Last minute holiday destinations

Need some late holiday inspiration? Here, we’ll regularly update the best last minute holiday destinations for you to visit over the next three months. To some travellers, booking three months in advance might not seem like ‘last minute’ at all, but if you’re hoping to do something that usually requires booking a year or so in advance, like hiking the Inca Trail, gorilla watching or climbing Kilimanjaro, then three months in advance is actually super last minute – especially if you need to get training in. Read on to find out what kind of adventures are waiting to be grabbed.

November last minute holidays

Be sensible and start thinking about Christmas shopping and the ridiculously early build-up to Yuletide madness – or live a little and go on holiday? You can kill many birds with one stone by doing some original, and responsible, Christmas shopping in places like Northern Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma and Thailand, which are dry and warm but not too hot in November. Kerala in southern India is also a great destination for some winter sun and Nepal’s trekking conditions are just perfect at this time. You can buy lots of local woollen goodies there to bring home for Christmas, too.

For a closer to home winter soak in the sun, the Canary Islands are still beautifully balmy, with places like Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Gomera hiking heaven at this time of year. Andalucía is also lovely, with cool, sunny days making it great for a walking or cycling holiday.

At the other end of the spectrum, now's the time to head to Antarctica for pristine snowscapes and the largest icebergs, before the summer warmth kicks off a giant thaw. But these trips do book up, so if you can catch last minute availability and you are in expedition, carpe diem mode, grab this chance of a lifetime.

Another trip of a lifetime is a gorilla trekking holiday. As November is not the peak season for this, being the rainy season, places can come up. You won’t be poured on all day at all, just in spurts, but you won’t even think about it when you set your eyes on your first gorilla family. And you will have the forests and mountains to yourself, the guides and the gorillas. If you can catch a ticket to Madagascar, you'll find baby lemurs abounds. And although the rainier season is starting in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, it is still a great time to go, as the national parks are quieter. Ergo, more last minute availability.

December last minute holidays

You have to have been very good boys and girls all year to be lucky enough to get a last minute Christmas trip, as this is peak time for so many countries and booked up far in advance by those people who are painfully organised. However, last minute spaces are available if you keep your eyes peeled. Northern Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma and Thailand are dry and warm but not too hot. Costa Rica is dry in late December and would be the best Christmas wildlife break if you can find late availability – although they will be slim on the ground.

Kerala in southern India and Sri Lanka are beautiful at this time of year, but crowded at Christmas. If you can get a last minute trip to Patagonia, you’ll have great access to remote landscapes, with midsummer warmth and long days. Get there before mid-December, when the long school holidays begin in that part of the world.

January last minute holidays

If you just want to embrace winter, then January has interesting options such as Japan, which – if you can find last minute spaces to go skiing or winter walking – is very de rigeur. Europe's mountains (including the Alps, Carpathians, Dolomites, Pyrenees and Sierra Nevada) also have plenty of snow for winter activities. Places like Scotland, Slovakia and Romania are not always the most obvious ones to book, but just as stunning and with much more tranquil vistas than some of the more traditional snow destinations. For more winter wanderlust, head to Sweden, Finland or Norway for snowshoeing, igloos, husky sledding, skating and, of course, seeing the Northern Lights.

For sunshine, it’s southeast Asia that you want, where it is dry and warm but not too hot. Other popular destinations at this time of year are the Galapagos Islands, where there are calmer seas and warm weather, although you might still get spots of rain. You'll find similar weather in Costa Rica, but in general January brings warm sun.

You might get a bargain in the Patagonia sale when it comes to the shop, but it's unlikely in the destination where summer warmth, long days and access to the whole region make it peak season. But if availability does pop up, it is magical at this time of year, and will get your new year off to the most inspiring start. Kerala in southern India is another great destination for some sun. The Himalayas, Delhi and the Golden Triangle are best avoided, though – they're freezing. However, if you bring your layers for those morning safaris, this is one of the best times for tiger watching. You won’t need layers in southwestern Sri Lanka, where the sun will shine. Just avoid travelling to the northeast, where the monsoon will have started.

Don’t write off Europe for sunshine off the pistes; parts of Andalucía can top 20°C in January and rainfall is rare. This is actually a much more pleasant time to take a walking or cycling holiday than midsummer – when 40°C heat makes any activity unfeasible. And if you head up into the mountains, you'll find plenty of the white stuff to keep you busy too.

February last minute holidays

Another tricky one for late availability – the beginning of the month is what is known as the ‘shoulder season’ in many countries, with more chances of late availability as February is outside the peak season. Until school half term holiday kicks in towards the end of the month, and then bookings can go crazy again. Also, a lot of families forget that February half term is coming, as they are just recovering from Christmas, so they also rush to book at the last minute. It is also hard to gauge where best to go at this time. Some unusual choices include carnival season in the likes of Venice or Trinidad. Which will blow away any winter worries, for sure. If you want to treat a loved one to a sunny holiday for Valentine’s Day, watch last minute availability cropping up in Southeast Asia, where it is dry and warm but not too hot. But hot enough for Valentines.

Kerala in southern India is a great destination for a bit of February sun. A wildlife holiday in Costa Rica is a top choice, too. The Galapagos Islands are wild and wonderful all year round, but in February you will love the calmer seas and warmer weather – although there's the risk of showers too. Bookings pick up towards the school holidays, as these islands are very popular with families. Don’t overlook mainland Ecuador at this time of year, especially before the school holidays, when last minute availability is more likely to happen.

In southwestern Sri Lanka, the wildlife is abundant in Yala National Park and whales can be seen off the coast. February is also one of the top times for tiger safaris in India and Nepal. These book up way in advance, however, so if you spot late availability, you’ll need tiger feet to grab it quickly.

February is also a time when people in the Northern Hemisphere get cabin fever, feeling the impact of the short days. You will soon shake off this feeling if you can get a last minute trip to Patagonia, where there is summer warmth, long days and easy access to the whole region.

It might not be chilly in Chile, but it will still be freezing in Finland, Sweden and Norway. But the Northern Lights will lift you out of February’s dark moments. Plus, the 24-hour darkness is lifting here in February, so you can enjoy snowshoeing, skating and husky sledding in the bright snow. If it’s snow that you want, Italy and Spain's mountains also still have plenty of the white stuff for cross country skiing and snowshoeing – with the option of heading back down to the milder coastal areas for a bit of hiking.

Our top Last minute Holiday

Umbria cooking holiday, Italy

Umbria cooking holiday, Italy

italian cooking in a farmhouse between Umbria and Tuscany

From €1440 to €1650 7 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2019: 29 Dec
2020: 2 May, 9 May, 16 May, 22 May, 4 Jun, 13 Jun, 24 Jun, 4 Jul, 14 Jul, 28 Jul, 9 Aug, 17 Aug, 3 Sep, 12 Sep, 25 Sep, 3 Oct, 13 Oct
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Last minute or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Paxson Woelber] [December: Zdenek Machacek] [January: Sam Lee] [February: Frank Kovalchek] [March: Robbie Shade] [April: M. Zonderling] [May: Marien van Os] [June: Make it Kenya] [July: Juan Alberto Garcia Rivera] [August: Lecouteausuisseduweb] [September: Joshua Earle] [October: Philipp Klausner] [November: Oguz Serbetci]
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