“Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour,” so wrote William Cowper in his 1785 poem, The Task, thus giving way to a phrase that would affix itself firmly to the modern lexicon. Of course he was wrong, for spontaneity is the true spice of life. That flavoursome fix of dropping all your conventions and winging it. Just Do It, as Dan Wieden’s iconic slogan goes.
Little can evoke the power of spontaneity like last minute travel. The finger on the map, the need for some sunshine to splash on your bones, or the want to ski the season’s last snowfall, whatever the motivation, taking momentary leave of the mental shackles that tie you to planned travel is a liberating experience. For regular travellers or once-a-year holidaymakers, the effects are the same: excitement and invigoration, a return to the primal essence that gives travel its desirability.
When all is said and done, you will only regret the things you didn’t do in life, with a last minute trip to a new or well tried-and-tested destination, there’s little can go wrong. Universally considered a cheap way to travel, the expenses of last minute excursions can soon mount—it is worth keeping these top tips in mind to make your last minute holiday as affordable as it is exhilarating …
Be flexible with your dates: an ideal situation for digital nomads and no-ties freelancers, should your schedule allow, you can save a ton of money by being flexible with your travel dates. When booking flights or hotels, days and weeks can vary greatly in price. Do your research in comparing both online before diving in at the deep end and making your booking. For obvious reasons, it’s often pricier to fly on a Friday and return on a Monday, so look into travelling mid-week instead, as it could save you some serious spending cash.
Go hand luggage only: you’ll often find with flights that the headline price seems reasonable, but soon be frustrated by the deluge of optional extras offered to you on the following screens. Before you know it, you’ll have paid out extra money just to be sitting with your travel buddy, enjoying an in-flight meal with extra leg room and luggage in the hold. Cut down on these extra costs by bringing your own snacks and taking only a cabin-sized bag on board. It may mean you have to cut down your holiday wardrobe, but it’s definitely worth it when you save a healthy chunk of cash that can be used on upping the design desirability stakes of your hotel instead. (And why not just take a book and enjoy a few hours apart from the travel companion you’ll be stuck to like glue for the coming days or weeks?)
Avoid staying in the city centre: naturally, you won’t want to be too far from city attractions, but you also might want to avoid the epicentre of hustle and bustle too. If you’re heading to a city such as London, you’ll find the nightly rate increases astronomically for a hotel in Covent Garden, but look a little further afield in vibrant areas such as Stratford, Peckham, or Walthamstow, and you’re sure to find a more reasonable price per night. You’ll also be able to enjoy your travel experience like a local, so make sure you allow time to do your homework on the city’s emerging neighbourhoods. It’s always worth checking out different London hotel deals on a comparison website to weigh up your options and find accommodation that suits your needs and budget, searching with a map can help you pinpoint neighbourhoods that deliver on both style and savings.
Save on foreign currency: it might be tempting to tap and use your credit or debit card whilst you’re away, but you will need to bear in mind the fees associated with using your cards abroad. You’ll likely be charged for cash withdrawals on top of a commission fee for each purchase. Instead, think about seeking out the best currency deal and get your holiday money before you head off. You also want to avoid changing up your currency at the airport too, as the commission can be eye-wateringly high, meaning you won’t get as much bang for your buck. Savvy regular travellers might also want to consider signing up for a borderless bank account like N26, which can make travel purchases as cheap as those in your home country.
Eat like a local: it goes without saying, the best spots to eat and drink whilst you’re abroad are wherever the locals are in abundance. Avoid the tourist traps and restaurants in popular areas, instead aiming to discover the backstreets and hidden gems that will astound your wallet as much as your stomach. If your hotel lays out a breakfast spread, make the most of it. Eat enough to see you through until the late afternoon, a hearty late lunch should mean you’re only forking out for one main meal a day, and you’ll be able to take advantage of cheaper lunchtime rates and special menu deals.
However you go about your last minute travels, it’s always worth remembering that pairing that intoxicating spontaneity with a few hours of research and a helping of common sense will ensure your experience is as rich in affordability as it is in much-needed stimulation.