Last Minute Blues

Book a last-minute holiday. There are bargains galore for late bookings. So I was assured by the advertisements on the travel pages of every paper. And this year I decided to be bold, wait till the last moment, have a great holiday, save a fortune and wave to all those suckers who had paid full price.

Book a last-minute holiday. There are bargains galore for late bookings. So I was assured by the advertisements on the travel pages of every paper. And this year I decided to be bold, wait till the last moment, have a great holiday, save a fortune and wave to all those suckers who had paid full price.

Except that the ads don't tell the full story. I first tried booking a family beach holiday through Virgin, which has an encouraging phone message directing you to its "10 top offers". But, as with every travel firm I tried, after a week or so studying the brochures, I found I was rather better informed than the "travel consultants" who answered the phone.

My travel consultant could add nothing to the brochure descriptions and, after I had done the sums, agreed with me that the last-minute offers, with extra "flight supplements" and the fee for picking up tickets on departure, added up to more than the brochure price.

"How can you call it a last-minute offer?" I wailed. "Ah," she replied triumphantly, "this is a 'late search', not a 'late deal'."

At JMC, a delightful Scottish lady found me a couple of last-minute deals. But my suspicions were aroused when she began to flatter my virility. "It's a short walk to the beach," she said. "Och, you'll probably sprint it." No description was available, and again it didn't seem to be any cheaper than the brochure price. The word "deal" has a curious meaning in travel circles.

So, where better to go for a last-minute deal than lastminute.com? I tried the website and commendably it also gave a phone number for the lastminute.com "travel specialist". Even more commendably, the travel specialist was honest enough to tell me that she merely had in front of her a list from a travel agency and that, if I wanted their number, I could ring them. My faith in Martha Lane Fox's magical powers is not what it was.

Deciding on France, I then found a company which did cheap fares to Nîmes, only to find that Nîmes airport was to close in August. Time was getting short, I was getting desperate. I turned to my local Lunn Poly. "We don't recommend last-minute holidays for families. We can't guarantee where you'll end up."

In the end I did find an excellent last-minute holiday, an apartment in a complex, with pool, in the Cÿte d'Azur resort of Ste Maxime. But even that wasn't entirely happy travelling. I phoned the company, Motours, on the Sunday before we were due to leave. Apparently, the French firm in the resort were on answerphone on Sundays, so no bookings could be made on that day (it's only the busiest holiday month after all). They'd ring back next day.

They didn't. So I phoned them and booked a brochure-advertised family apartment with an extra shower room and a balcony overlooking the pool. There was no shower room. The balcony overlooked a busy road. But, a midnight haranguing of the man at reception led to a change of apartment to one with the advertised facilities.

We did have to change all the sheets, but as we stripped beds and chucked out dirty linen at 1am, I finally had that magical feeling of being on holiday - a very last-minute holiday.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz