There are numerous reasons why you might find yourself in need of a last minute travel deal. A family emergency or important business opportunity may come up, or you may have simply procrastinated on making your vacation arrangements. Regardless of your reasons, if you need to find last minute travel deals, you should try to be as flexible as possible about your flight and hotel in order to score the cheapest bargains. Shopping around is also vital.
How to Find Last Minute Travel Deals
Shop around at various travel search websites. These websites collect data on various prices and bargains offered by airports, car rental services, and hotels. Many of these websites also have special sections dedicated to providing last minute deals.
Plan on traveling during an "off" time. You are more likely to find travel deals during uncommon travel seasons. This is especially true for last minute deals, since fewer travelers generally means more open seats on planes and empty rooms in hotels. The more vacancies an airline or hotel has, the more desperate they will be to slash prices in order to fill them at the last minute. Avoid traveling in the summer and around the holidays if you want to score better deals. Instead, plan on traveling during the winter, fall, and spring.
Aim for a departure date in the middle of the week. The biggest bargains are usually for flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, especially in the early mornings and late nights. These flights are significantly less popular than weekend flights, so airports are more likely to price them lower.
Be flexible about the date of your departure. If you plan on traveling at the last minute, you need to be as flexible as possible about when you leave. Instead of setting an exact date for your departure, set a time-frame. That way, you have more travel deals available to you, and you might discover a better bargain a day or two after your initially proposed departure date. For instance, instead of saying that you must leave on the first of the month, plan on leaving anytime during the first week of the month.
Keep an open mind about your destination. If you simply want to get away but do not need to go anywhere in particular, keep your options open. Check with your local airport for last minute sale-price tickets, or visit a website that specializes in mapping out these discount flights.
Check for charter flights. Some carriers work by leasing airplanes for specific flights that they predict will fill up. These flights usually occur during peak times and travel to popular destinations. If the company does not sell enough tickets to make a profit, however, they must cancel the flight. In an effort to prevent this, charter flights will significantly drop ticket prices immediately before a flight if they still need to sell a large number of tickets.
Compare low-cost carriers with legacy carriers. Low-cost carriers usually offer the lowest prices during off seasons, but low-cost carriers that offer nonstop flights may actually have higher prices than legacy carriers during the holidays. During busy seasons, the demand for nonstop flights skyrockets, and low-cost carriers that offer nonstop flights can boost their prices and still attract plenty of customers. Also note that low-cost carriers can only afford to drop their last minute prices so much. Legacy carriers typically have more flexibility, and may have better last minute bargains. Compare low-cost and legacy carriers no matter what time of year you travel.
Join mailing lists. Look for travel search websites and airlines that allow you to sign up for an e-mail newsletter. These companies will often send subscribers information on the best last minute deals. Since you only have a limited time to act, receiving information about those deals in your e-mail in-box will speed up the process and increase your chances of benefiting from the deal.
Compare package deals with separate booking costs. Many travel websites offer package deals that bundle your flight and hotel costs together. More often than not, a package deal saves you more money than booking a flight and hotel separately. This may not always be the case, however, especially if you can find a great last minute deal on a non-bundled flight, so you should always look into both options.
Place a bid. Some travel websites have auction features that allow you to bid on travel expenses, including airfare, rental cars, and hotels. The rules governing these auctions vary from website to website, however, and you may not be able to specify all the details of your purchase, such as flight time or car model.
Take advantage of secret sales. A few travel websites also offer "secret sales," such as secret hotels. You can purchase unpublished discounts through these sales, but you will not know who you are booking with until after you check out. A reputable travel website will guarantee that the hotels you book with are of a certain quality, but you should search for this guarantee prior to going through with your purchase.
Stay at a hotel outside of the city. Hotels located in the thick of things generally cost more than those located away from tourism spots. These out-of-the-way hotels are also more likely to have more last minute vacancies.
Monitor tourism websites. Major cities and tourist destinations occasionally attempt to draw visitors by advertising hotel, dining, and entertainment deals. You may have to find your own way there, but you can get a good deal on where to stay and what to do, even without planning ahead.