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A considerable number of travelers believe that going about the whole planning and booking process months in advance is the best way to enjoy unbeatable deals.
That’s true, but what happens when something comes up, and there were no last-minute strategies put in place soon enough?
For one reason or another, a significant portion of travelers find themselves on a trip that wasn’t really on their list of reminders; not because they want to experience the rush of last-minute travel.
It’s because at one point are the other, we are are all prone to last minute travel.
Not everyone has the luxury of making plans and reservations a few months in advance. The only options last-minute travelers are left with is being always on the lookout for last-minute deals and keep up with the annoying yet expensive reservation fees.
Assuming you’re about to embark on impulse travel, don’t turn it into a desperate situation that rules out any form of fun or enjoyment. In case of any unexpected business trips or holiday getaway, no need to worry about spending a fortune.
Sure, it may feel like you’re taking a massive leap into the unknown, but there are more ways than one to have fun throughout your impromptu adventure. Try out the following tips to save yourself the hustle, time and stress on your last-minute voyage:
1. Get Some Help from Last-minute Travel Apps/Websites
Technology always has an answer for almost everything – last-minute travel included. The following are a couple of commonly used apps and websites you can try out:
This site offers discounts of up to sixty-five percent on rental cars, cruises, flights, and hotels. Users who pay an annual membership fee of $50 are eligible for higher discounts and personalized email offers.
HotelTonight is an online travel app that provides users with huge discounts on hotel accommodations in over 1,700 cities in America, Australia, and Europe. The discounts offered are applicable for up to a week before and after.
icruise is an award-winning smartphone app that offers users real-time details, costs, and discounts of 310 cruise ships, 25,000 global itineraries, and 38 cruise lines. Crucial information like this is useful for last-minute cruises.
One night offers users full access to unsold rooms in various hotels in select states in America. When you make a last-minute booking, ironically enough, you’ll get the best rates. With just a few easy taps, you can get a same-night stay.
The GTFO (Get the Flight Out) app lets last-minute travelers discover cool deals on flight departures within nine top cities in America.
2. Go for 2-in-1 Deals
There are companies all over the world that offer some of the best tour packages. Once you settle on an operator, you stand to benefit from loyalty reward schemes as well as early bird discounts.
Look out for package deals with no payment in advance requirements if you want to enjoy a classy trip while on a budget. JetBlue, for instance, offers some pretty good deals that cater for hotel and airfare to the Bahamas from Fort Lauderdale all in one package. For a three-night, four-day trip, all you have to pay is $799.
The surprising bit about this is that the air and hotel packages can be significantly less if purchased on a last-minute basis. You could buy a package on JetBlue and not use the hotel, because you’ve saved more than enough money on airfare alone.
Therefore, be on the lookout for travel tours on discounts along with specials that will make your tours more affordable.
3. Pay With Points, Not Cash
Pro travelers understand the necessity of paying for airline upgrades like priority boarding with loyalty points, rather than cash. Splurging on one-time services can turn out to be very expensive real fast especially if you have no rewards/points.
When you’ve booked a flight, utilize any reward miles you may have to upgrade to a classier plane seat. By doing so you, you will give yourself the best value for your points.
As most airlines belong to either of the senior alliance groups – SkyTeam, Star Alliance or Oneworld – you can merge airline miles as one huge upgrade. If the airlines in question belong to the same family, you’re good to go.
4. Skip the Air Ticket, Take the Train Instead
Although trains’ speeds are incomparable to airplanes, they’re way cheaper and more cost-effective. Plus, trains offer a more scenic view that may prove to be quite relaxing.
You can save a tone of cash by merely comparing airfare and train ticket costs. Take, for example, a last-minute, one-way Amtrak trip from New York City to Washington, D.C.
A single airline ticket can cost a whopping $202 per passenger, while one adult coach seat costs only $93. Even though you can afford the former, it would still be impressive to arrive at your destination having saved $109 worth of cash
5. Compare Last-minute Cruise Line Travel Deals
Although most cruise lines don’t do last-minute cruise discounting, there are others that wouldn’t dare set sail without a single passenger on board. Such cruise ships wouldn’t mind booking passengers at a discount.
Prices often vary based on the type of ship and the time of sail. Some ships are specifically for voyages that span approximately a month and a half. For the best deals, focus on the more recent ships.
Considering most people haven’t heard of them before, the cruise line in question will offer great last-minute deals in a bid to raise awareness. Take advantage of these deals and pick out the best one that suits your traveling needs.
6. Make a List of Experiences You’d Love to Partake In
Though this may be totally uncalled for (considering you’re in a last-minute rush), it’s good to have an idea of what you’re going to spend your money on.
