All-Inclusive Late Deals

For most people, a holiday is the culmination of months of pulling the bosses' ear for some vacation time, getting the kids off school for a couple of weeks and finding someone to water the plants while they're away - but there is an (even more frantic) alternative. Late holiday packages are becoming more and more viable for jet-setting travellers, and if you know where to look you can find yourself a cheeky all-inclusive last minute deal.

Need to knows

Let's get some of those pesky formalities out of the way first.

The paradox of last minute deals is that, although booking late better suits no-strings singletons who can go away for a couple of weeks at the drop of the hat, it's actually far easier to find late family packages than it is solo travel deals. This is, obviously, because seats and reservations tend to become available in sets (one person dropping out of a group holiday has a knock-on effect on everyone else's plans).

That leaves you with the difficult task of co-ordinating a family holiday - children in tow - in an very limited time window. Here are a few need to knows before you do:

• Term time holiday law - Unless you're lucky enough hit the jackpot and find a great last minute deal that also happens to fall outside the education calendar, you're going to be faced with the difficult choice of whether to pull the kids out of school for a couple of weeks. If you do, remember that you will need permission from the headteacher before you go, and if you don't get it you are falling foul of the law. Our only advice is to try and pick one of the less busy periods - in the new year is probably best.

• Documentation - If you're going outside in the EU (and, in a few years, perhaps, even if you are staying inside it) you will obviously need to source travel visas for the whole group in advance of your trip. This can be done at the last minute, and our advice is to stump up the extra money for the fast-track service. You don't want processing delays to put the brakes on your holiday - especially when it's already paid for.

• Travel insurance - Travel insurance is something you really can't do without (especially since a lot of last-minute deals tend to come on the market in countries where there may be ongoing political tension). Put simply: make sure you sort it out as soon as you've booked your trip (and, once again, be prepared to pay a little extra to push it through immediately).

Booking early vs booking late

Depending on who you talk to, there are differing schools of thought on whether it's better to book your holiday early and leave it to the last minute. The truth is that both carry some advantages.

By booking early you get your pick of the available rooms - meaning you make sure your family are all together (or at least a stone's throw away) instead of being spread out across the hotel. You can also ensure you are put on the lists for meal and activity plans, and give yourself the opportunity to do some research and make sure your accommodation has a high customer satisfaction rate.

There's also a few downsides to booking last minute as well: you may have to compromise on certain elements of your dream holiday - including, even, the flights. A lot of last minute seats are on indirect flights, meaning you could be stuck on a long haul trip even though you only want to get to the Med (although obviously you will be making a saving on the price).

Where to look

Here are some of the best websites to find last minute deals:

• lastminute.com

• latedeals.co.uk

• expedia.co.uk

• travelrepublic.co.uk

• bestattravel.co.uk

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