How many times have you heard someone bragging about the great deal they got by booking their trip at the last minute? And why can’t you find similar deals? Well, we’re about to give you seven tips that can help you find your own travel deals.
But first, let’s clear up a little misconception about what we mean by “last minute" deals. “Last minute” is actually a bit of an misnomer, as booking a flight just before it's ready to depart will typically not result in any saving. What we want to discuss instead is looking for a travel destination a week or two ahead of time, as this is when tour operators and airlines look to fill the last of their remaining vacancies. For the sake of consistency, we'll continue to refer to this as last minute travel, however we just wanted you to be clear on our meaning.
So, with that taken care of, let’s carry on with our tips...
1. When it comes to your destination, be open-minded
Don’t expect to find the specific destination you want. You may be lucky and find just what you're looking for. But the key to securing last minute travel deals is to be flexible, and this is a theme we'll return to again in this list.
Rather than a certain destination, look instead for a category of travel that interests you. If you want an all-inclusive beach resort, there are any number of locations that can provide that experience. The same holds true for other pursuits, like skiing vacations.
2. Check regularly for deals
By their very nature, travel deals are posted for only a short time before they either expire or are booked by another traveller. This is why you need to continuously look for these deals, and this is where your internet sleuthing skills really come into play.
There are several websites that list travel specials, including Expedia, which has a menu selection dedicated to these deals. RedFlagDeals is another popular site that lists reduced travel opportunities. If all-inclusive vacations are more to your liking, be sure to check tripcentral.ca and itravel2000, as these sites specialize in resort packages.
In addition, you can sign up for notifications of impending sales from most airlines and resort or tour operators. You might have to put up with a little extra traffic into your email inbox, but sometimes you can find travel bargains this way as well.
3. Don’t forget about travel agents
In the digital world in which we now live, booking holidays through a travel agent may seem a bit old-fashioned, but don’t be too quick to underestimate the value a professional travel agent can provide. Travel agents are often engaged by tour operators to help fill vacancies that are not advertised online. In most cases, the company pays the travel agent a commission, so there's no extra charge for you to use their services.
Travel agents are typically frequent travellers themselves, and in many cases they can provide first hand feedback on locations you're considering. They can even provide recommendations on destinations that you may not have included in your wish list, and this can be a great way to experience something new.
4. Departure day can be any day
As already noted, flexibility is the key to last minute travel, and this certainly applies to departure days. Weekend departure times tend to fill first, so if you're prepared to travel on a weekday, you stand a better chance of finding unsold bargains.
5. Search for separate accommodation deals
When looking for a quick getaway vacation, we often look for package deals, but you can also find great accommodation deals on their own. This is because, like airlines and tour operators, hotels often offer discounted rates. But they tend to do this more discretely, and leave the promotion of these special offers to sites like Trivago and Kayak.
If you’re the type of traveller that wants to truly experience the local culture, then you might also consider renting a private residence through a service like Airbnb (which we explored in a previous Oaken Blog post). Staying in a private residence means you won’t be pampered the way you might at a hotel or resort, but you will get to live like a local during your stay, and this will allow you to experience your destination in a way those vacationers riding in a tour bus will never get to see.
6. Be flexible with length of stay
Like others before, this tip also requires you to be flexible. But in this case, flexible with regards to the length of your getaway. Last minute deals are often the result of tour operators and hotels attempting to fill vacancies in any way they can, and this can result in deals being offered in various lengths. Being willing to accept non-typical length getaways will increase the number of deals from which you can choose.
7. When you find something you like, act quickly
When it comes to securing a deal, you need to act with haste, as last minute deals tend to fill up quickly. While you’re hemming and hawing, someone else may scoop it out from under you. So when you do come across something of interest, you need to act quickly and decisively once an opportunity is presented.
Finally, we’ll throw in one more bonus tip, and that is to be sure you have a good idea of the regular price for any getaway you're considering. Just because a vacation is listed on a vacation deal website, this does not automatically make it so, and you should have the knowledge to judge for yourself.