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or fun-filled; just those that you’re sure you’re bound to participate in once you arrive at your destination.
Without a well-structured travel itinerary, you may be tempted to spend all your precious money and time on costly items and activities. On the plus side, by having a curated list, you can make the most of your travel experience.
Cleartrip and other evolved OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) can help you come up with a list of activities to take part in based on your destination and individual interests.
7. Off-Season Travel is Always the Best
As much as possible, limit your impromptu, last-minute plans to a destination that’s not in its peak season. You’re more likely to find excellent deals on hotels and flights if you travel during the off-season.
Also, the cash you usually spend on booking will be slashed by half. You’re likely to save money during the off-season as a result of the low tourist turn-out.
Aside from saving money, the absence of tourists will provide the perfect opportunity for you to immerse yourself in your destination’s beautiful culture.
Therefore, if you have a knack for discovering new places at little to no cost, the off-season would be the best time for you.
8. Put Your Choice of Hotel into Close Consideration
For the ultimate travel experience, accommodation is everything. Booking last-minute, however, has led most people to the conclusion that they should only consider budget options. Though it may be the right thing to do, it won’t always be the best decision to make.
Frugality can be a buzz-kill when taken too far. For that reason, spend the right amount of money on your choice of hotel. You can often stumble upon the best deals on four or five-star hotels on major online booking platforms.
Make the most of your holiday by opting for a hotel that’s within your financial reach. As long as you find peace, fulfillment, and relaxation in it, what more can you ask for?
9. Take a Swipe at Hotel Hopping
Professional travelers have devised genius ways to save some cash on hotel bookings. If you plan on staying in one city for more than one night, book each night separately to save on room rates.
Even if you stay in the same hotel, you ‘hotel hop’ to more comparable properties. FindOptimal is a website dedicated to finding the suitable multi-night deal.
It also accounts for various other preferences such as guest ratings, the distance from attractions and how many times travelers can switch rooms. The site reports that savvy travelers can save up to 40 percent of average room rates. You’ll never know for sure unless you try it out.
10. Reach Out Personally to the Hotel You Wish to Stay In
Travelers who make some last-minute booking can, more often than not, score the best deals by ditching the online platform and calling the hotel directly.
Most of the time, the staff are fully aware of the online mark-ups. They will most likely give you a reasonable discount if there’s an availability for one.
Be careful not to confuse negotiating with bargaining. However, once you’ve exhausted all other options of getting the best hotel deals, asking them to help find the best prices may bear fruit in the long run.
Negotiating helps if you have a legitimate reason for booking a room outside allocated times. Most hotels will offer you lower rates (distressed traveler rates) the moment you share your predicament.
11. Always Keep an Open Mind
You’re more likely to save money and have smoother last-minute planning when you adopt a flexible mindset.
You should be willing to take a flight from an airport that you wouldn’t walk into every other day. Compared to more established airlines, budget flights offer limited amenities such as complimentary checked baggage or free food and drinks.
Though their services are not what you may be used to, their deals are undoubtedly unbeatable.
When flying to destinations like New York, flights are generally cheaper during the week. Other cities have cheaper flights during the weekend. This is why you should be flexible even with your travel dates.
Visit sites such as Google Flights where you can compare different flight days throughout the week at affordable prices. It’s worth noting that less popular flight times are a better deal than convenient times. You stand to gain a lot (and save a lot) by putting your preferences aside and work with what you have at hand.
12. Carry Out Extensive Research
While you’re time-crunched and booking last-minute, don’t do away with research. That’s all you need at this point. Find the best deals on essential stuff like car rentals, hotels, and flights.
Don’t go for anything that comes your way to avoid the pressures of last-minute planning. Later on, your poor choices will catch up with you and you’ll be wishing you could just have stayed at home.
Kayak and Skyscanner are excellent sites to search the web for awesome last-minute deals near you. If you see a deal you like, it would be best to book it rather than waiting for the deal to get sweeter. It probably won’t.
If you keep stalling, you’re practically throwing away a deal you won’t find anywhere else.
13. Activate Flight Alerts
In case of any spontaneous adventure, sign up now for informative newsletters. If what you receive in your inbox is not worth your time, you have the option of unsubscribing anytime.
Upon subscription, airlines and travel companies will send you the latest deals on a daily/weekly basis, depending on your individual preferences.
Sign up for active flight alerts that inform you once there’s a fluctuation in flight prices if you have specific dates in minds. Alerts like these will be sent to you on a daily basis as flights generally change their prices with each passing day.
Hopper is a trusted app you can use to receive up-to-date travel deals. It also has a feature that tells you when’s the best time to book either hotels or flights based on your travel dates.
14. Seek Assistance from a Travel Agent
If you may not be an expert in this kind of stuff, you got nothing to lose by seeking out an experienced travel agent and utilizing their resources.
