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The Best Sites for Booking Last-Minute Travel

posted by Dan O'Halloran on October 10, 2014 in Travel, Phones and Mobile, Mobile Apps, Android Apps, iPhone/iPad Apps, Travel & Entertainment, Guides & Reviews, Money Savers :: 9 comments

Many great travel deals can be found by carefully planning in advance. But spur-of-the-moment trips can also be had for cheap if you know where to look.

That's because hotels, airlines, resorts and more are looking to fill vacant spots at the last minute.

Here are our picks for the best sites to book a great trip on short notice without blowing a crazy amount of money.

Best all around last-minute booking site: Expedia.com

Expedia.comExpedia.com's last minute booking page wins for layout as well as price and convenience. Three columns of deals under the headers of Tonight, This Weekend and Next Weekend show you top deals for the destination you select. You can further filter your results to see just flight, just hotels or package deals for both. Destinations include both major U.S. cities and foreign vacation spots.

Clicking on a deal will give you a page showing you pictures plus ratings, reviews and amenities. You will also see, in the case of a hotel, what other rooms are available and their prices as well. Flights work in a similar fashion. Find the destination and deal that appeal to you and you will be shown other flights leading to that destination in case you are looking for alternatives.

Of course, the best deal is flight + hotel. Just mousing over the options will show you how much money you'll be saving by booking them together. Just remember that the stated price doesn't include baggage fees.

Best last-minute hotel: Hotel Tonight

Hotel TonightThis isn't a site, but an app and it's a life saver. Need an extra night's stay but your hotel has no more vacancy? Score a last minute flight and need a place to stay? The Hotel Tonight app detects your location and shows you all the hotels in your area with vacancy. You can also set it to show you a city you haven't arrived in yet.

The display shows you pictures of the property, the price, the quality of the hotel and how much you'll save. Tapping on a specific hotel on the list will give you more images, user reviews and, most importantly, a Need to Know section under the Info tab. This lists the restrictions of that particular deal. Pay attention to limitations like the inability to book a specific type of bed until arrival or warnings about the neighborhood around the hotel.

Price: Free on iTunes and Google Play.

Best last-minute flight: Kayak

KayakKayak pulls in data on more than 400 airlines and lets you compare multiple travel sites at once. Not only can it direct you to other travel deal sites, but it also shows you the current prices directly from the major airlines' websites.

The sliders on the side bar is what makes Kayak really shine. Adjusting the sliders and checking off the options you want will quickly show you the exact deals you're looking for. You can upgrade or downgrade your seat, choose a different airline or a select a new take-off/landing time.

Don't forget to click on the "More Filters" button in the sidebar to narrow down the price range, layover options and, most importantly, planes with built-in Wi-Fi. Seriously, what did we do on planes before Wi-Fi?

 

Best last-minute room rental: Airbnb

Airbnb.comThough there is no explicit LAST MINUTE DEALS CLICK HERE! button on the front of their site, Airbnb is still a great service to find a last minute room to crash at a fraction of the cost of even a deeply discounted hotel room.  Simply enter your destination and dates (even if it's tonight) and the site will display all the rooms, apartments and houses to rent available to rent by the day. (Note, there is a "Help! I need a place, tonight" search feature in the app for iOS and Android.)

Concerned about the safety of spending the night in someone else's home? Every listing includes actual user reviews. There is also a 24/7 hotline if you have any issues with your stay. It's one of the best ways to find a place quickly and cheaply and make a new friend along the way courtesy of your gracious hosts.

Pro tip: The best way to save money on last minute travel plans is to have some flexibility. Can you take a plane with a stop over instead of a direct flight? Are you willing to stay in a hotel in a new part of the city? Comfortable sleeping in an extra room of a welcoming host's house? A little adventure can go a long way in saving you a lot of cash.

[Updated on 10/9/2014]

[tourist with phone via Shutterstock]


Discussion loading

The best booking site

From Evgeny Efimov on September 14, 2013 :: 10:38 am

Hi! My friends use Thebestbookingsite.com
More than two million offers on hotels.

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I really like Kayak

From Tim on October 09, 2013 :: 4:53 pm

I’m a big fan of Kayak.com. You can always find a great deal there. There are some real great Chicago hotels on there for cheap.

The other site I like to use is bookinghotelstay.com. I saved 70 percent there on my last trip to Vegas.

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Search and compare all booking sites at once!

From Joe Matt on November 01, 2013 :: 11:12 am

I’ve been using http://www.TripAlligator.com since a few years now. It’s basically compares all other hotel booking sites and finds you the cheapest rates. I’ve got much better deals from TA than with Expedia or any other hotel booking site.

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An amazing destination

From Jose on April 24, 2014 :: 9:56 am

Discover Ecuador at http://www.pushaq.com

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Fort Myer's RSV to Rochester Mn

From Joy Allison on June 16, 2014 :: 9:21 pm

Last min. I am flexable. Senior round trip five days.

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Hotel Tonight Case Study

From Jim Worrell on October 10, 2014 :: 3:51 pm

This past week I attended a trade show in Chicago.  When I arrived at the DoubleTree hotel on Ohio Street, in the heart of the city, I was floored to see that my company had booked a room here for $340 a night.  i pulled out my iPhone and looked up Chicago.  The DoubleTree hotel, (the one I was standing in their lobby, at the front desk!) was for $120.00 Unbelievable.

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Hipmunk

From sfjberk on October 10, 2014 :: 5:21 pm

We’ve had better luck and experience with
hipmunk.com/
than with others.

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Air BnB

From CEJNYC on October 10, 2014 :: 9:04 pm

3 bookings with AirbnB.  2 were dreadful experiences.  In Rome, the booking was for a tiny, really dismal and dark converted garage with NO heat in early March.  Stayed one night, but Air BnB did not help w/ a change until we started really fighting with them.  In Sicily, our stuff was stolen from the apt. we were renting; clearly an inside job because no lock, doors or windows were broken or forced.  Never again!!

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My Bus Travelling Experience

From Mothi Venkatesh on November 04, 2014 :: 7:23 am

I’m working at an IT Company in Bengaluru, India and I’m supposed to go hometown only once a month. And while booking tickets, It’s very difficult save time for going to the Bus Operator and book my tickets. And luckily I found this http://TicketGoose.com An online bus ticket booking portal. It’s GUI is very simple, just took a minute to book my ticket and I got a notification to my inbox and SMS. Saved my time and after keep digging services like this I could find many companies offering services like TicketGoose. The Technology in India is developed a lot! Incredible India wink

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