9 Hacks For Last-Minute Travel Because It’s Still Possible To Be Spontaneous
Are you the type to have itchy feet and a half-packed suitcase perpetually at the bottom of your bed? Last-minute travel that doesn't take too much forward planning is easier than ever, and one of the best advantages of the technological revolution is that apps to help you get good deals are everywhere. Gone are the days where you could walk into an airport, go up to a booking desk and ask for a ticket to anywhere, but it's now entirely possible to book flights, trains, and hotels for tomorrow from your couch today.
If you do want to throw yourself into spontaneous travel, you need to make sure a few things are up to date in advance (sorry). Get your passport in order if you're traveling overseas, make sure you've got all the visas you need, and be prepared with vaccinations. If you're traveling domestically (often a good plan for spontaneous, low-cost trips) investigate low-season times; you don't necessarily want to pop up somewhere just as its renowned once-a-year parade or event is happening, hotels are crammed and prices are sky-high. A bit of research goes a long way, so don't just throw yourself at the first deal that comes your way. And don't scoff at the the idea of a travel agent; they're often enthusiastic about last-minute travelers, because hotels and airlines can be very keen to get rid of rooms and seats that would otherwise go empty.
1. Download A Flight Price Tracking App
Hopper and other apps, including Get The Flight Out, are the best options around for getting a sense of last-minute flights and how to link up your journey in the cheapest way at the 11th hour. They're great for that point when you need to book a flight now now NOW: they let you see exactly when the cheapest times and connections are. Note: it's often far cheaper to travel midweek than at weekends.
2. Know Where To Get Last-Minute Hotel Deals
Where will you lay your head on spontaneous vacations? Find your options via apps and sites that specialize in helping hotels fill rooms that are lying empty; many are willing to give considerable discounts to get their numbers up. Hotel Tonight and Last Minute are great for city hotels and lower-cost escapes, while Secret Escapes and One Night tend to specialize in higher-end properties for cheap. If you want to snag a truly good deal and have the time, look at the price being offered and call the hotel front desk to see if booking with them would be easier; they'll often want to tempt you to book directly, so may throw in some extras.
3. Sign Up For Boutique Hotel Loyalty Programs
Here's some year-round groundwork you can lay out to make sure a spontaneous trip has somewhere fun at the end: boutique hotel loyalty programs. Often they're free, and allow you access to deals and interesting properties worldwide that are available at the drop of a hat. iPrefer, for example, gives guests special benefits if they book using a Last Minute Escape, including discounts.
4. Use Tour Book Apps
You do not want to waste time at your destination or the airport wandering around trying to find a guidebook that suits you. Getting a Kindle with guidebooks on tap in the Amazon store is a good option, while MTrip is an app tailored to tour guides and operators that has everything of possible interest at popular (and less popular) destinations, from entertainment to good bars.
5. Car Share
Renting a car once you land somewhere can be expensive, which is why it's often a good idea to be a member of a car-sharing community (or three). They give you the opportunity to pick up cars in your destination without too much lead time and often cost less than renting from a traditional outlet. Try Zipcar or Maven.
6. Be A Points Aficionado
There is an entire internet community of people who obsessively track their credit card points to leverage them for travel freebies. There is almost no limit to the ways you can hack a credit card for travel points, and these can come in super handy when booking that super-expensive last-minute airfare. Read the fine print so you know what you're actually getting.
7. Get Cruise Finder
Going on a cruise takes months of planning — right? Wrong. An app called Cruise Finder has been developed by iCruise to get people onto the nearest boat on a whim, getting you an overview of everything available across the U.S. and what deals you might get. If there's anything more decadent than a last-minute cruise to the Caymans I can't think of it.
8. Take A Chance On A Deal
Deal websites like Priceline will offer rock-bottom deals on hotels in given destinations — without telling you what the place is. If you're willing to take the plunge without all the details, you get an excellent discount, often tailored to last-minute traveling, and a potential surprise when the hotel itself is revealed. This option is good if you're a bit flexible about location.
9. Keep An Eye Out For Airline Fire Sales
Airfare Watch Dog and similar sites look out for sudden drops in airline prices and alert you to huge deals. Last-minute trip to Reno or South Beach? Done. If you have a day or two in hand, Travel + Leisure also recommends hiring a travel agent to get you a "consolidator" fare, which is lower than what you'd get booking directly through an airline. These are often available very last-minute and will get you a rock-bottom fare, particularly if you want to travel internationally.