How to Make the Most of Your Last Minute Plans

Lazy, over-worked or simply procrastinating, long gone is the luxury of sitting and planning out your annual holiday leisurely. With just a few days to put everything together, EXEC takes a look at the ways you can make the most of it.
With the world draped in lights and songs of celebration, it is the perfect time to go on that long-awaited vacation. With ‘not enough time’ being a mere excuse, now is the time to make up for all the forgotten birthdays and anniversaries; all the dinners missed and all the school functions you had to sit out of thanks to your hectic schedules. While most will cringe at the thought of the insane rush at the very last minute, let us assure you that planning a last minute vacation is far from intimidating or disappointing. With amazing deals and offers up for grabs, maybe this is the best way to plan out your much-deserved vacation.
Who is the Ideal Last Minute Traveller?
Before you jump in joy and crown yourself the king (or queen) of last minute traveling, you need to know what makes the ideal last minute traveler. General procrastinators and lazy ones steer clear of this title. This one’s strictly for those who have traveled so extensively that they not only know the pros and cons, but they know them so well that even without planning, they have foresight enough to pull off a last minute plan. “For those who travel on a regular basis, taking the responsibility of a trip planned out at the last minute is more natural. The more you travel, the more you learn and some of these lessons work to your advantage when you set off to plan a trip at the very last minute,” says business traveler Ansoo Gupta. The COO of Pinstorm not only travels extensively for work, she is quite the travel enthusiast too. “What works to the advantage of people who travel regularly is the fact that they know exactly what to pack, what too look out for and they have this way of realizing what deals are reliable and what are not,” Gupta adds.

The one piece of advice Gupta has for all who are brave enough to undertake a vacation planned at the last moment is pretty simple. From every Boy Scout to the sexy villain of Disney favourite, ‘The Lion King’, “Be prepared” is the motto all travelers should swear by. So if flexible schedules, wild goose chases and the spirit of adventure appeals to you, the last minute plans have been custom made for you.

Check Them Out:
For young college goers, trips planned out in the last minute are the order of the day. But an annual vacation is very far from perfect if you just set out with a spring in your step and a song in your heart. For every traveler who plans a trip at the very last minute there are a set of unspoken rules that must be followed to the very last full stop.

Check on all documents you might possibly need for the trip. Passports, visas and traveller’s cheques feature particularly high on this checklist. Once things are in order, make sure that you have plenty of copies of the documents you are carrying to deal with the emergencies you might possibly face. It is always better to be safe than sorry. While checking these documents, make sure that travel insurance never gets left out of the list.
Though most fares are comparatively higher when you book tickets and accommodation at the very last minute, there are some great discounts available on the Internet. But if you shy away from researching these offers, you might just end up disappointed.
Know more about the place you are about to visit. Apart from the local culture, cuisine and customs, it is always important to know about the weather of the place you are about to visit. Being under-prepared or over-prepared is never comforting while you’re on vacation.
Be careful while you’re packing. At the last moment it is but normal to throw in everything you believe that you are going to need for the trip. But it is essential to pack just right. So taking half a day or even one to get together things that are important is nothing short of a must-do.
A rental car might just be the best option while you’re on a vacation. So when you book accommodation, make sure that you hire a car along with it. If you have chosen a popular holiday destination to visit, things might not be available too easily unless you make prior arrangements.
Last but not the least; make sure that you have an itinerary to guide you before setting off for the trip. This in no way means getting rid of spontaneity, it simply means a vacation that is comfortable not just for you, but your family too.

Book ‘em Right
Of all the tales you hear, bookings going wrong have to be the most horrifying. According to Mahesh Aiyer, General Manager, Vivanta by Taj, Whitefield relying on online bookings can be the best thing for you… but only if you know where to look. “Depending on the brand names, you can always expect good discounts. Just make sure that you read the terms and conditions and the fine print carefully. For really good deals, it is always best to book flight tickets and hotel rooms together. If you have questions, never shy away from online forums because that is the only way you can get quick responses to your questions,” says Aiyer.

