Doing something at the last minute is almost always a guarantee that it’s going to be expensive – particularly when it comes to travel. Conventional wisdom says that if you want to save money, flights and lodging need to be booked months in advance. Booking a trip with weeks (or days) to spare? That’s a good way to kiss your money goodbye.
But this isn’t always the case. In fact, booking last-minute travel can sometimes save you a lot of money – you just need to know the right ways to do it. Here are some foolproof methods to save money on a last-minute vacation.
Be flexible with your destination
Got the travel bug, but don’t really care where you end up? If so, you can let an algorithm decide where you should go, based on how much you’d like to spend. Flight aggregator Momondo has an “anywhere” option that shows you flights to different locations based on your budget and travel dates.
Be flexible with your dates
Starting a vacation in the middle of the week could be the best way to get a good deal on a flight. According to Forbes, travelling in the middle of the week is the best way to save money.
This means that flying in somewhere on a Friday night and leaving on a Sunday is usually more expensive than, say, flying in on a Tuesday and leaving the following Wednesday.
Fly during off hours
When you’re booking a flight, keep a wide berth on your arrival and departure times. According to NerdWallet, “undesirable” flight times (which usually mean red eyes or super early morning flights) are often cheaper than their prime-time counterparts.
Sure, this might make for a rough first day of the trip, but if saving money is your goal, it’s worth powering through the extra jet lag.
Travel during “dead week”
According to NBC, “dead week” in the travel world often refers to the stretch of time between January 2 and January 15, when most people have to hunker back down into work after the holidays.
If you can swing a trip during that time, try it out – airlines and hotels are more likely to offer last-minute deals during this time. (Though, of course, they are probably more likely to call it a “winter sale” than a “dead week” sale.)
Sign up for airline newsletters
No one wants a clogged inbox. But signing up for an airline’s newsletter could benefit you if you pay attention to it – many airline newsletters offer discounts you might not be able to get anywhere else, such as flash sales and promo codes you can use at the last minute. Plus, signing up for a newsletter often means you’re a part of their points system, too, which can occasionally get you free flights.
Follow airlines on social media
Another way to stay up-to-date with travel deals is by following airlines and travel sites on their social platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. According to Go Banking Rates, some airlines will occasionally have flash sales on upcoming flights, which can allow you to score cheap tickets at a moment’s notice.
Consider a cruise
So, if you’re in the mood for a cheap last-minute vacation, and don’t mind spending some time on a boat, check which cruise lines in your area have looming sail dates to see if you can get in on a discounted room. If someone has to fill that room, it might as well be you, right?
Try the train
If you’re booking a trip in the United States, you might want to look into getting there by train. According to Travel + Leisure, Amtrak tickets in the US are often cheaper than last-minute plane tickets depending on the destination.
It might take longer, but you’ll get to see more scenery on the way.
Booking a flight on a no-frills bargain airline is a good way to get cheap airfare. But these airlines often tend to have high fees for luggage, even if it’s just a carry-on bag. To avoid paying extra, do some research on the airline and find out exactly what you’re allowed to bring with you – chances are, it’s smaller than you expect.
So, if you can swing it, packing only the essentials in a backpack could be a good way to shave almost $US100 off your overall travel costs.
If you have to travel to get to a funeral, look into the bereavement discount.
If you’ve had to book a last-minute trip due to a death in the family, you may be able to book a cheaper flight due by using a “bereavement discount.”
These discounts are not as common as they were in the past, but if needed, it’s worth looking into. According to their websites, Delta, Alaska Air, and Air Canada offer cheaper flights to people travelling for a funeral.
To use this discount, you’ll need to provide the name of the person who has passed, as well as information from the funeral home.
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