Spur-of-the-moment getaways can make the best kind of holidays, so why not treat yourself with a last minute escape to somewhere special this season?
It’s been proven that spontaneous travel can make us happy, and thankfully, there are a range of delightful destinations just waiting to put a smile on your face. Whether you’re considering a family trip in the school holidays, a sunset-filled romantic escape or a timely solo sojourn, we’ve got last-minute holiday ideas for every contingency.
Oft overlooked for Italy’s seductive mainland, Sicily is a true treat for those seeking a slice of elegant Mediterranean life. Back in the spotlight this year after a starring role in season two of popular TV show The White Lotus, travellers are flocking there for those Ionian sea views and that bougainvillaea-draped terrace. Get there first and enjoy a sun-drenched trip to the island and explore seven UNESCO World Heritage sites, over 80 nature reserves and the tradition of ice cream for breakfast. That’s what we call a win.
Climb Europe’s tallest active volcano, visit Italy’s largest opera house and don’t leave without grabbing a cocktail (and a room) at the San Domenico Palace, Four Seasons (where so many of The White Lotus‘s juiciest scenes took place). Catania, Taomorina and Palermo are also all worth exploring, making this a versatile destination whether you’re after a four day getaway or two-week trip. What could be a better last minute holiday idea?
With Spain’s eclectic cities bursting with cultural attractions, delicious tapas and vibrant nightlife, it’s easy to see why Brits love the country for a spur-of-the-moment trip. However, many travellers overlook the enchanting northern region of Cantabria, a rich natural reserve to the west of Bilbao. Under two hours flight-time from London, it’s a quick journey replete with endless rewards.
Highlights include the 20km Altamira cave systems (known as the ‘Sistine Chapel of palaeolithic art’), bear watching in the Asturias forests and the opportunity to play ‘Bolo palma’, the Cantabrian take on bowls which dates back to the 16th century. Plus, the enchanting El Capricho de Gaudi – one of only a handful of the architect’s famous structures based outside of Catalonia – is based here, now a museum and well worth a visit. Stay at the palatial Eurostars Hotel Real in the bay of Santander, minutes from the town’s best bits and a great location from which to escape into the countryside.
The medieval charms of Dubrovnik often draw more visitors than Zagreb, but the Croatian capital is a first-class choice for an invigorating city break. A melting pot of thousand-year history, unique culture and home to over 30 museums and galleries, the ancient city is a truly diverse destination.
Split in two, Upper Town houses ancient architecture, historic sites and a buzzy nightlife, while the more modern Lower Town hosts hotels, shopping centres and high-end restaurants. Visitors can take a ride on the world’s shortest funicular (just 66 metres), marvel at the intricate mosaic roof of St. Mark’s Church and taste crunchy, creamy štrukli on every corner. Fun fact? The city is illuminated by gas lamps which are painstakingly lit by hand every evening.
Bed down in Hotel Dubrovnik which sits right on Ban Josip Jelačić Square. It’s an ideal spot from which to discover the city, as well as being near Glavni Kolod Train Station.
Known for its bridges, pizzas and moonlighting gig as Hollywood’s ‘Gotham’, Illinois’ largest city is also the birthplace of the brownie, home to the world’s tallest female-designed building and the only backwards flowing river on Earth. Intrigued? You should be. An architect’s paradise, and packed with world famous art galleries and museums – as well as a record-breaking sporting history (catching a Chicago Bulls game is mandatory) – visitors could spend weeks immersing themselves in the metropol’s cultural wonders alone. Catch some shut-eye at The Langham, a luxury pad with fantastic views of the Chicago River, particularly on St. Patrick’s Day when it runs shamrock green.
Make the most of America’s plentiful offerings by hitting the road after the high rises. Head north to the quaint, all-American town of Dodgeville in Wisconsin and spend an afternoon at Alex Jordan’s The House on The Rock, a quirky property surrounded by an extensive collection of bizarre paraphernalia.
If high-adrenaline escapades tick your ‘last minute holiday idea’ box, look no further than the ‘nature emirate of the UAE’. At the Jais Adventure Peak, visitors can climb the highest summit in the country, Jebel Jais, shoot down the world’s longest zipline (2.8km) and refuel in style at 1484 by Puro, the emirate’s highest restaurant. Budding historians will get a kick out of touring ruins dating back to the Bronze Age (four of which are UNESCO sites). It’s also worth learning about the UAE’s pearl fishing heritage at the country’s first cultured pearl farm.
As if that isn’t enough, Ras Al Khaimah has numerous pristine beaches and crystal-clear seas, making it the perfect place to unwind in. Go all inclusive at the Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Beach Resort, whose nine food and drinks venues, salt water pool and family-friendly suites cater to guests’ every need.
At a mere 45 minutes from Dubai airport, Ras Al Khaimah (meaning ‘top of the tent’ for its northerly positioning) is a no-brainer for outdoorsy travellers looking for a last-minute adventure fix.
Not to be confused with popular tourist destination Chang Mai, Chiang Rai is Thailand’s northernmost city, and a drop of urbanity on the edge of serene wilderness. Sandwiched between two mountain ranges, the city sits within ‘The Golden Triangle’, a 950,000 square km area connecting Thailand, Laos and Myanmar.
Home to the most buddhist temples of any Thai city, it’s one of Chiang Rai’s newer additions that draws the most crowds: Wat Rong Khun. Known as ‘The White Temple’, the striking structure was built in 1997 and designed by acclaimed visual artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. The outside features classic Thai architectural styles while inside walls are covered with murals of pop culture icons including The Matrix’s Neo, Kung Fu Panda’s Po and Transformer’s Bumblebee.
Temples aside, The Hall of Opium museum is a fascinating insight into the history of the drug, while scenic walks along the river feature bank-side buddhas. Spend your nights at The Riverie by Katathani, which promises luxury amenities and breathtaking, mountain views.
Once a hub for international espionage, dodgy deals and unchecked hedonism, Tangier’s colourful history has moulded it into a one-of-a-kind destination. The city’s European, African and Arabian influences are evident at every turn, from its quieter-than-most medina to its intriguing craft shops and impressive arts scene.
Birthplace of the tangerine (rumour has it people from Tangier once referred to themselves as Tangerines) and beloved Moroccan mint tea, visitors are obliged to sample both. Seek them out in the souks of Petit Socco – the Little Market – where cafes abound and people watching is first-rate.
The surrounding areas hide rich rewards too. Save an afternoon for the Caves of Hercules, a system of serrated-roofed, underground caverns said to be where the Greek hero slept on his way to completing the 11th of his 12 labours. Chefchaouen, the enchanting ‘Blue City’, is a mere two hour drive south, and day trips to Malaga and Gibraltar are a quick ferry ride away. Make sure to get some peace and quiet amid the hustle and bustle by staying at La Maison Du Tanger, a beautifully furnished guesthouse in a serene neighbourhood just south of the Kasbah.
Last minute holiday idea FAQs
Overall, it is usually cheaper to book a holiday within 8-10 weeks of travelling. This is because airlines will have confirmed their flight slots and hotels will want to book up their rooms, so they’re likely to offer better deals for those spur-of-the-moment trips.
Yes! As we’ve mentioned, spontaneity makes people happy, so booking a last minute escape it a great idea for most people. Treating yourself to an eleventh hour getaway could be just the ‘pick me up you need’ after a long week of work or simply as a break from the day to day. If can also be a good money saving option, though bear in mind you may need to be flexible when it comes to destinations and accommodation to see those savings.