The world of last-minute flights has changed a great deal since the introduction of low-cost carriers. Though the best times to get the cheapest fares are when the tickets are first released (or in a seat sale, though availability is always restricted in these sales.) With charter airlines, on the contrary, late deals are often available. When a charter airline has sold the majority of its seats, it then decides to sell its spare seats at cheaper prices. And these are flights are the ones you need to keep your eye on when you rush through your plans.

Last Minute Travel Insurance
For most people, the deals they get at the very last minute are great, but they forget one important aspect of booking a vacation at the very last minute—insurance. Be it an all inclusive package or one off flight tickets, it is essential that you not only get insurance from a reliable company, it is also important to read the fine print very, very carefully. “In case your travel plans coincide with something along the lines of Sandy, you know that there is nothing you can do about it. But if you do have a reliable name to depend on, there are great chances that you will get your refunds. But sometimes, insurance companies are a lot less forgiving if you have to cancel an all-inclusive trip for the very same reason. Which is why going through the terms and conditions thoroughly is more important than anything else. You should always know what you are signing up for and you should always know what are the challenges you might have to face in case of an emergency,” says Ramma Basappa, Director of Sales, Marco Polo Travels.

According to Ramesh Ramani, Senior VP, Consumer Lines, Tata AIG General Insurance, “It is recommended that customers avail Travel insurance from authorized agents only; it is also important to ensure that the policy is from a Registered General Insurance Company. Additionally one needs to check on the intended place of travel as there are countries where Travel Insurance is mandatory. If buying online, it is preferable to buy the insurance policy from the website of the General Insurance Company. This would ensure that the customer is protected from any fraudulent transactions from dubious websites. While travellers should buy insurance polices based on their needs; their travel destination and duration of stay are the other two factors to be considered while choosing the cover.”

For reliable insurance deals, you can also log on to the website of TFG Global Travel Insurance.com (http://www.globaltravelinsurance.com)

Book a Cruise at the Last Moment
Though the best time to book a cruise is 60-90 days before it sets off, some of the best deals are revealed just a week or two prior to the cruise. One of the major reasons why you get such great deals at such a short period of notice is because no organizer wants to let unfulfilled seats go by. “Booking a cruise can actually be quite a double edged sword,” says Basappa. “Very often, you’ll see that prices have been slashed by almost 50% but that is not because of a change in heart. Instead of having to deal with vacant seats and rooms, it is best for the company to put up the rooms for grabs through various online and offline agencies,” she says.

For the upcoming week of celebrations, planning for a cruise might just prove to be a good way to celebrate. “If you are planning to hit the cruises between December 10-20, I will say that you should have booked ahead. Not only will the cruises and beaches be crowded, you might be left feeling not very satisfied. But if you want to make the most of it, look for cruises between December 15-25. That is perfect for a vacation,” advises Basappa.

Lastly, while talking about cruises, one must always keep in mind the issue  of cancellations. “For last minute travellers, cancellations can mean bad news. If you had booked 3-6 months in advance, chances would be that you would get some cancellation options. But booking with just a couple of weeks to spare, clauses are prone to be a lot less liberal. You need to remember that the deals are so cheap because organizers do not want to face a loss,” warns Ramma Basappa.

Finally, while booking a cruise, you must always book with a name that is reliable. “You can not just log in to the Internet and click whatever seems appealing. The best way to go about is talk to an offline agent who can tell you the pros and cons of the cruise liners and the packages they offer,” says Basappa. But in case you trust yourself more than anyone else, social networking is the best thing to turn to. “With sites like Mr and Mrs Smith (http://www.mrandmrssmith.com/as/) and Couchsurfing (http://www.couchsurfing.org/) around, you can actually get prompt responses to your queries and most of them are very reliable. With solutions for both luxury travelers and backpackers, it is always great to turn to more people who have more experience than you do,” suggest Basappa. And indeed, it is essential to make sure that you know what you are paying for. “You would not want to be caught in a maze of prices that completely confound you,” she adds.

With just a few more days to make or break it, Basappa has one piece of valuable advice to share, “Go with an open mind and never shy away from new sights, sounds and activities.” For all you know, you could just find a new thing to love.

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