Last Minute Vacation Deals: How to Save Big When Time is Short
So you’ve decided you need a vacation but didn’t plan far enough in advance. Don’t worry, with some flexibility and these helpful tips, you can still score a great last-minute deal.
Check Discount Travel Sites
Some of the best sites for last-minute deals include:
- Kayak: Searches hundreds of other sites to find the cheapest fares. You can filter by dates and destinations to find last-minute deals.
- Hotwire: Offers deep discounts on hotels and flights for the next 2-3 weeks. You won’t know the exact hotel until you book but you’ll get at least a 4-star property.
- Last Minute Travel: Specializes in discounted vacations, flights, hotels, and cruises with departures in the next 3 months. They offer price alerts to notify you of deals.
- Travelzoo: Features handpicked deals on hotels, flights, vacation packages, and cruises departing within the next few weeks. Some offers are as much as 70% off.
Be Flexible with Dates and Destinations
The more flexible you can be, the more you’ll save. Consider flying midweek or a few days before or after your target dates. Explore alternative airports and destinations—some of the best deals can be found in cities you might not have thought of.
- Fly midweek: Flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are often the cheapest. Flying in and out of smaller regional airports can also save you money.
- Consider budget destinations: Places like Thailand, Bali, Eastern Europe, and South America often offer outstanding value. You’ll get more bang for your buck in developing countries.
- Alternative airports: Check fares for airports within an hour of your destination. Smaller airports sometimes have lower fees that translate into bigger savings.
Check Budget Airlines
Don’t forget to search budget airlines like Frontier, Spirit, or Allegiant which aren’t listed on most travel sites. These carriers offer rock-bottom fares if you don’t mind fewer amenities. Some tips for booking:
- Buy tickets on the airline’s website: This is where you’ll find the best deals. Buying through a third-party site usually means higher fares.
- Be ready to pay for extras: Budget airlines charge for everything from carry-on bags to snacks and drinks. Factor in these additional fees when comparing fares.
Look for Package Deals
Vacation packages that bundle flights, hotels, and activities are often cheaper than paying for each component separately. Some sites to check include:
- Expedia: One of the largest full-service travel sites. They offer packages to destinations worldwide, including last-minute deals.
- Orbitz: In addition to flights and hotels, they also package together cruises, rental cars, and activities. They frequently run sales on last-minute package deals.
- CheapCaribbean: Specializes in affordable beach vacations to the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and Florida. They offer last-minute packages with savings of up to 70% off.
Be Open to Cruises
Cruises often have unused inventory even a week or two before sailing, so last-minute deals can be substantial. Some tips for finding a cheap last-minute cruise:
- Check cruise line websites: Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian and MSC frequently offer last-minute deals on their own sites. Prices are often lower than what you’ll find on third-party sites.
- Check last-minute cruise deals from cruise lines directly. Many offer discounts for late bookings to fill remaining cabins.
- Look for packages on travel sites that bundle flights, hotels, and cruises for better value.
- Consider shorter cruises that are 2-4 days instead of 7-day itineraries. They will likely be cheaper.
- Consider less popular sailing dates like midweeks instead of weekends.
- Look for senior, military, and resident discounts that you may qualify for.
- Consider booking a cabin in an interior stateroom rather than a window or balcony. These tend to be cheaper.
- Check online travel agencies as they sometimes have better last-minute deals than cruise lines directly.
- Be flexible on your destination. Some regions and itineraries may have better last-minute discounts than others.
- Sign up for cruise line email newsletters. They often advertise last-minute deals and flash sales.
- Check travel forums for tips on current last-minute cruise discounts and promotions. Other travelers can be a good source of information.
Additional Tips for Saving Money on Last-Minute Vacations
- Look for deals on less popular destinations. Places that are not as high on travelers' lists tend to offer bigger discounts to fill rooms and tours.
- Consider traveling midweek instead of weekends. Tuesday through Thursday is often cheaper for flights, hotels, and activities.
- Look for package deals that bundle flights, hotels, and car rentals. These can save you money compared to booking everything separately.
- Check if any major events are happening at your destination. Some hotels offer discounts to fill rooms outside of peak event times.
- Ask the hotel directly about any promotions or discounts they may have. Sometimes they have last-minute deals not advertised widely.
- Consider hostels and Airbnbs. These types of accommodations often have better last-minute rates than hotels.
- Look for sales on travel credit cards. Even if you don't normally use travel cards, you can sign up last minute and use the bonus to offset some of your trip costs.
- Follow your favorite airlines and hotels on social media. They sometimes announce flash sales exclusively to their followers.
- Check travel forums for advice from other travelers on current last-minute deals. Word-of-mouth tips can be very helpful.
With a little flexibility and the right strategies, you can still have an amazing vacation even if you're booking last minute. Follow these tips to find the best deals on flights, hotels, activities, and more. Most importantly, have an open mind and a willingness to consider options you may not have originally thought of. With a little creativity and resourcefulness, you're sure to find a last-minute getaway that fits your budget and needs.
So don't delay any longer - start searching for your perfect last-minute vacation deal and get ready to create some unforgettable memories. Bon voyage!