Experts in the travel industry say the best time to purchase domestic airfare is between 29 and 104 days in advance. But booking so far in advance doesn't always work with everybody and doesn't necessarily apply to hotel reservations. In fact, when consumers decide to book a trip at the last minute, they can still find some great bargains. Here are a few tips on how to easily book last-minute travel.
San Jose International Airport (Credit, Randy Yagi)
Be FlexibleIf you're booking at the last minute, you're already at somewhat of a disadvantage since most plane tickets have already been sold. With this in mind, many travel experts recommend booking a departure on Tuesdays or Wednesdays and avoiding returning on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. Others disagree with midweek travel but the best way to find out is to simply perform a search on a Tuesday or Wednesday departure versus a Thursday or Friday departure.
In order to book travel at the last minute, chances are most of the best seats are already taken. But there is a more likely chance to obtain airfare with a late evening or early morning departure and chances are, it will also be cheaper. Still, it's also important to note the drawbacks, such as possible sleep deprivation and less available connecting ground transportation services.
Last-Minute Travel Sites
Some say last-minute travel sites offer great pricing on flights, hotels and packages. But some are definitely better than others. Case in point: at least two current online sources recommend LicketyTrip for last-minute vacations. When reaching that website, only a single page appears onscreen with the founder sadly informing visitors the business shut down March 31. This is not to say that other last-minute sites will shut down abruptly. Indeed, a few last-minute sites, appropriately named LastMinuteTravel and LastMinute, both have a sizable consumer base and have been widely praised by travel experts. And LastMinuteTravel recently announced its own travel app on Twitter.
Other Travel SitesCompetition in the travel industry is scorching hot and the best sites all offer last-minute deals. Many consumers prefer sites like Kayak that compare pricing from multiple travel sites. Others have sites they've relied on for a number of years for travel packages, like Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz, Hotwire and Travelocity. Hotels.com remains an efficient and reliable source for last-minute hotel deals. These sites all offer last-minute travel deals, in addition to a travel rewards program and competitive rates for just hotel or airfare bookings. Some newer travel sites like Skyscanner, Trivago, Hopper and Hipmunk have all generated positive reviews and are also worth checking out for last-minute deals. Lastly, one can never rule out Google and its relatively new Flight Search and Hotel Finder.
Marriott Lake Tahoe (Credit, Randy Yagi)
Check With The Airlines/Hotels DirectlyMajor carriers like American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta all offer last-minute deals and can easily be booked online. And low-cost carrier Southwest not only offers great airfare deals, but it doesn't charge for the first two checked bags and also offers last-minute travel packages. Consumers may also benefit by calling airlines or hotels directly, especially at the last minute when airlines have empty seats and hoteliers have empty rooms. Lastly, it might take a little more effort, but it may be easier and cheaper to book two one-way trips than a round trip, regardless if it's through an airlines or travel site.
Expedia App (Credit, Randy Yagi)
Use Social Media And Apps For Last-Minute DealsIt's no secret that the top travel providers and airlines all rely heavily on social media. And oftentimes when a travel deal is announced, it hits the biggest social media sites like Facebook and Twitter before the news is more widespread to media outlets. A quick search of Twitter reveals discounts for Spirit Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Aeromexico.
Expedia and Orbitz continue to offer $25 off for a hotel booking of $100 by using its mobile apps or more, but Expedia pushes the envelope further by offering $50 off with a purchase of $200 or more and $200 off for a five-night vacation package. Two other mobile apps recently getting a lot of attention are Booking.com's Tonight App and Hotel Tonight app. The latter app introduced a new cutting-edge feature in June that allows travelers to have keyless entry and a mobile express check-in feature.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.
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