Planning a Family Holiday at the Last Minute
As organised as we'd all like to be, it's not always possible to plan holidays in advance. Perhaps work commitments have been uncertain, or you've had to spend your hard-earned travel fund on an emergency plumber. Or maybe it's precisely because work has been tough and the house is falling down that you want to break free for a while. Whatever the reason for a last minute getaway, they don't have to be any more expensive or stressful than a trip planned months in advance. Just follow these tips and you'll be on your way in no time.
Finding a deal
So how do you bag those late deals? Often the best holiday deals are available three months in advance, when tour operators are starting to panic about empty beds but you, as the consumer, still have time to shop around. That's not to say you'll be ripped off if you wait it out until a month before you fly, but you'll have to keep your wits about you and do your research to get the best deal - though you can often save a surprising amount.
Talking to a tour operator face-to-face can certainly be a useful way to get insider knowledge, but most people head online to find the best last minute holidays. Before you start you should have an idea of where you want to go or at least what you want from the holiday. Beach? Ski? Action-packed or pack the kids off whilst you hang out at the spa? There are plenty of child-friendly travel destinations, so don't write anything off straight away. Even Ibiza is great for families with its laid-back vibe and beautiful countryside.
If you're looking for the very best late deals you should be flexible with your dates. Often flying mid-week is cheaper than heading out over the weekend. And another tip, travel companies give their best prices to new customers so if you've been sneakily checking out that hotel in Tenerife on your mobile from your desk, switch to your home desktop to book it. Just switching from one device to another can save you money.
Planning to leave
If you've got a family, finding great late deals is the easy bit. Once booked you still have to sort out a cat-sitter, get the kids new swimwear, find someone to cover you in the office and beg granny to give you a lift to the airport. It's never too early to write a list, and check important dates with your other half before you book. Carefully considered planning is particularly important when making last minute travel arrangements because you have less time to fix things if they don't go your way. Other things to remember are:
- . Do you need any vaccinations before you travel? If you're going somewhere exotic check with your GP or head to the NHS website to see the latest travel health updates.
- . Do you need foreign currency? Don't be subjected to hefty premiums at the airport, shop around and order in advance for the best exchange rates. Rather than carry cash, you may want to use a prepaid money card.
- . Have you got travel insurance? Travel insurance offers peace of mind, especially with kids in tow. If you're already signed up to annual travel insurance make sure you check their policy to ensure you're covered for the holiday you plan to take.
- . Have you got a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)? It's free of charge and gives you access to state provided health care in European countries. Apply for yours through the EHIC website.
- . Do you need a visa to travel? For example, travelling to the U.S. you'll need to go through ESTA.
- . How will you get around once you arrive at your destination? If you plan to hire a car, take a look at the options in advance.
Packing to go
Even last minute packing doesn't have to be a chore. The most important thing for travelling with kids is to always be prepared for hunger, sickness and boredom. Keep this in mind when you pack snacks, a first aid kit and colouring books/your tablet. Kids don't care much about what they're wearing but a bag of crisps can go a long way. Use the following as a list of essentials, and add your own bits and bobs where applicable:
- . Passports!
- . Paperwork - flight details, travel money, visa information, travel insurance documents, emergency contact details, details for where you're staying, driving licence/counterpart.
- . Electricals - camera, mobile phone, mobile phone charger, hairdryer, kids' games, tablet.
- . Clothing - underwear, sleepwear, swimwear, day clothes, evening clothes, rainwear, footwear.
- . Toiletries - toothbrushes, sunscreen, after sun lotion, body wash, shampoo, wet wipes.
- . First aid and medicines.
And relax . . .
If you follow this advice you'll be off on a stress-free holiday in no time. Of course if that all sounds too much you could always pack up the tent and jump in the car for a last minute break. What could be more relaxing than the great outdoors?
Emma Waight is a retail researcher specialising in consumer behaviour. She is known in the blogosphere for her work on ethical fashion and is the founder and editor of ethicalhighstreet.co.uk.Image credit: Kimberly Richards.