

Then there is type two. They can’t re­lax be­cause they still haven’t booked, even though there is only a lit­tle over a month to go be­fore the school hol­i­days start. Per­haps they lead more com­pli­cated lives; per­haps they were wor­ried about Brexit or the elec­tion and didn’t want to com­mit too far ahead. Per­haps they just feel they are be­ing canny and will be able to bag a last-minute bar­gain. Maybe they just en­joy the thrill of spon­tane­ity and are happy to take what they can find at the last minute and still ex­pect to have an ex­cel­lent time. What­ever the rea­son, there are still hun­dreds of thou­sands of you out there who plan to take a sum­mer break, but haven’t taken the plunge. Why so many? And what are the prospects of still find­ing a de­cent break at a rea­son­able price? The first point to make is that there are far more type twos than there were, say, 20 years ago. Back then, tour op­er­a­tors would ex­pect to sell about 35 per cent of their en­tire stock of sum­mer pack­ages in Jan­uary. Last-minute deals – at least dur­ing the school hol­i­days – were an af­ter­thought, a way of sell­ing the last few re­main­ing seats on char­ter flights. Now, Jan­uary is still the busiest month, but it only ac­counts for about 20 per cent of sum­mer sales, as more and more of us leave it much later be­fore we com­mit. The travel in­dus­try hates this shift in book­ing pat­terns, of course. It is bad for busi­ness be­cause tour op­er­a­tors not only like to get their hands on as much of our money as early as they can, they also want to be able to match sup­ply to de­mand. By leav­ing it un­til the last minute, we make it much harder for them to plan.

But then we don’t rely on tour op­er­a­tors as much as we used to. One rea­son for the in­crease in the num­bers of late book­ers is that we all feel much more em­pow­ered. We don’t have to go to a travel agent to help find a few re­main­ing seats on a char­ter flight in or­der to get to the Med. We have far more choice of flights, and if the ho­tels are booked out, we can search Airbnb or any num­ber of ac­com­mo­da­tion web­sites for an al­ter­na­tive. And we are pre­pared to leave things star­tlingly late. Google sees two dis­tinct an­nual peaks in searches re­lated to travel – one in Jan­uary, and one in mid-July.

Fig­ures from the fares com­par­i­son web­site skyscan­ are even more re­veal­ing. They show that last year two thirds of book­ings for sum­mer flights were made in June, July and Au­gust. Fewer than six per cent were made in Jan­uary. And book­ings for this year are fol­low­ing a sim­i­lar pat­tern. Of course, these are flights bought by in­de­pen­dent trav­ellers – those who are book­ing travel and ac­com­mo­da­tion sep­a­rately, not ready-made pack­age hol­i­days from a tour op­er­a­tor. But it is still a re­mark­able in­sight into the mind­sets of to­day’s hol­i­day­mak­ers and how late they are pre­pared to leave things.

But does brinkman­ship like this end up cost­ing ex­tra? You might think, es­pe­cially with the way that air­lines try to in­crease fares the nearer you get to de­par­ture, that it would. But data – again from Skyscan­ner – sug­gests that for many des­ti­na­tions, book­ing close to the de­par­ture date can ac­tu­ally get you the best fares. The data shows that the best time to book sum­mer­time flights to its five most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions in the Mediter­ranean is be­tween four and seven weeks in ad­vance – that’s around now for Au­gust departures. As our ta­ble shows, a fam­ily of four buy­ing flights to the Al­garve could save £100 on the av­er­age fare by book­ing a few weeks rather than months ahead.

It’s much harder to judge whether you save on pack­age hol­i­days by book­ing this late, be­cause there is no way of get­ting at the data, and as al­ready ex­plained, op­er­a­tors will never con­firm that it is cheaper to book late. But, whether you are trav­el­ling solo, as a fam­ily or as a cou­ple, you cer­tainly won’t be left high and dry – there are still some great op­tions out there. Over­leaf we have picked out 20 of the best deals still avail­able this sum­mer, and we also set out our five-point plan to help you find oth­ers.

And if you are feel­ing re­ally brave, you could take in­spi­ra­tion from Rhi­an­non Ed­wards on p12 as she ex­tols the virtues of spon­ta­neous travel and makes up a sum­mer tour of Ro­ma­nia as she goes along.

Book­ing a hol­i­day in the sum­mer in ad­vance doesn’t al­ways mean you get the best deal. Bet­ter prices on fam­ily hol­i­days are of­ten found weeks be­fore de­par­ture

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