More often than not, travel agents understand all there is to know about booking travel. Their advice could be very precious to you.
Travel agents are also very knowledgeable of what you’re to do and what you’re not when booking a last-minute trip. They will be able to point out what you’re doing wrong and advice you accordingly.
Best of all, travel agents are well connected. He/she can connect you to deals on any travel related fields that you’d otherwise never have access to in your lifetime. To get one, visit a travel agency store that is closest to you or contact a travel hotline.
15. Browse Incognito When Looking Up Anything Travel Related
Most people don’t know this, but computers keep track of your search history every day. Have you ever received a pop-up ad for an exact item you searched for quite recently? Coincidence or not, that’s very creepy.
Travel companies, in one way or another, have access to this kind of information. Without your knowledge, they will hike prices on stuff you’re most interested in, be it flights or hotel rooms.
For instance, if you were to search for hotel prices on a regular window and incognito, you’ll most likely get two far off prices. To counter their devious methods of operation, open an incognito window and browse securely.
This will ensure the security of your search history, as well as enable you to pay what is required of you.
16. The Fourteen-Day Rule Can Work in Your Favour
There’s a way in which you can get remarkable discounts. If cruise operators, hotels, and airlines are not booked to capacity, there are significant discounts available in fourteen days prior to the travel departure.
Referred to as the ‘14-day rule’, this can work out for you if most other hotels or airlines are booked to capacity.
When going about your spontaneous planning, keep an eye out for this great offer. You may get a better deal if you book well in advance. If you don’t, it was worth a shot.
There’s no deal more perfect for the last-minute planner than the ‘14-day rule’.
17. Don’t Opt for Non-Stop Flights
Non-stop flights are expensive. Their prices are more than double the amount you would have to part with if you make one or two stopovers. Sure, they may be annoying, but the money you end up saving is worth the inconvenience.
Stop-over flights also give you a chance to take a brief breather and stretch your legs – something you wouldn’t do on a non-stop flight. You can also snag your own airplane snacks, to save money on the insanely-priced airplane food.
Here’s where you’ll need to sacrifice convenience in exchange for a good deal. Direct flights may be tempting at times, but it’s not worth your arm or leg in the weeks leading up to your travel.
18. Rule Out Travel Hot Spots from Your List of Destinations
With each passing day, there seem to be ‘trending’ destinations that someone influential visits then everyone else joins the bandwagon. For instance, Iceland was recently a travel hot spot.
Within 24hrs, Tulum, Mexico became the new destination craze. From this, it’s clear to see that social media has a great impact on our choice of destinations – which shouldn’t always be the case.
Rather than opt for a popular and favored destination, cut costs by heading to a lesser-known but similar destination. Though the demand won’t be as competitive, you’ll still enjoy your desired experience at a low-cost price.
Just because most people are headed to that one destination, doesn’t mean it’s the only one.
19. Use Coupons
It will be worth your while to look up Groupon vouchers specifically for your travel destination. This is especially useful since there are hundreds of deals for dining, accommodation, and activities.
Vouchers are sometimes exclusively available for specific dates. However, if you stumble on a stellar deal, your travel dates could end up being swayed in the right direction.
Honey is another useful platform that searches the web automatically for discount codes once you buy or book anything online. It’s a totally free Google Chrome extension that’s very handy in finding deals for you at the click of a button.
Check out the tones of free mobile apps you can use to enhance your travel experience, as well as save some cash.
20. Rely on Social Media for Last-minute Flash Sales
If you’re flexible and wish to get away at affordable prices, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram should be your go-to sites. Icelandair, for instance, posted a flash sale on all European flights, with flights like New York to Amsterdam starting from as low as $339.
Staying logged in to your account 24/7 won’t be such a big deal if you already do that. All you have to do is like or follow the pages of major travel companies to be one of the first people to learn of their new, last-minute offers.
Alternatively, you can keep track of your inbox for discounts and promo codes from sites such as Hotels.com and Orbitz. The best deals may be found in the package vacation offerings.
Last-minute Travel Can be Stressful, As it Can Also Be Cost-Effective
Be it out of necessity or impulse, planning a trip on short notice can be quite the hustle. Each time you think of last-minute travel, stress is the one word that pops up each time.
By following any of these tips, traveling spontaneously can actually be worth looking forward to and full of adventure so it’s a win-win. Booking a vacation a few months in advance or a few weeks before departure can be just as smooth, provided you know what you’re doing.
Knowing the hotels/flights to book and when to book them is a crucial step in speeding up your planning process. Most importantly, be open to whatever comes your way. You’ll never know how beneficial it might turn out to be for you in the long-run.