A month ago I was lucky enough to spend a fortnight in Thailand after booking a last minute holiday. It was a spontaneous and utterly exciting move, which I made just a couple of weeks before departure.
If you're going to book a last minute trip away then there is nowhere better to bring your backpack or suitcase set to than South East Asia. It's perfect for solo travellers, they cater incredibly well for those who have just packed up and taken off, and there are always hotels with spare beds.
A friend had been planning this particular trip to Thailand for weeks, and I had paid great interest to her journey preparations for this exotic, diverse country. Around two weeks before her departure date, she asked for the third time if I'd keep her company during the fortnight break as the reality of a two week trip away from home, alone, began to set in. So, half a bottle of wine down and with my sense of adventure at an all time high, I checked the prices of flights.
If I was willing to be flexible (which my bank balance dictated I must be), then I would be able to board the same flight to Bangkok, but would have to make a slightly awkward 24-hour journey home with a stopover. This seemed a small price to pay for a bargain last minute flight, so I immediately confirmed my attendance and placed my booking.
Every other booking on this holiday was last minute - but it meant we got some incredible deals along the way. Not terribly keen to go down the hostel and backpacking route, we managed to book a hotel in central Bangkok with killer views of the city from an infinity pool, for the price of a lunch in London.
All our bookings were made on our arrival, and even I, the fearless traveller, couldn't imagine it could go so smoothly. Five-star hotels were then booked for the deepest jungle setting of Koh Phangnan, and for the up-and-coming district of Hua Hin.
No one batted an eyelid at the fact that we had planned our holiday so spontaneously, or that we were making such last minute bookings.
There's nowhere in the world that you could better place yourself during the depths of the British winter if it's some sunshine, new culture and incredible food and drink that you're after. And South East Asia is one of the few regions where booking last minute is almost always an advantage. The competition between hotels - both upmarket and the basic hostels - is fierce, and you're guaranteed to find a bargain whether you book a week before, or on the day.
The beauty of being able to decide on the day whether you'd like to stay another night or take off to a completely new island is also unparalleled. Several companies offer transfers to islands and neighbouring countries by boat, train, bus and plane seven days a week. Make sure you check out online reviews before booking, as some are more reputable that others; but there's always a way to travel last minute, whether it's by crowded bus for a few pounds, or by luxury catamaran.
If you're after a last minute holiday, and desperate to get some sun, sea and new experiences over the cold winter months, I can definitely see why more and more people of all ages are choosing to take off to Thailand. It's certainly not just full of teenage backpackers, but of people from all walks of life – and spending a couple of weeks in freezing January on beaches fit for a postcard certainly looks more appealing on these dark nights!
Bio: Stephanie Bartup is an experienced traveller and dedicates many a weekend to finding out how to make the most of a city in a short space of time. In the last 12 months, she has visited ten European cities on a strict budget, with no backpacking involved.