By Jason Alderman
If you, your partner or your family want—or need—to get out of town right now, how do you improvise a great last-minute trip without breaking the bank?
Planning is essential. Embrace travel as a hobby—look for tricks, techniques and current online resources to keep abreast of the best last-minute deals.
Compromises will be necessary. You’ll likely need to travel at off-peak hours (either the first flight out in the morning or the last one at night, usually on weekdays) and stay at hotels or venues off the beaten path.
Here are some quick tips to save money on last-minute travel:
Travel light, move fast. Traveling last-minute isn’t for the indecisive. Dedicated travelers are minimalists—they know what to pack, organize their paperwork and payment options and have the mental preparation to deal with problems and challenges along the way. Also realize that last-minute travel can increase risk and other costs. If you’re planning a trip that requires travel insurance, you may not get coverage approval in time. (Reference: https://www.insuremytrip.com/learn/travel-insurance-basics/when-to-buy.html)
Build the right online resources. The Internet has revolutionized most forms of purchasing goods and services, but for travel, it has offered unprecedented speed and customization. Use top travel sites that have a tested track record and broad listings of various travel products, but be on the lookout—new travel websites and apps launch every day. Some airlines now offer their own last-minute fare sites, but try to sign up for email alerts and social media feeds from a variety of travel resources so you won’t miss a deals on air, hotel or ground transportation. Also, layovers are good to build into your itinerary as long as you don’t have to pay for a hotel and take a moment to compare the price of two one-way tickets—possibly from competing carriers—against round-trip tickets at single carriers.
Test new lodging options. The new generation of apartment and spare-bedroom sharing sites and longtime online vacation home rental services offer last-minute and in some cases “day-of” lodging possibilities, but keep in mind that online scammers have entered this territory and all transactions should be verified independently. Staying in hostels is not just for students and backpackers anymore; there are hostels that aim for older travelers as well. Getting on the phone also works in the hotel industry. Check online prices against what you can find by calling up the hotel’s booking number and ask if there is a lower corporate rate or special for the period of your stay. (Reference: (http://www.practicalmoneyskills.com/rentalscams)
Compare ride-share with car rental. If you think you’re going to need to drive at your destination, check car-rental rates against leading ride-share companies available at the touch of your smartphone screen. Many ride-share companies allow you to get advance pricing estimates in advance. Also keep in mind what it might cost to park the rental car in your destination city—ride-share will help you avoid that expense.
Finally, evaluate every membership connection you have. Start by looking at all the plastic you have in your wallet. From your credit cards to the membership card for your main professional networking group and even to the auto club that tows your car, can you take advantage of any travel benefits you can leverage on a last-minute trip? Take some time to review those benefits or look at them for the first time.
Bottom line: Last-minute travel is almost always possible as long as you’re willing to do a little homework and improvise.
Jason Alderman directs Visa’s financial education programs. Follow Jason Alderman on Twitter at @PracticalMoney.