For some travelers, booking a last minute trip can mean waiting until the last two weeks before departure to choose their flight and accommodation. For the more spontaneous people, it can be as close as 24 hours before departure. Either way, if you’ve ever thought about waiting to go on vacation until the very last second, knowing the ins and outs of booking late can come in handy.
Will you actually save any money? Will you be able to find decent flights and a suitable hotel to rest your weary head at night? Know what you’re getting yourself into before you book, with momondo’s guide to last minute fares.
Pros of last minute booking
If you’re the spur-of-the-moment sort, one of the best things about booking your vacation last minute is the excitement of not knowing where you’re going until the very last second. Summer in the Alps, weekend getaway to Toronto or a two-week excursion through Central America – why not? Because last minute deals are so often hit or miss, you could end up in a vacation destination you normally wouldn’t have thought of, had there not been a good last minute deal.
Plus, there is the addition of not having to stress about planning, organizing and researching your trip if you’re the laid-back type that prefers to go with the flow.
Another advantage is the potential for savings. The biggest savings can be found in accommodation, as many hotels tend to slash their prices the closer you get to the arrival date. Better to sell those empty rooms at a much lower discounted price than to not sell them at all.
Finding a cheap last minute flight is a little trickier compared to accommodation, since prices typically go up the closer you get to the departure date due to the increased demand of the flight. As we’ll discuss below, there are some ways to make finding last minute flights easier, and if you do manage to snag a discounted airfare, you could end up saving quite a bit of money.
Cons of last minute booking
Last minute bookings are not for the faint of heart. The biggest con is the risk that you might not end up going anywhere at all. It could be the case that you wait too long to book a great deal and in the end, you miss it.
There is also the fact that booking ahead gives you a greater choice of flights and hotels, unlike when you book last minute. So if you have a specific destination or hotel in mind, you might be disappointed if you can’t book either flight or hotel due to unavailability.
Another potential downfall for those who have limited vacation time or are required to take their vacation during specific times of the year is the lack of flexibility. You might find it difficult to secure a last minute trip if you are looking for very specific times that cannot be changed due to prior engagements.
How to find last minute deals
There is no secret formula to finding cheap last minute fares. There are however several ways you can improve your chances of scoring low fares, whether you are booking last minute or well in advance. As a general rule, be flexible. Often the less popular routes such as early morning and red eye flights are cheaper, so be open to the possibility of flying at a somewhat less desirable time.
Try searching for flights that depart on a week day rather than the more popular weekend flights. You could save a lot of money by simply adjusting the time frame of your flights. Sometimes it’s also worth a shot to fly on a holiday such as Christmas Day for example rather than a few days before or after the holiday.
Read more: This is how to find cheap flights
Another option to consider is to fly into a cheaper location and rent a car to reach your final stop. For example, if you’re looking to spend the weekend in Barcelona but see much cheaper flights into the nearby Girona airport (a 45-60 minute drive), it might be cheaper to fly into Girona and drive the short distance to Barcelona.
Keep in mind that it’s much harder to coordinate a last minute trip with a group of people, so you’ll have a much easier time with booking last minute travel if you decide to go solo this time around or with one other person.
Be social and tech savvy
One of the best ways to find great last minute fares is to stay informed and to know when there is a deal or a sale going on. Sign up for the newsletters of your favorite airlines and join their frequent flyer programs so that you can easily accumulate and track your miles.
You should also follow airlines on their social media channels, as they will often post when they are having special sales and promotional rates.
Mobile apps can be your best friend when looking for cheap last minute fares, especially for hotels. Take advantage of booking in location where you’re spending your holiday and you just might find that several hotels nearby have reduced their rates at the last minute (psst did we mention we have a momondo app for you that is perfect for on the go?)
You can also make use of free tools online such as momondo’s fare alert, which will track the price of a route you are interested in and let you know when the price has gone down.