One of the greatest things social media has given us is easy access to the world at large – and a desire to see more of it. Planning and booking an epic adventure no longer takes multiple visits to the library or trusting in glossy travel agent brochures. It’s easier than ever to take advantage of an empty week or weekend in your calendar and hop on a plane for some last minute travel.
As a former airline employee who regularly flew standby for next to nothing, I frequently took advantage of short notice hotel deals or last minute concert tickets to head out on an adventure with little notice. Typically an over-planner, these trips helped me appreciate how some of the best travel memories can be created when you’re willing to step outside your comfort zone.
Last minute travelling has increased in popularity, with many tour and flight operators offering great short notice deals. We’ve got tips to help you jump on those screaming last minute deals (and a few things to be cautious about).
Run it by the boss. Before you start dreaming of mai tais, check with your employer to see if booking time off on short notice is an option for you. Some employers require advance notice for vacation time. You might offer to book a specific week off, and as the week approaches make your final decision on where to travel from the deals available during that time frame.
Stay open to suggestion. Instead of selecting your destination in advance, be open to flying to the city offering the best deals. We love WestJet’s Low Fare Finder, as it lets you see a month’s worth of lowest fares to various cities from your destination city. We’ve got a roundup of some of our favourite online tools for finding great deals on flights, some with open ended destinations and price based searching.
Are you ready to run? Check your travel documents regularly to ensure they’re up-to-date, and you know where they are for all of your family members. Keep your vaccination records nearby and be ready to book in a quick appointment at a travel medical clinic if you want something specific before you go. Look into any visa requirements before you hand over your credit card to ensure you aren’t surprised at the check in counter.
Be willing to compromise. The most luxurious of resorts rarely offer deep discounting, so as not to dilute their brand. If you’re used to spending a lot of time comparing resorts and selecting based on which packages have the most luxurious features, be willing to cut some corners and go with “good enough.” If you’re booking with a site like Hotwire, where you don’t know specifics in advance, you may find elements of your trip to be of far lower quality than you expect. If you’re not willing to sacrifice comfort for a great deal, stick with sites that let you know exactly which airline, hotel or car rental agency you’ll be using. If you haven’t tried VRBO or AirBnb, now’s your chance. Always read the reviews before you book!
Is it really a deal? Sometimes a deal is not really a deal. There are plenty of websites that claim deep discounts on packages that save you a whopping amount of money off the regular price, but they’ve inflated the initial price by a wide margin. Take a few extra minutes on Google to ensure you can’t book the same room or flight directly from the company’s website for the same amount (or even less).
If you’re heading out of Canada, be sure to read Weak Dollar Woes: How to Maximize your Vacation Dollars for ways to save even more.