Everyone travels. Whether it is short or long distances, stateside or international, by car, train or plane — travel is gloriously inevitable. Millennials are fed a misfortunate lie in which we “must” plan far in advance and organize all logistics, detail by detail, long before our departure. Research, a jumbling of planes, prices, places, accommodations and tickets are encouraged to be done so far ahead of time, future travelers can have some sense of surreal peace as to their coming adventure. Ultimately, preparing in advance for travels and having everything worked out is believed to ensure a higher quality travel experience — at least, that’s what we’re told. But, last-minute travel has become an exciting adventure in its own that not only gets your adrenaline pumping but can also save you money — plus life is much better with a little spontaneity! So, whether you are a wanting to go away for a senior trip, long weekend in college, a vacation from work or an exciting escapade with family and friends, if there has ever been a time to procrastinate in planning, now would be the time to do so.
According to Reader’s Digest, last-minute travel “is generally defined as travel taking place within about 14 days from when you book” which is completely different from “literal last-minute travel – where you show up at the airport and buy your ticket, as in many a rom-com movie (which costs you an arm and a leg, BTW)” — so this type of travel is “not so much last-minute as [it is] short-notice.” Staying away from literal last-minute travel, bookings within about 14 days of departure can lead to “savings of 30-50 percent,” according to resident travel expert for Travelocity, Brian Simpson. So, how do you go about finding these super savings? Surprise surprise, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has got last-minute travel all figured out. AARP says that the answer is simple — in order for your last-minute travel to be a success, “all you need to know is when you want to go” and from that “if your agenda isn’t set in stone, and if you’re willing to spend a little time on research, you can put together a perfect vacation in no time.” Although there is a lack of popularity regarding this way of travel, once you figure out the sites to search on and the places to get the best deals, last-minute travel can become an exciting option to choose for vacation getaways.
Travel writers, as well as last-minute travel goers, have come up with four tips for booking last-minute travels that ensure a great time while also scoring the deals you want. So, get out your pen and paper and scribble down some notes on how you can get great deals while also booking your glorious getaway.
1. Flexibility is key
The majority of last-minute deals show up when airlines and hotels have spaces that they need to fill. If you have a general idea of the start and end date and are open to them shifting, it will be much easier to find the deals you deserve. According to AARP, this may mean “traveling on weekdays, flying very early or late in the day or on indirect flights, visiting a destination in the offseason, or even heading to a city that you never before considered.” In order to even start the process of this kind of travel, you must have a loose travel agenda that can be moved around to accommodate your budget as well as your hopes for your vacation.
2. Know what you will and won’t get good bargains for
According to Reader’s Digest, “the biggest savings are in accommodations and package vacation – not airfare.” Brian Simpson, a travel expert, states, “flights on regular scheduled airlines tend to increase in price the closer to departure you get, so last minute deals on flights are rare.” However, just because it is uncommon to find good deals for airplane tickets does not mean that you won’t be the one to come across the once in a lifetime one. Simpson goes on to say that,
“Some tour operators sell last-minute deals on charter flights, mainly to sun destinations. We’ve seen operators offer last-minute charter airfares to Florida for as low as $29 round-trip, plus taxes and fees, and to Mexico for as low as $55 round-trip, plus taxes and fees. Of course, taxes can often be in excess of $340, but even so, that’s a significant savings.”
Alongside this, it is good to know what days are best for airfare deals. In general, most people book flights for weekend departures; so being flexible to travel on a weekday (Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday) can significantly increase your chances of saving money (Reader’s Digest). Also, “if you’re advance booking, flying mid-week can save you hundreds of dollars per ticket” (Reader’s Digest). With that said, just because these deals are rare does not mean that they are impossible to find and get for yourself. Be sure to keep your eyes on the lookout for sweet deals and know where you potentially can save more money and where you may have to compromise in booking and buying.
3. Sources can make or break your travel
Like the large majority of information people look up online and do research on, your results depend on what sources you use. Knowing where to look, what sites are credible and what sites are wastes of your time can truly make or break your travel experience and the shot at scoring sweet savings. Reader’s Digest suggests looking on lastminute.com for savings “up to 70 percent on airfare, hotel rooms, activities and even entire packages.” Finally, sites like hopper.com, travelzoo.com, kayak.com, hoteltonight.com, lastminutetravel.com and airbnb.com help you find great deals for flights, car rentals and accommodations by entering in the dates of travel. Plus, these sites can even compare the prices to other sites so you truly get to find the best deal out there for you.
4. Be open-minded
In order for last-minute travel to be possible, you must have an open-mind. Have a long list, detail by detail, of what you want knowing that you are booking a few weeks out can significantly decrease your chance of following through with booking or create negative attitudes toward your travel time. Simpson says, “if you know exactly what you want – and will be bummed if you don’t get it – last-minute may not be right for you.” This is because last-minute travel is tailored for people who are flexible not only with dates but are also very flexible with their destination and all travel logistics, with the main thought being saving as much money as possible while also planning a great vacation. If you are set on having your vacation go a certain, specific way and you know particulars that you must have — that is great, but this is not the type of trip for you. On the other hand, if you just want to have a getaway somewhere and are open for how that will look and play out, then this is just the type of travel for you! With that said, Reader’s Digest strongly suggest to “use last-minute travel for fun trips, not crucial trips.”
Whether you have planned a last-minute trip or want to plan a getaway and you are open to all the possibilities that this would entail, think about planning a trip a few weeks before departure because you won’t only experience the adrenaline rush and spontaneity, but you can score super savings as well.