Airport Departure Board (credit: Thinkstock)c
Whether you’re a late starter or something has suddenly come up, booking last minute travel can be a nightmare. Fortunately, there’s a multitude of tried and true ways to help you find the best possible travel deals, regardless of whether you need a package deal, just airfare or just lodging. Here are a couple of tips to help you get started on your last minute travel.
If you have to book at the last minute, chances are you’ll discover that most of the seats on a flight have already been booked. But if you can be flexible with the dates of your travel as well as the time of your departure, you may still be able to find some deals. You might have to make some sacrifices, such as trying to get some sleep on a redeye or departing on a day that’s less than ideal. There’s also the possibility you’ll be stuck in the middle seat. But early morning and late evening departures are generally more affordable and have the most options for last minute travelers.
Visit Top Travel Sites
You can find last minute deals on both traditional online travel sites and sites that specialize primarily in last minute travel. Established sites like Expedia and Priceline offer last minute deals, as do aggregate travel sites like Kayak, Trivago and Google Flights/Google Hotels where consumers can compare prices from multiple online travel businesses. But other sites like LastMinute and LastMinuteTravel also attract consumers with some great deals. However, the better option is to stick with the more established travel sites, like Expedia and Priceline, as well as other leading travel sites like Hotels.com, Orbitz, Hotwire and Travelzoo.
While the best option may be visiting online travel sites, there is a possibility to get some last minute deals on airfare and lodging. Both industries offer links from their main website for last minute deals, but you’re more likely to get a better deal by calling the airline or hotel directly. That’s because all airlines want their flights to be completely booked and hotels and motels want to fill empty rooms. However, it’s not uncommon to discover a flight is overbooked, which can keep you or other travelers from boarding a plane.
Although the vast majority of travelers will stay in a hotel or other similar form of lodging, a vacation rental shouldn’t be overlooked. You may be able to find a great deal on sites like VRBO and Airbnb. However, if you haven’t established a solid reputation on either site, let alone registered in advance, it will be more difficult to find an owner willing to rent out his or her property to you. Still, a vacation rental has several benefits that a hotel might not offer, such as a washer and dryer or spacious kitchen. You can also go directly to a website that offers vacation rentals such as Resort Vacation Rentals or directly through an individual resort, such as Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Some travel-related companies feature mobile only websites where last minute travel can be booked via your smartphone. While other competitors have been appearing on iTunes, Google and Google Play, you’ll have better luck with apps like HotelTonight and Jetsetter (iPhone only). Of course major travel sites like Expedia, Priceline and Kayak also offer free travel apps. Other travel apps to consider are data-driven airfare predictors, such as Hopper (mobile only), Skyscanner and AirfareWatchDog, which provides you with information on where to find the best hotel, airfare or car rentals deals. One other mobile app worth mentioning is Instabed, which allows you to search for last minute deals on Airbnb, but is currently only available for properties in San Francisco, Chicago and New York City.
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com