The last-minute holiday guide

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Exams are beginning to creep up on us, and with them comes the temptation to book an impromptu Christmas holiday. This is an ideal time to give in to your wanderlust, as the prospect of a trip after exams makes revision slightly more bearable.

With Christmas approaching and the inevitable expense of revision week snacks, most students don’t have enormous amounts of leftover cash. That being said, there is still hope, and this hope comes in the form of last-minute city breaks. These are often much cheaper than booking in advance, as many websites provide specific deals for late bookers in order to fill up hotels and flights. The Saint suggests using these websites, which will allow you to find the best deals without taking up too much of your precious revision (and perhaps procrastination) time.

Budapest. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Budapest. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Package deals

Package holidays are out of fashion these days and rarely offer the best deal for students. However, there are some online options that offer extraordinarily cheap deals. Read the fine print carefully: deals often include late-night flights that leave you with very little time at your destination and hotels located far away from the city centre.

Groupon: This is by far the most popular option, with a huge selection of deals for destinations around the UK, Europe, and beyond. Groupon offers little flexibility in regards to dates, and you have no choice regarding the hotel. Nevertheless, these inconveniences are redeemed by how cheap the deals are (often under £100 for two nights in a European city).

Wowcher: This website follows the same format as Groupon and offers very similar deals. However, it varies slightly in that some destinations have more UK flight options. If you’re planning on departing from Edinburgh, check Wowcher.

Lastminute: Lastminute allows you to specify where you want to fly from, your preferred destination, and the dates you would like to travel. Once you have chosen these options, the website searches to find you the best deal. It also has many suggested destinations and gives you a range of options regarding hotels and dates; it is much more customisable than the other websites.

Onthebeach: If the prospect of even colder weather on holiday is not appealing, this website offers beach holidays year round.  While some destinations are perhaps outside of the student budget, there are opportunities to visit cheaper places such as Malta and the Canary Islands.

HotUKDeals:  The travel section of this website rates user-submitted travel package deals based on their popularity and value for money. New submissions are constantly being uploaded, so it is worth checking regularly to see if there are any options of particular interest.

Florence. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Florence. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 Flight comparisons

Sometimes you want a bit more control over your dates and hotel, which is understandable if you’re trying to squeeze in a break between exams and Christmas. Searching for flights is infinitely easier with flight comparison websites, the most effective of which is Skyscanner. In addition to comparing major airlines in order to find the cheapest deal for your preferred destination, Skyscanner suggests the cheapest options for specific months. Use the “everywhere” option in the search bar to find the cheapest deal, and search by “whole month” to compare prices day-by-day. Tuesday afternoons are supposedly the best time to search for flights, as airlines will know if flights for that weekend are full and sell any remaining seats at heavily discounted prices.

Sometimes you can get a better deal directly from the airline website, so it is worth checking budget airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet. Keep in mind that it is sometimes cheaper to get single tickets from two different airlines than a return ticket from one.

Paris. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Paris. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Hotel comparisons

Booking.com: This website is the most comprehensive, as it offers a huge range of accommodation in cities across the world. On Booking.com’s “deals” page, you can easily find the cheapest accommodation in a city for your preferred dates.

Laterooms: Laterooms is fairly identical to Booking.com, but it may list different hotels or better prices. It’s worth checking both sites.

Airbnb: Airbnb has very quickly become one of the cheapest options for students looking for a place to stay on holiday. While the site doesn’t offer deals, per se, prices are often significantly cheaper than hotels. Thanks to its array of housing options, Airbnb also provides the benefit of an authentic experience. If you are travelling in a group, renting out a house or flat with multiple bedrooms on Airbnb can be much cheaper than several hotel rooms, and the experience will inevitably be more fun. While Airbnb is not always optimal for last-minute deals, the options available in many popular European cities are almost overwhelming. You are sure to find something great.

Hostelworld: If you are travelling either alone or in a group, staying at a hostel is undoubtedly the cheapest option for accommodation. This website includes many hostels that have private rooms at rates that are generally less expensive than a normal hotel. Hostelbookers is another comprehensive website for comparing hostel prices.

Couchsurfing: If you decide to do some solo travel on a shoe-string budget, something that can really cut your costs is couchsurfing, or staying at a local’s house, generally on the sofa, free of charge. If you want to meet new people and don’t mind the lack of luxury, this is a great option for getting to know a city intimately.

Malta. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Malta. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Top Tips

1.) Another major travelling expense is currency exchange. Given the precarious economic situation caused by the EU referendum this summer, you are unfortunately going to get a fairly terrible deal converting your sterling into euros. It is worth bearing in mind that some northern European countries, like Norway, are particularly expensive (from personal experience, paying £7 for a bag of crisps made me feel rather ill), while countries in eastern Europe, like the Czech Republic and Poland, are infinitely cheaper.

2.) If you are really too spoiled for choice, Groupon offers a Mystery Getaway that allows you to book a two to four-night trip in a surprise location in Europe. Costs are around £99 to £169 per person, and you are allocated one of 26 destinations after buying your tickets. If you want a holiday without the hassle of choosing and organising it yourself, this is the perfect solution.

3.) Lastly, it is a good idea to sign up for the newsletters of websites mentioned in this article. This will, admittedly, be irritating because the sites will email you almost daily, but you will receive exclusive deals.

With all of these resources in mind, you are sure to find a great deal for a well-deserved break after exams.

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