Here’s why those last-minute flight sales are almost too good to be true

Here’s why those last-minute flight sales are almost too good to be true
Here’s why those last-minute flight sales are almost too good to be true

By Josh Martin

OPINION: Who doesn’t love spontaneity? It’s one of the best things about travelling.

Turning left, not right. Chancing it by sitting down at a random restaurant table or taking up a local’s recommendation or invitation.

Granted, booking a holiday last-minute does mean that you have less time to daydream and let the anticipation (and expectations) build, but it can often come about because of a deal. And who doesn’t love a deal?

However, don’t be fooled by a shiny, cheap deal – there are plenty of ways your holiday can be derailed even before you go. So factor in the below before you book, as more often than not these discounted deals are non-refundable or costly to change.

READ MORE: The most in-demand cruise destinations for Aussies in 2024

Who doesn’t love booking a last-minute deal? (Getty)


All well and good to find a flight and hotel deal to China…but will you actually be allowed in?

Australia has a very valuable passport with our most-visited destinations not requiring much in the way of pre-departure visa admin, and often we’re waved through at the border or get a very simple e-visa.

However, don’t let that lull you into thinking that there are not (prominent) exceptions.

I’m frequently reminded that I’m unable to make the most of travel to or through the USA via its ESTA programme, because I have travelled to Cuba.

Meanwhile, China requires visas beyond 144 hours, while countries such as Cuba, Egypt, and Vietnam require a fair chunk of admin ahead of time and a few days for processing.

So check visa requirements and processing times. And while we’re at it, make sure your passport isn’t soon due to expire and has enough spare pages in it.

READ MORE: Bark Air, a new airline designed specifically for dogs, takes off on its first flight

Check your passport before you head to the airport. (Nine)


I’m all for travelling outside of peak season – I can vouch for seeing the Big Five on safari in the unpopular ‘green’ (wet) season, as well as swimming in the Med months before and after sunny August.

However, you have to ask – particularly if it’s a weather-dependent destination – is the discount linked to undesirable weather? This is especially vital for sun, sea or ski holidays.

You don’t want to get 50 per cent flights to Denver only to find 70 per cent of the snow in the Rocky Mountains has gone. Likewise, you’ll want to pack indoor activities too if your cheap seats to tropical beaches coincide with cyclone season.

READ MORE: Getaway host Catriona Rowntree shares the $2 item she keeps in her carry-on at all times

Rainy beach holidays aren’t always fun. (Getty)

Missing extras

As somebody who has booked “cheap” long-haul flights between the UK and New Zealand mistakenly with only 7kgs of carry-on (not quite sufficient for a month away including attending a wedding), and upgrading to a normal 23kg allowance was prohibitively expensive, please always read the small print. Or even the medium-sized print.

Does your holiday deal include checked baggage, meals on board, hotel breakfasts, cruise gratuities, airport transfers? If not, these essentials need to be accounted for and organised at relatively short-notice.

Far from impossible, but worth knowing about.

The best freebies you can get on your next flight


All too often we seem to think that the flight price is the holiday price, or indicative of other holiday costs. But it’s often not, and sometimes they have no correlation.

Booking last-minute might mean you get cheap seats on the plane, but will it be the same for your hotel or holiday apartment, your rental car, or tickets to major attractions?

There are fixed numbers, so are rental cars or theatre seats and theme park rides, so booking late may mean missing out on private transport or not-to-miss activities indeed being missed.

Venice Beach, Los Angeles, USA
Prices for food and hotels in the US are through the roof. (Getty)

Overall destination costs

In this same vein, you need to factor in the overall value offered by the destination, rather than the flashing ads, discounts and edited images of a package holiday or flight bargain.

Flight prices to the US are currently the same as when I went more than a decade ago, but airfares are the sole item of a holiday that haven’t gone up in America, with hotel rooms, restaurant bills and attraction tickets all rising steadily – at the same time as the Aussie dollar has weakened significantly against the US dollar.

If your last-minute deal is really just a slightly discounted airfare, you may find that more-expensive components of a holiday that you have to book yourself: rooms, cars, petrol, food, attractions, taxis will undermine the perceived value of the original deal.

This article was originally published on Stuff and was reposted with permission.


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