Somewhere in the world, right this minute, there is an empty beach chair overlooking crystal blue water, waiting for you. All you need is a bit of free time, a valid passport, and the know-how to get a great bargain on last minute travel.
Savvy travelers have long known that the best deals on flights, hotels, and cruises are often available at the last moment. The reason for this is simple. If hotel beds, airline seats, or cruise cabins go empty, the company isn’t making any money on them. It’s more profitable to sell it to you at a steep discount than to leave it vacant and make nothing!
So how can you take advantage of last minute travel bargains? Read on for our top tips.
Understand What “Last Minute” Really Means
“Last minute travel” doesn’t mean waiting until the day before you want to leave to book your travel. Particularly for flights, there’s a sweet spot about 14 days out from departure when the scheduled airlines begin to get nervous that too many seats are still empty. Travelers who book flights within 48-72 hours of departure are usually desperate to get to their destination, so that’s when ticket prices go sky high.
For hotels, rental car companies, and cruise lines, last minute can mean anything from two weeks out to booking the same day you want to check in.
Know Your Last Minute Travel Resources
In the age of do-it-yourself travel booking via the Internet, there are a number of online agencies and websites that specialize in last minute travel bargains. We like the aptly-named LastMinuteTravel.com, which is a one stop shop for short notice bargains on every possible travel product, from hotels and rental cars to cruises and package tours. They can even help you find a discounted private vacation home that can fit a large family group! LastMinuteTravel.com also offers a members-only travel club with exclusive discounts both for travelers who book at the last moment and those who want to plan everything out months in advance.
Be Flexible on Dates and Destinations
The ideal last minute bargain hunter is someone who can travel at a moment’s notice and is not tied to any specific destination or travel brand. This type of traveler can keep an eye on travel websites and jump on amazing deals as they pop up. We know one traveler, a retired executive, who regularly scores bargains like 7-day luxury Caribbean cruises for $200.
If you can’t be quite that flexible, you can still do well if you are adaptable on either date or destination. Many experts recommend booking flights and hotel stays starting mid-week, as Tuesday-Thursday are less popular travel dates than weekends. If you are tied to a certain set of dates, such as your scheduled annual vacation from work, try to keep your travel destination search as wide as possible. If you want a European city getaway but you’re determined to go to Paris, you might wind up paying a premium, while amazing deals on vacations in Prague, Berlin or Dublin go ignored.
Always Have a Valid Passport Book
The best travel deal in the world won’t do you any good if your passport isn’t valid for travel! You’ll need a valid passport book in order to board a flight to any international destination. Make sure your passport always has at least six months validity remaining, is in good condition, and has several blank visa pages. If your passport isn’t up to snuff, check out our guides to passport renewals, damaged passport replacements, and additional passport page services.