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.

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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

    £7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Day In a Page

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea