Last minute vacation destinations

Need some late vacation inspiration? Here, we’ll regularly update the best last minute vacation destinations for you to visit over the next three months. To some travelers, 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.

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 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 vacations begin in that part of the world.

January last 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. 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 traveling 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 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 sunny 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 a great destination for a bit of February sun. A wildlife vacation 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 vacations, as these islands are very popular with families. Don’t overlook mainland Ecuador at this time of year, especially before the school vacations, 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.

March last minute vacations

We love activity vacations at this time of year and, as they are often small group vacations, you have a good chance of getting a last minute place in the group. For example, the spring time sunshine in southern Morocco is just perfect for activity vacations, as it is not too hot, as long as you don’t want to go too high in the mountains, where there may still be snow. But then again, you can combine snow with fun in the desert and the coast, so a win-win for those sprightly March hares out there. Costa Rica is dry and mostly sunny, so this is a great time for combining wildlife watching with activity vacations and the Galapagos are great just now for action, especially if you pick a land based vacation from where you can totally immerse yourself in real island life, and also their beaches.

For snowy winter activities, check out late availability in Sweden, Finland and Norway. The 24-hour darkness has, thankfully, lifted, but the snow remains in the northern regions, as do the Northern Lights. Serious trekkers might want to bag a ticket – as well as a mountain – in Nepal in March as the winter snows have melted and the monsoon season hasn’t hit yet. Monsoons still haven’t hit Myanmar (Burma) either, where it is dry and warm, but not too hot in March. Cuba is at its driest in March too, with the winter chill having passed on.

You will still feel a chill in the air in Andalucía of a March morning, but the air heats up quickly, creating warm sunny days for walking or cycling vacations, with the aromatic orange blossom also in bloom at the end of the month. If March madness means splashing out on a wildlife vacation, this is a great time to keep an eye out for last minute vacations to Kenya and Tanzania. You can get good deals at this time, as the rainy season is due to start. The rains seem to arrive that bit later every year, though – so you could get lucky with pleasant weather, low prices and few other vehicles crowding round the wildlife. March is also the month to spot the biggest mammals of them all – whales. These trips do book out in advance, so if you can spot a place opening up last minute in March, head to Antarctica, the Azores or Sri Lanka for cetacean perfection.

Our top Last minute Vacation

Winter walking & snowshoeing, France

Winter walking & snowshoeing, France

Top winter walking/snow shoeing in the Mercantour, France

From 830 to945 8 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2020: 15 Feb, 20 Dec
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Last minute or need help finding a vacation 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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