It might not make sense but hotels, cruises, and airlines are all perishable goods.
At a hotel, every night expires at midnight. A cruise expires when they set sail and flights expire when they take off. An empty room, cabin or seat can’t be sold once it has expired. That’s money those companies are not making.
This is why last-minute vacations can save you a significant amount of money… if you have the flexibility to go anywhere a solid deal takes you.
Here are some tips for how to find one.
1. Search Last-Minute Deal Sites
Every travel-booking portal, such as Expedia and Travelocity, has a last-minute section. Your first stop can involve checking that section for any deals that are available near your geographic area. It’s a little like treasure-hunting — sometimes you’ll see a fantastic deal and sometimes you’ll find nothing of interest but it’s always worth a look.
2. Stockpile Travel Rewards
If you travel a lot and have accrued a serious balance of travel miles and points, check the reward booking sites to see if there are promotions or sales that only members can take advantage of. If you don’t have a lot of miles or points, you can begin stockpiling your travel miles by taking advantage of travel credit card offers to be ready next time (that’s how I plan to visit Disney World for free)
Just be sure your credit is in tip-top shape before applying, since you generally need a good credit score to qualify for the best offers. (You can see where your credit currently stands by viewing two of your scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com.)
And, if you do get a travel rewards credit card, it’s a good idea to pay if off in full. Otherwise, you risk losing those points to interest.
3. Sign Up For Travel Deal Notifications
There are several services that will email you whenever there is a great deal available in your area. While it’s not last minute, staying on these email lists could help you discover a great vacation at a fraction of the regular price. Many of these deals are last minute but some can be far into the future.
4. Pay Attention to Social Media
Many companies, especially airlines, have been using social media to promote their sales, especially last-minute ones. By liking their Facebook pages or following them on Twitter, you can be the first to know about sales and take advantage of them. Remember to act fast because other deal hunters will be watching too.
5. Seek out a Private Rental
Last-minute vacation rentals can save you a ton if you reach the owner directly and can negotiate a last-minute deal. You can search for them online at sites like VRBO and Airbnb, but wait until a few days before your trip to contact them to book. Since it’s available and not being rented, owners won’t want to lose a potential renter over a few dollars.