One thing about booking at the eleventh hour is the thrill of not knowing where you’re going till the very last minute; also, you can get a good deal both at the hotel and the airline
Right, so you’ve been meaning to escape the hot city summer and head to a place where you can really chill. Only, you haven’t had the time to plan your bookings and suddenly find that travel tickets have shot through the roof, and every decent hotel room has been booked.
Don’t sweat. It’s for eleventh-hour vacation planners like you that portals such as lastminutetravel.com and a host of others have mushroomed on the internet.
Booking in advance isn’t always possible, given the busy work schedules, says Archana Ghai, a Gurugram-based corporate executive. She adds, “One good thing about booking your vacation last minute is the excitement of not knowing where you’re going till the very last minute–summer in Shimla, rafting in Rishikesh or a two-week trip down South. Because last minute deals are so often hit or miss, you could end up heading to a vacation destination you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.”
Today, most travel consultants and portals have a segment for last-minute deals. Agoda has ‘Last Minute Vacations’ with tags such as last-minute deals up to 80 per cent off coming onto the search engines. Ditto with MakeMyTrip, whose ‘Last Minute Deal Tour Packages’ offers 50 per cent off on Indigo-special tour packages. Booking.com’s ‘Getaway Deals’ offers discounts starting at 15 per cent and valid for stays from April 4 to September 30, 2022.
Being tech-savvy helps
Mobile apps can get you some really good last-minute deals, especially in hotels. You should also follow airlines on their social media channels, as they often post special sales and promotional rates. One of the best ways to find great last-minute fares is to stay informed and to know when there is a deal or a sale going on.
Industry insiders say that it isn’t an ordinary summer this year. Interestingly, one in every two Indian travelers is planning to head out on his/her first trip since the 2020 lockdown this season. OYO’s Mid-Summer Vacation Index 2022 puts this number at over 60 per cent. Hotels are the most preferred stay option for Indians, followed by villas and homestays. Short trips of 1-3 days are favoured by 55 per cent Indians and a staggering 94 per cent have a strong affinity for domestic holidays. Over a third of Indians chose Manali among hill stations, while Goa topped as India’s most loved beach destination, as per the survey.
Travel portals are doing all they can to cash in on the travel-again sentiment post pandemic. Ritu Mehrotra, Regional Commercial Director APAC at Booking.com, says people are becoming more positive in their thinking after two years of travel curbs, and many get a thrill simply by exploring any and every travel opportunity thrown their way.
“It’s all about seizing the day as travel once again becomes easier with an effective vaccination drive, a weakening virus and the lifting of curbs. The moment has finally come to pack bags and explore all the incredible destinations India and the world have to offer.”
Yatra.com has launched a special campaign to promote summer travel called ‘Step Out. Get Going’. Says Sabina Chopra, Co-Founder, and COO, Yatra Online, “Bookings on our platform have risen by 70 per cent, with huge demand for leisure cities. To beat the scorching heat, people are making travel plans with friends to take up water adventure sports such as coasteering, white water rafting, windsurfing, and jet skiing this season. Yatra.com is providing special offers and discounts of up to 25 per cent on summer travel bookings.”
If you haven’t been able to book on time, you could use some travel tricks and tips that might just come in handy. As a general rule, be flexible. Often the less popular offers such as early morning and red-eye flights are cheaper, so be open to the possibility of flying at a somewhat less desirable time. Opt for working days and non-rush days. Ajay Bakaya, Managing Director, Sarovar Hotels and Resorts shares that weekdays are always better. He adds, “Friday-to-Sunday are rush days. Also, you must pay as soon as you make up your mind. The longer you wait, the more expensive it gets. If you just walk into the hotel, you may still find rooms, but at a heavy premium.”
Apart from hotels, you can even land with some handsome deals on flights if you are keeping a tab on special offers at various online platforms. Says Aloke Bajpai, Group CEO & Co-founder, Ixigo, “Though airfares have risen this year due to a spike in jet fuel prices, travellers can get great deals through a combination of simple hacks and offers. They can keep it simple and choose nearby destinations for air travel and avoid weekend travel. For example, one can get a non-stop flight from Delhi-Srinagar for as little as Rs 5,638 on June 7(Tuesday). With monsoon around the corner, one can choose off-peak destinations and get great discounts on hotel stays.”
It’s a good idea to fly mid-week as airfares are usually cheaper as compared to weekends. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually good days to get cheaper airfares. However, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, one may get better fares on a Friday or Saturday as well. For example, if you book a Mumbai-Maldives flight today, the cheapest last-minute non-stop option available on Ixigo is for June 3 (Friday), at Rs 8,150. This is cheaper than anything else available on any other day that week. Also look out for offers that can help you save on flight fares. Ixigo is currently running several offers, including flat Rs 1,000 off on domestic flights with HDFC Bank Credit Cards and EMI.
Go for unconventional destinations and smaller, unexplored ones. Ditch the Kashmirs and the Kullus and opt for quaint Lansdowne. Says 44-year-old Delhiite Vivek Malhotra who went to Pines and Peaks resort last week, “I was happy with the choice of the hill station as it was not crowded unlike other hill hot spots.”
Go for just launched and newly-opened resorts and properties. Says Anuraag Bhatnagar. Chief Operating Officer. The Leela: “We are opening two hotels in Kerala-–The Leela Kovalam, and The Leela Ashtamudi–within a month or two.” These may be better bets than Jaipur and Udaipur, which cost Rs 25,000-30,000 a night. Likewise, Sarovar’s Bakaya recommends his Poovar Island retreat, which is far from the madding crowd in the serene Kerala backwaters, now that his resorts in Kashmir, Bhimtal, Uttaranchal, Mashobra in Himalayas are booked.
What does the consumer want?
A hotelier says the millennial wants no pampering, and would rather be left alone. They don’t want huge portions and daunting buffets, but practical offerings with presentations that are visually appealing and make for a nice sensory experience. They may not want a jacuzzi as much as a beautiful view from their rooms and proximity to nature. Cleanliness and hygiene remain non-negotiable. The era of staycations is over and vacations are back, as people are tired of working and want a genuine break.
Consumers are now looking for a higher degree of personalisation and flexibility, easy booking modifications, and support to resolve queries, apart from catering to idiosyncrasies. If they want to be served breakfast at 12 or lunch at 4, they expect resorts to go that extra mile. Says Daniel D’Souza, President & Country Head – Holidays, SOTC Travel: “The pandemic has ushered in new and changed consumer behaviour and flexibility has emerged as a key demand. Hence, in order to delight our customers, we have curated “Ultra Flexible” holidays with Switzerland as the key destination, and with the choice of adding on France, Italy or Austria free of cost.”
Remember, last-minute bookings aren’t without risks. The biggest downside is that you might not end up going anywhere at all. That could happen if you wait too long to book a great deal and end up missing it.
But if you get your act right, you could end up making huge savings in flight and accommodation, as many hotels tend to slash their prices the closer you get to the arrival date. In any case, avoiding the stress about planning, organising and researching your trip and going with the flow is another experience.
Table: A quick look at some of the lowest last-minute fares
*Fares are for both non-stop and multiple-stop routes. Check Ixigo apps and website for more information