Sunshine all the way for savvy shoppers

From broken bones to new beginnings

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If you’ve left it late to decide where to go on holiday this year, don’t worry – you’re not alone.

Every year thousands of people leave booking their annual getaway to August or September, in the hope of snapping up a real last-minute bargain.

But in recent times many consumers have said it is becoming harder and harder to find decent deals.

At a time when household finances all over the UK are being stretched to the limit, more people are taking a wait-and-see approach to planning their holidays and deciding what they can afford closer to the date. This means you will have to be extra savvy to avoid getting beaten by the competition or end up spending far more than you wanted.

One key piece of advice is to be as flexible as possible to keep costs down.

‘It is possible to get some great deals if you wait until the last minute,’ said Amanda Diamond, Which? Holiday’s deputy editor.

‘If you can be flexible on travel dates, flight times and your destination, you could save a lot of money and get a great holiday at the same time.’

Websites like lastminute.com and laterooms.com even offer deals for ‘secret hotels’ at cheaper rates – the catch is you don’t know exactly where you’re staying until after you’ve booked. But some web research can make it easy to work out the hotel’s identity.

Alternatively a phone call in the last few days before a flight leaves can bag you unsold seats that the operator has dropped in price to fill. Another possibility is to think about that most fashionable of holiday buzzwords – the staycation.

But holidays in the UK aren’t immune to the last-minute deal drought affecting international trips, and as more Brits holiday at home hoteliers and holiday cottage owners don’t need to lower prices. Popular destinations such as Cornwall and the Lake District are booked well in advance, especially during the school summer holiday.

Peter Joyner, a spokesman for hoseasons.co.uk – which offers country cottages – insists there are still cheap deals to be found.

‘Spread yourself geographically,’ he said. ‘Think of less popular areas that are still beautiful to visit, places such as inland Dorset, Somerset, Northumberland and coastal Essex.

‘We have seen a big rise in popularity for these places, but there is cheap accommodation still available.’

Avoiding the most popular destinations and going further afield can save money too. One-time favourites like Greece have shot up in price in recent years, so why not try Croatia or Turkey?

Finding hidden deals is where the internet comes into its own, providing you with hundreds of comparison websites. But when it comes to all-inclusive package holidays, a travel agent can offer you a better last-minute deal than you would find online.

While they can seem expensive, Sarah Anderson, at Thomas Cook, believes it’s worth considering last-minute package deals.

She said: ‘While all-inclusive deals might look more expensive, many families are going for them as the extra costs such as eating and drinking out every day soon mount up, especially with a strong euro.’

Finally if you really want to take a chance on bagging a deal, why not try bidding on a holiday at auction? Sites like auctionair.co.uk will charge a fee for entry of each auction but you also have the option of picking up a bargain for next to nothing.