To score a last-minute family travel bargain, pay attention to these top, parent-tested, tips:
Follow the economic bad news for late deals. This year – like last year – that means Europe. Greece has been the happy hunting ground for bargain lovers in recent months. The most popular islands are Rhodes and Crete. The Peloponnese and Samos are also offering good value this summer. Spain and Cyprus are worth a browse too, for wallet-friendly family holidays.
The pound is strong against the Euro making on-the-ground costs lower in the Eurozone. Stepping outside Euroland is even more affordable. The resort areas of Egypt, such as Sharm el-Sheikh, are bouncing back after last year’s turmoil (see Egypt revealing buried treasures to lure back tourists).
Remember that package deals can offer the best value for money, although self-catering is a popular option too (Majorca, the Algarve and the Costa Blanca in Spain are the three cheapest destinations in Europe for self-catering holidays).
Be flexible and open to adventure. If your budget doesn’t run to a villa in Tuscany this year, perhaps a resort with loads and loads of kids’ activities will allow you to laze by the pool for hours on end. Alternatively, cruises can be wonderlands for children with oodles of clubs and activities.
Camping is another good idea, especially where ferry routes offer a cheaper way of getting there than pricey, high-season flights.
Arrange your holiday around a free festival and let the events occupy and entertain the children. There are good last-minute deals on cottages in the UK (thanks to the washout British summer). Find a campsite or cheap self-catering accommodation nearby and capitalise on all the free stuff that’s going on.
You can reduce the cost of a last-minute holiday even further by playing around with flight times. The early-morning and late-night flights (midweek is always cheapest) might be unpopular with most families, but if you can cope, you can make savings. Just make sure that getting from the airport to your hotel or apartment will be possible at frankly unsociable hours.
For your flights, if you’re putting together your own break, cost everything before you commit your cash. That includes check-in fees, baggage charges, in-flight meals and entertainment, priority boarding and credit and debit-card fees. Depending on the airline you fly with these will be included in the ticket price.
If you have to buy a baggage allowance, think really carefully about how many kilogrammes you’ll need. Pack as lightly as you possibly can, taking advantage of the (hopefully) free cabin baggage allowance. Even the littlest ones can be persuaded to drag their own suitcase or backpack on board, saving you a few pounds.
Cheapflights’ new holiday search engine has a whizzy “Any Location” option that returns the best deals departing last minute. Collective-buying websites such as Living Social and Groupon often have fantastic familycentric deals. But make sure you read the fine print very, very carefully before you whip out your credit card.