5 Tips For Finding Last-Minute Travel Deals

It’s June, and you still don’t have summer travel plans? Not to worry! With a little flexibility and resourceful planning, you can find a great trip for a fantastic price. Here’s how.

Samantha Lear
vacation, travel, deals, More magazine
Photograph: iStock

1) Make the economy work for you
Take advantage of the deals you can snag thanks to a soft economy. This summer, why not try Hawaii for your holiday, says Nancy Friedman, president of Nancy J. Friedman Public Relations. With Japan’s market down, the islands will have some great bargains, including discounts on a variety of resorts and restaurants. Check out GoVisitHawaii.com for more insider money-saving tips on your Hawaiian vacation.

Also worth considering: cruises, which are having great deals at all prices ranges, says Alice Marshall of Alice Marshall Public Relations. The number of ships to choose from continues to grow, likely due to demand from frugal travelers. “I think when people are more price conscious, they like that everything’s up front,” Marshall says. “You know what you’re going to spend and there isn’t a surprise credit card bill when you return home.” Head to sites like CruiseCompete.com, for price quotes from over 300 agencies; or CruiseCritic.com, to find tools to help you pick the right cruise ship line for you.

2) Hit uncharted territory
Or break away from the pack and skip the hot spots this summer. You can drive to many wonderful vacation spots in the continental US--saving money on airfare--and some resorts may even reward you with a gas reimbursement card. When the oil spill happened in the Gulf of Mexico, many resorts in Florida saw a dip in tourism, yet their facilities were untouched, with pristine, beautiful beaches, says Friedman. Do a web search for resorts that are offering promotions.

Like Florida, most winter destinations—the Caribbean, Mexico, Jamaica—are cheap in the summer, says Marshall. Right after a holiday like the Fourth of July or Memorial Day, hotels often have rooms available and you may be able to negotiate the price. “There’s no rack rate with hotels and airlines anymore,” she says. “People want to fill a room.”

3) Stay a step ahead online
Just as you would for any trip, do research. But don’t limit that research to a search on Google or Expedia. If you’re a fan of a certain hotel chain, resort or airline, sign up for their Facebook or Twitter feeds, as companies often post discounts and deals there first, says Marshall. Be most vigilant on “Travel Tuesday,” when many deals are listed.

To keep up with deals on flights, Friedman recommends signing up for email alerts on Airfarewatchdog.com: Enter your destination and the site will notify you whenever deals are available.

If you aren’t loyal to a specific locale or resort, you can stay up-to-the-moment on deals on high-end hotels by joining sites like Jetsetter.com or VoyagePrive.com. These sites feature flash sales—available for a few days only—on luxury hot-spots. You can save up to 75 percent, says Marshall.

4) Live like a local
If you’re headed away for a week or more, consider an apartment or house rental in the area--find them on VRBO.com or HomesAway.com. Renting a three-bedroom home right on the water in St. Pete Beach might be around $1,400 a week—just $200 a night—and you’d have a full kitchen, amenities, and private beach access.

Once you’ve booked your trip, Marshall recommends signing up for a daily deals email alert from Groupon.com for your destination city. Throughout your vacation, you will get offers for 50 to 90 percent off of restaurants, spas, museums and more.

5) Reach out and talk to someone
The web has many great offers, but once you’ve found a deal online, call the hotel directly and make contact with a real person. Marshall suggests calling during the day, as nighttime employees won’t have the authority to negotiate. Ask whether they can match or even beat the deal you’ve found online. At the end of the day, the hotel will have to most up-to-date bookings information and can give you an honest price. “Plus, it’s nice to have a direct connection and relationship with the hotel,” says Marshall.


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First Published May 10, 2011

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