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The Best Sites for Booking Last-Minute Travel

posted by on February 11, 2016 in Travel, Travel & Entertainment, Guides & Reviews, Money Savers :: 14 comments

Tips for Booking Last Minute TravelIf you're the spontaneous sort – or if you've left it late yet again - fear not, booking last minute travel isn't necessarily going to break the bank. While airlines, hoteliers and tour operators would love you to believe that booking in advance is the only way to save, consider that when seats and rooms are left unfilled, the laws of supply and demand come into play at times pushing down the price for the savvy, plan-procrastinating traveler.

We checked out several popular travel sites, both last-minute-geared and otherwise, and rated them for ease of finding last-minute deals and value of said deals. Here's how we'd go looking for a good deal on that weekend break we just decided we were going to take.

1. Be Flexible on Your Dates

Expedia.com

Flight comparison sites like Kayak are a good way to find the cheapest airfares at any time, especially if you search using flexible dates – for example, if you're able to leave a couple days before or after popular times, such as holiday weekends. For a dedicated last-minute section that's a breeze to navigate, Expedia is our go-to site.

2. Leave the Destination Open

Momondo Trip Finder

Different destinations may be cheaper at particular times of year. Skyscanner allows you to search by specific dates, with the handy option to set your destination to “anywhere”, while travel search engine Momondo's Trip Finder is a minimal, gorgeously designed feature that lets you select a region (or anywhere) and the month you'd like to go (including the current one) to find the lowest prices by both time and place. Search results are displayed in a visual, wanderlust-triggering interface. And of course traveling to a location destination that’s in its off-season can often make for cheaper prices—as well as smaller crowds.

3. Go Location-Specific

CheapCarribean.com

If you have a particular locale you're dying to hit, hunt online for a site that deals specifically with that area. CheapCaribbean exclusively covers the sunny isles of the Caribbean, with a last-minute section that displays deals for accommodation and flights from your chosen airport. Or, for a super-spontaneous cruise holiday, hit up a site like LastMinuteCruises where you can book to sail for the Bahamas or the Caribbean in as few as three days. Not all online travel sites will cater for the last-minute traveler, but you can always call in and see if there's a space for a spontaneous break.

4. Forego Hotels for Alternatives

Go local with a place on BedandBreakfast.com

Not only is Airbnb likely to offer luxury digs at a better price than similarly-styled hotels, but the prices at the peer-to-peer room/apartment/house-renting giant often don't change even when you're booking on the day you want to check in. If you've found a good price on a flight, head to Airbnb to check out options by budget and location. If Airbnb isn't offering much love where you're going, try Hostelz.com, over 45,000 listings in more than 6,000 cities of hostel accommodation – many a world away from the bunkbed dorms of yore. Reviews come from professionals as well as those who’ve stayed there.

Or, for a more traditional – and last-minute - B&B experience, BedandBreakfast.com lets you search through thousands of B&Bs across the world by date and place. Provide your email address to receive promotional codes and “deals” for your desired locations. Alternately, if you're going to a lesser-known destination that's not likely to be booked up, embrace the spirit of spontaneous travel by simply stopping at the first romantic inn you see.

5. Use Air Miles

If you had the foresight to sign up for an airline loyalty program – bonus: one attached to a credit card that handily converts amounts spent into air miles – you can check out your airline's reward flight calendar to see if you can spend air miles instead of dollars to leave for Hawaii, like, tomorrow. If you're a frequent flyer on more than one airline, maximize the value of your awards mileage by signing up for a Webflyer account, which lets you see how your miles convert between programs and tells you if there have been changes to your frequent flyer program.

6. Search for Discounts

Secret Escapes - a flash sale site for travel

Sites such as Retail Me Not list coupons and offers that can be used at aggregater sites like Hotels.com, as well as specific hotel chains. While some “discounts” are simply what the sites are already offering, Retail Me Not is a good way to view all offers across hotel sites and online travel agencies.

Alternately, Secret Escapes focuses on flash deals for high-end hotels. When we compared prices with hotel aggregater biggie Booking.com on the same dates for a current deal, NYC's NoMad hotel, it was 10% cheaper to book through Secret Escapes, but depending on the hotel and the time of year, you may not always be able to get a last-minute reservation.

7. Try Package Tours

Try a package tour - Kayak.com

If you're keen on hotel living, package tours usually offer a better price than if you booked the flight and (same) hotel separately, thanks to tour operators' ability to purchase rooms in bulk. Google is a good bet for searching out last-minute packages at online travel sites, or Kayak lets you search for flight-and-accommodation packages, with hotel locations displayed on a map so you can discern which is the closest to the beach or town center.

8. Look for Flight and Hotel Separately

Booking your hotel separately for shorter trips - Hotels.com

According to moneysavingexpert  packages are usually cheaper for set time periods such as seven or 14 days away. But if you're heading to lesser-visited or quieter locales, or for shorter time periods, DIY booking can turn up lower prices. Don't forget, many independent or smaller-time accommodations won't be part of the bulk-buying that allows tour operators to sell accommodations cheaper.

Despite the dozens of sites proclaiming themselves to be the purveyors of super-cheap last-minute ultimate deals, you're just as apt to find a good price by hunting for flights and hotels separately on aggregater sites like Kayak, Expedia, as well as Hotels.com and Booking.com, which both offer a seamless way to search by destination, nearness to city center and facilities (often, the problem with last-minute deals is that they reward the flexible, not those who require a gym, hot tub and outdoor pool with a bar).

9. Download the App

GTFO - Get the Flight Out lets you hunt for airfare from your current location

Using apps that can find you the nearest available accommodation can be godsend to the plan-strapped journeyer who's not entirely sure which part of the city they've wandered into. HotelTonight  (iOS /Android) shows rooms available based on your GPS location, while the iOS-only app GTFO-Get the Flight Out (formerly called FlightTonight) lets you hunt for airfares from your current location.

Do you have more tips for scoring that last-minute travel plan? Leave your comments below.

[Updated on 2/11/2016 with new tips, sites and apps]

[last minute travel 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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Kayak.com is Fantastic

From Snezana on January 27, 2015 :: 7:53 pm

I also have used Kayak.com and found it fantastic.  The other site that i like to use is http://www.GoTravelShop.com (I think that’s the one).  They have the best for hotels.  I booked a Hotel London and it was really cheap and great quality.  I think the best option is Kayak.com for flights and GoTravelShop.com for hotels.  They do everything there too so you can book everything in the one place if that’s your thing.  Otherwise do your flights at Kayak.com.

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best airfare to london

From Vikas on June 30, 2015 :: 5:53 am

I like your content your take on this topic is well-written and original.

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I use a site that has worked pretty well for me

From devin on September 27, 2015 :: 7:47 pm

I usually go on quicktraveldeals.com and they have good deals and compare different competitors so you know you’re getting a good deal.

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restaurant in durgapur

From restaurant in durgapur on January 06, 2016 :: 4:48 am

I am speechless as to how great this article is. The content is simple to understand and very engaging. This is by far some of the best content I’ve seen.

Reply

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following.

From Ron Ablang on February 12, 2016 :: 8:00 am

following.

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