Last minute vacation destinations

Last minute vacation destinations


WHERE TO GO NOW

On this webpage we will regularly update the best last minute vacation destinations for you to visit over the next few weeks and even months, with details of vacations that that have late availability. To some travelers, booking three months in advance might not seem like ‘last minute’ at all, but if you are hoping to do something that usually requires booking a year or so in advance, like hiking the Inca Trail, going gorilla watching or climbing Kilimanjaro, then three months in advance is actually super last minute. And for something like Kili, you will need to make sure you have a few months to get in training anyway. If you just want to go cycling in Croatia, or horse riding in Catalonia, then you have a better chance of landing a place on the saddle at short notice – and forget about any notion of getting in training.
See our month-by-month guide for the best last minute vacation destinations below.

November last minute vacations


Be sensible and start thinking about Christmas shopping, or escape the European dreariness and ridiculously early build up to Yuletide madness – or live a little and go on vacation? 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. 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.
And 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 vacation.

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 vacation. 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 the place, not the movie, the scenes with the baby lemurs are priceless during this time. And although the season of short rainfall 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 vacations


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 their Christmas crowds can be a bit like Oxford Street if you are not careful. If you can get a last minute trip to Patagonia, the country rather than the shop, you’ll have great access to remote landscapes, with midsummer warmth and long days. Get there before mid-December when the long school vacations begin in that part of the world.

January minute vacations


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. Closer to home, Europe's mountains (including the Alps, the Cairngorms, Carpathian, 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 pistes 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, but still with availability popping up as schools are back, are the Galapagos Islands, where there are calmer seas and warm weather, although you might still get spots of rain. As you will also in Costa Rica, as it is mostly rainforest after all, but in general, January brings warm sun.

You might get a bargain in the Patagonia sale when it comes to the shop , but unlikely in the destination where summer warmth, long days and access to the whole region make it peak season. But if availability does pop, 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 winter sun in contrast with the Himalayas, Delhi and the Golden Triangle regions which are best avoided though - they're freezing! However, this is one of the best times for tiger watching, if you bring your layers for those morning safaris. You won’t need layers in southwestern Sri Lanka, however, where the sun will shine, but avoid traveling to the northeast, where the monsoon has started.

Don’t write off Europe for sunshine off the pistes; parts of Andalucia can top 20 degrees in January and rainfall is rare. This is actually a much more pleasant time to take a walking or cycling vacation 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 vacations


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 vacation 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 romantic sun filled vacation 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 also a great destination for a bit of February fieriness. And if you want hot and wild, head to Costa Rica as this is a top time for wildlife vacations. Galapagos too, which are wild and wonderful all year round, but in February you will love the calmer seas, warmer weather although with risk of showers too. Bookings will pick up towards half term, as these islands are very popular with families. Don’t overlook mainland Ecuador at this time of year, especially before the school half term, 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 and it is also one of the top times for tiger safaris in India and Nepal. Although these book up way in advance, so if you spot late availability, you’ll need tiger feet to grab it quickly.

February is also a time when people 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, with vast open spaces, extraordinary scenery and hiking galore to wake up the senses and enlighten the soul, there is actually summer warmth, long days and easy access to the whole region. It might not be chilly in Chilly, but it will be still freezing in Finland. And Sweden and Norway, but the Northern Lights will lift you out of February’s dark moments, and also the 24-hour darkness is lifting here at this time, so you can still enjoy fun in the snow during the day as well, such as snowshoeing, skating, husky sledding and meeting the Sami.

If it’s snow that you want, Italy and Spain's mountains also still have plenty of it for winter activities - with the option of heading back down to the milder coastal areas for a bit of hiking or just chilling out.
Photo credit: [May: Patty Ho] [June: Patrik Jones] [July: Ignorant Walking] [August: Moyan Brenn] [November: Leo Hidalgo] [December: kansasphoto]
Written by Catherine Mack
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