Timika Lane wanted to take a last-minute trip with her 10-year-old daughter, Tori, “for some much-needed one-on-one time together.” But she found herself in a situation not unusual to professionals in need of a break. “I waited until the last minute because work was hectic and I didn’t have a lot of time to research trips,” says the 38-year-old Philadelphia attorney. Luckily, a friend suggested she carve out a couple of hours to sit down at the computer with a list of discount websites.
The suggestion paid off when Lane found a relatively inexpensive four-day trip to St. Thomas. The first price she came across was $1,700 for an all-inclusive package for two. After shopping around, however, “I ended up paying $600 less for the exact same package,” Lane says.
In an ideal world, we’d all devote months of planning and comparison shopping to find that dream vacation at just the right price. It is possible, however, to snag a last-minute travel deal if you know where to look. “When it’s the last minute, you have to be really flexible,” says Tawanna Browne Smith, a travel writer who pens the blog Mom’s Guide to Travel (http://momsguidetotravel.com). While you may need to look beyond your favorite hotel chain, or be ready to book at a moment’s notice, here are the keys to getting deals on airfare, hotels, cruises, and theme parks so you can get the rest and relaxation you need whenever the inspiration strikes.
Saving on airfare and hotels
With the rising costs of fuel sending airfares higher in recent months, it may take a little extra searching to snag a great price. But if you have a few destinations in mind, sites such as Airfarewatchdog.com, will e-mail you alerts when prices reach certain parameters.
Others, like Cheapoair.com and Cheaptickets.com, provide information on last-minute trips and will e-mail new deals regularly. The key to taking advantage of such deals is to act quickly to lock in the deal, because prices can sometimes go back up in a matter of hours, says Smith. “Your cell phone would be the best device for you to use to get those price alert messages, but you have to act fast and be flexible on where you want to go.”