booking a last-minute vacation

Tips for Booking a Last-Minute Vacation on the Cheap

We tend to think booking a last-minute vacation is a mistake. We worry we won’t be able to find a place to stay or that we will spend more money because prices will rise.

This isn’t always the case.

There are actually several ways you can save money when booking a last-minute vacation, such as waiting until the day of to book a hotel room.

Use these 8 tips for booking a last-minute vacation if you are still hoping to enjoy some downtime with your loved ones this summer.

#1 Consider a Staycation

booking a last-minute vacation

One way to have fun and save money is to enjoy a staycation. Instead of paying for flights, car rentals, and hotels, and spending a ton on gas…stay home.

This doesn’t mean you stay at home and do the same things you do every day. That isn’t a vacation.

Instead, visit the places you love in your town or visit local new-to-you spots. It may also include taking a few day trips to nearby destinations.

The key here is to treat it like a vacation. So, turn off the computer and the work emails on your phone, and have fun with the family.

#2 Visit Family and Friends

booking a last-minute vacation

Do you have family or friends that live in or near a vacation destination? Would they be open to letting you stay with them for a few days?

While you certainly don’t want to impose, a trip to visit with loved ones and see some sights is a great last-minute vacation idea. 

#3 Sign Up for Discount Alerts

booking a last-minute vacation

If you are considering booking a last-minute vacation, sign up for discount alerts.

Groupon allows you to search for deals. Skyscanner lets you search travel deals by date instead of by destination. Simply search “everywhere” for your last-minute travel dates to see the best fares around the world. The app also offers a “Best Deals by Month” option if you have flexibility with your last-minute travel dates.

Additionally, many of the popular travel websites, such as Expedia, offer last-minute search options.

Expedia has a Last-Minute Deals page that helps users save on flights, hotels, and vacation packages for those booking last-minute vacations in the next two weeks.

#4 Use Google Flights

booking a last-minute vacation

When booking a last-minute vacation, take advantage of Google Flights to price compare for the best deal. 

It also offers Explore Destinations, which provides users with amazing deals around the world for their travel dates. For example, it will pull up flight deals for weekend trips, one-week trips, and two-week trips within the next 6 months, a certain month time frame, or specific dates.

#5 Wait until the Last Minute to Book a Hotel

booking a last-minute vacation

While plane prices do tend to rise the closer you get to your trip date, the same is not true for hotel rates.

Sam Shank, co-founder and CEO of Hotel Tonight, tells Forbes, “There’s a misconception that hotels will sell out and, if you don’t book early, you’re going to spend a fortune. […] Actually, hotel prices decline the longer you wait, so if you haven’t made plans yet, you can be rewarded for that with a better deal.”¹

In fact, if you want to be really last-minute, you should wait until 4 p.m. on the day of travel to book a hotel room to get the cheapest rates.

#6 Work with a Travel Agent

booking a last-minute vacation

There tends to be some misconceptions about working with a travel agent. 

People assume travel agents are expensive. Based on this belief, they think they will save money by booking a last-minute vacation themselves.

In reality, working with a travel agent is often free or inexpensive – and it saves people money in the long run.

Many travel agents do not charge their clients. Instead, they only get paid via commissions from the hotels, cruises, or theme parks that are booked.

Those travel agents who do charge tend to charge a minimal service fee ($25 – $100) and then receive commissions. 

Booking a last-minute vacation can seem stressful. Working with a travel agent will alleviate the stress of your searching for the best deals and destinations. Not to mention, save you a ton of time.

#7 Set a Trip Budget

booking a last-minute vacation

Once you have booked a last-minute vacation, set a trip budget ASAP.

People sometimes focus solely on the costs of flights and hotel rooms, and then they blow a ton of money while they are on vacation.

Avoid making the same mistake and create a trip budget. The app Budget Your Trip, makes this easy. In addition to providing the tools for planning a trip, it also allows you to track expenses while you are traveling.

#8 Make Money Before You Go

booking a last-minute vacation

If you are booking a last-minute vacation, we’re betting you haven’t budgeted for this particular vacation yet since you don’t know where you are going or how much money you will need.

If this is true for you, find opportunities to make some extra money before you go.

For example, before the trip, host a garage sale or sell unused items on Facebook Marketplace. Use the money you make from sales to create a vacation budget.

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