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Americans spend serious money on holiday travel. Last year, they spent $1.8 billion during the holidays on airfare alone. For many, holiday travel costs are yet another thing that makes the holidays stressful. More often than not, people don’t get a chance to make travel arrangements until the last few days before the holidays start, too. However, even if you wait until the 11th hour, there are many ways to travel inexpensively over the holiday season, so you can lower your stress level and have money left over for gifts and fun activities. Here are eight tips for finding great last-minute travel deals.
1. Plan for Mid-week Travel
If you’re booking your flights at the last minute you will have to do so carefully otherwise you’ll pay top dollar. One of the best ways to save on last-minute flights is to book your arrival and departures to occur mid-week. Doing so will help you avoid peak (and more costly) weekly travel times when all the business people are flying back and forth for work. Avoiding flights at the beginning or end of the week for holiday vacation travel is easy to do and could save you hundreds of dollars this holiday season.
2. Shop Around
Even if you’re in a hurry, you’ll save money on your plane tickets if you take some time to look for last-minute flight deals. Join all the top travel websites such as Travelocity and Expedia to see where the deals are. You should also consider searching on places such as Kayak or even Google Flights to see if you can find some deals. Finally, check the airline websites, since sometimes you can find some big discounts on flights you have to book at the last minute.
3. Subscribe to Alerts and Newsletters
In addition to having accounts with all the top travel sites, you should also sign up for every travel alert and newsletter you can find. Sites such as Travelocity, Kayak, and others will send you email alerts whenever there are good last-minute travel deals available. These websites and the major airlines will also send regular email newsletters that notify subscribers of upcoming travel deals. Additionally, you can program apps such as DealRay to send you alerts on cheap airfares for wherever you plan to travel. If you sign up for and start paying attention to all these alerts and newsletters now, you could find a great last-minute travel deal this holiday season.
4. Be Flexible with Arrival and Departure Locations
Another way to save some money when you have to book last-minute flights is by checking out all the potential airport options available. Most large cities and metropolitan areas have more than one airport, so find out how much it costs for flights into each one. Sometimes, selecting an alternate airport can save you hundreds of dollars on flights.
5. Take a Train
If you don’t live in the Northeast, where AMTRAK trips are quite expensive unless you book them well in advance, trains can be an option for good last-minute travel deals. In many cases, travel by train can save you considerable money over comparable flights. Additionally, you’ll experience less hassle at train stations than you do at airports, so it’ll help keep your holiday stress level lower as well!
6. Contact Hotels Directly
It can often be hard to find affordable hotel prices online when you don’t reserve your lodging well in advance. However, calling the hotel directly will sometimes give you access to local discounts that aren’t available through the central reservation system for large hotel chains. Most central reservation agents cannot negotiate rates with potential guests, so asking for a discounted rate isn’t likely to be successful. They may not have full visibility into the number of rooms available. Reservation staff members at the hotel have all the information they need to make you the best deal, such as room availability, local competition, and special rates available. This is a great way to find a good, last-minute travel deal on your lodging.
7. Consider Alternate Lodging
If you’re looking for good last-minute travel deals, you can sometimes save some serious money by avoiding hotels altogether and choosing alternative lodging options instead. For example, if you sign up for and shop around on Airbnb or VRBO, you may be able to stay in a nearby home or apartment at your travel location for considerably less than a hotel would cost. Additionally, if you’re up for some dormitory-style living, you may be able to find a hostel in your area where you can stay on the cheap. Finally, if all else fails, couch surfing at the home of a family member or friend can help keep your last-minute travel costs low.
8. Check out the Bundle
If you’re looking for savings on last-minute travel, make sure you check out those package deals on sites such as Expedia and Priceline. While the flights might be a bit more expensive in these deals, and you may have to give up some flexibility on your travel plans, you can often find significant savings when booking your flights, lodging, and rental car together. So, if your travel plans include more than just a flight, get your pencil out, and see if bundling all your travel expenses together is a good option for you.
Booking your holiday travel at the last minute can be expensive, but with a little bit of work, you can find some good last-minute travel deals that will save you money and lower your stress level this holiday season. So, consider the eight tips offered here, and get ready to save on your holiday travel this year!