Travel Cheap – Even at the Last Minute
Travel agents and the Internet have programmed us to believe time and flexibility are the only two ways to save money on travel.
If we plan far enough in advance, and don’t mind getting to Chicago by way of Pittsburgh, Cheyenne, and Nome, Alaska, we can lower our travel costs significantly. Minus, of course, the cost of the fur-lined overcoat for the Nome layover.
It’s also possible to save money on airfare without booking months ahead and agreeing to multiple, time-consuming stops along the way.
Would be travelers can get ready for a last minute deal by signing up for newsletters and email alerts from travel planning sites.
Since these deals always have an expiration date, treat them like coupons. Keep the emails in a special folder and go through them periodically to weed out the ones that have expired. If you are on Twitter, numerous feeds advertise last minutes travel deals.@Airfarewatchdogs and @farecomparedeals are just two of the many that are available.
Where the Deals Are
Check out LastMinuteTravel. LMT offers everything from flights, to cruises, to hotel rooms, rental cars – all things travel.
According to TopTenReviews, LastMinuteTravel often came up with competitive prices, even when compared with some of the top-rated regular travel sites. LastMinuteTravel is usually a few dollars less than other sites, but does not offer a flexible dates option. On the plus side, LastMinuteTravel does not charge a service fee for regular booking. Many other sites do.
Almost all travel booking sites offer last minute deals. TopTenReviews lists (and rates) 17 of the best ones including well-known sites like Expedia (NASDAQ: EXPE) and Orbitz (NYSE: OWW). The ratings also include some you may not know like top-rated Smarter Travel.
Be Reasonably Flexible
According to US News, the cheapest time of day to travel is early morning and the best day to book, is Tuesday at 3 PM, even a little flexibility will help.
When it comes to airports and hotels, some flexibility there is also helpful but be careful not arrive and stay so far from your destination that the extra drive time doesn’t eat up the savings.
You’ll have more choices if you and your travel companions don’t insist on sitting together.
In some cases, it may even be less expensive, and less inconvenient than you might think for a couple to travel on two different, but closely spaced flights.
A willingness to fly solo also allows you to take advantage of a single last minute seat that may have come available due to a cancellation or an unsold ticket.
Don’t Rule Out an Agent
While travel agents do not normally offer the best rates – especially at the last minute – they do sometimes have access to deals not published online. It doesn’t hurt to ask. You might be surprised.
Name Your Price
Sites like Priceline, (NASDAQ: PCLN) that allow you to name your own price – can net you amazing savings, even at the last minute. Priceline is well known for deals on hotels and flights, but many people don’t realize the site also lets you name your own price for car rental.
Some flexibility in each of these categories, hotel, airlines, and car rentals is called for but the price often justifies that. It’s not uncommon to save 50 percent on a hotel.
Do be sure to check traditional sites or with a travel agent first, so you’ll have an idea what regular prices are in order to bid appropriately. Checking prices will also help make sure you don’t bid higher than a traditional site’s regular price.
These tactics won’t work every time. Sometimes the need to travel on a certain day at a certain time in a certain way overrides any attempts to save money. These types of restrictions, however, are rare. Even when travel is last minute, in most cases you will have some wiggle room. Even if you don’t, checking for last minute deals before you give in and pay full price only makes sense.
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