Last Minute Vacations
With so many tools at the traveler's disposal today, planning last-minute vacations is almost an art. It used to be that making numerous phone calls to far-flung places or going to a travel agent were the only options for those planning a last-minute trip. But now online travel aggregators and company web searches put more information at our fingertips than ever. How does the last-minute traveler best take advantage of this technology and skillfully plan a vacation at the last second?
There are many schools of thought on how to plan last-minute vacations. "Don't ignore the small travel agencies" say some folks, and I'd have to agree with them. Travel agents may seem like a thing of the past, but they are still relevant, especially when it comes to last-minute vacations. Like ninjas, travel agents are skilled in their art and are well equipped for putting together a comprehensive and financially flexible travel package. A quality travel agent can provide you with last-minute travel and accommodation options that you may not normally consider, satisfying your spontaneous travel desires.
Another popular school of thought regarding last-minute vacations is to work the Internet to its maximum potential. This typically includes looking through the websites of travel aggregators, hotels, and airlines and comparing prices on what's available to last-minute travelers. There are many ways to approach this sort of research; here are my suggestions:
1. For the spontaneous traveler, use Kayak Explore to "see where you can go for how much."Kayak Explore is an amazing starting tool for those who desire a last-minute trip but don't know where they can afford to go. Simply select your city in the "Explore from" section, select your max budget, and choose your current month. This is primarily useful for those who don't know where they want to go and have a specific budget.
2. Check last-minute packages on travel aggregators. Whether it's because it's easy and saves time, or because there are good deals to be had, buying a package of airfare and hotel makes sense. Both hotels and airlines will often have empty rooms and seats at any given time. There is incentive to fill those rooms and seats, even at a discount. Travel aggregators benefit this process with special last-minute vacation pages for consumers. Here are some examples of aggregators listing last-minute packages:
AOL Travel Discount Travel and Last Minute Travel Deals
Expedia Last-minute Travel Deals
Orbitz Last Minute Deals
Priceline Last Minute Packages
Travelocity Last Minute Packages
3. Subscribe to travel newsletters to get last-minute travel deals beforehand. I've had a lot of success discovering short-term and last-minute vacations deals by simply subscribing to e-mailed travel newsletters. I found a last-minute flight to Hawaii (only on sale for a couple of days) for a little over $500 by using such a tactic. Here are the two I use to receive news on travel deals:
Travelzoo Top 20 Weekly Travel Deals
4. Be flexible while planning your last-minute vacations. It may sound strange to discuss flexibility with last-minute trips - you have little flexibility on when you can leave. Yet there are aspects in which you can be flexible, making your spontaneous vacation a reality. Choosing red-eye flights, having flexibility on your return, and compromising on accommodation quality can all work for you in the search for travel options at the eleventh hour. However, note that the flexibility of booking last-minute cruises can be a bit tricky as you need to have it booked at least a week before setting sail.
Photo by Hvnly from Flickr