If you're like most people, any spontaneous urges when it comes to traveling are immediately foiled once you've gotten a good look at your bank account—and the obligatory sky-high fares that come with booking last minute flights. Fortunately, with the world wide web and connectivity, there are ever more efficient ways for us to book flights and hotels in the eleventh hour.
There's now a handful of reputable desktop and mobile travel apps that play the low-cost last-minute flight game really well. So well that top travel editors from Travel+Leisure (T+L) magazine consult them, too, when booking their own impromptu flights, hotel stays, and local activities. These five trustworthy, travel editor-approved booking resources are well worth using to plan your next vacation.
Travelzoo "not only lists discounts on packages, hotels, cruises, and flights but also has an extensive range of special offers for restaurants, spas, and activities," say editors. Both it's desktop and app versions are boons for finding everything from discounted all-inclusive vacations and cheap tickets to local events wherever you land to eye-popping affordable last-minute flight offers to faraway locales. The app also stores your scannable tickets for you—no need to run to print them out in some sketchy internet café. Last-minute travelers should also elect to receive Travelzoo's weekly Top 20 list of bargains on national and international travel. (Note that they sell out quickly!)
Last Minute Travel
Although there's a $50 annual fee to access Last Minute Travel's exclusive deals club, paying members can "score up to 65 percent off hotel rooms, flights, cruises, car rentals, vacation homes, and trip packages," say T+L's editors. (Of course, when you're looking at such steep discounts, that $50 fee might actually pay for itself the first time you book.) Last Minute Travel aggregates pricing info and availability from 175 airlines, more than 120,000 hotels, and upwards of 10,000 activities in 4,500 cities worldwide. Its desktop and mobile apps make it super-easy to compare and contrast pricing, too.
"Whether you want a flight, hotel room, car rental, or total trip package, Expedia’s easy-to-navigate app has thousands of last-minute choices for any destination,” editors say. “Though prices are usually around 20 percent cheaper than published rates, it’s not unusual to find savings of up to 50 percent.” Most companies don't let you change travel plans once you've booked through them, but Expedia allows a reasonable 24-hour grace period for cancellations. Also handy for last-minute flights is Expedia's Deals page, which lists hotel plus airfare packages (or either, a la carte) for domestic and foreign travel.
Hopper (formerly Get The Flight Out)
Those with flexible travel dates and destinations, particularly those who love spur-of-the-moment travel, can find a friend in the Hopper app. It aggregates fares from major airlines as well as those from low-cost carriers to deliver the best possible prices on your preferred travel dates. Don't know exactly where or when you're going? Tick the "Flexible" box and select an approximate time frame (up to 10 months in advance) and length of time you plan to be away. Hopper then indicates the specific dates flights might be cheapest, based on carriers' typical pricing and travel trends. Other pluses: Hopper advises you to wait it out for a better deal if it believes prices will improve, and it will also ping you once fares hit rock-bottom.
You can book a hotel room for the same day or up to a week in advance in over 1,700 different cities on HotelTonight. “Look for properties with special Geo Rates, which target users based on their GPS location,” recommend T+L's editors. “For example, while you’re waiting for a flight at the airport, search for a room at your destination—you can sometimes get a better deal than if you wait to book after you’ve landed.”
8 Affordable Travel Essentials to Get You on Your Way
We've rounded up some well-priced travel essentials to help you achieve restful sleep, protect your skin from drying out on long-haul flights, enjoy your favorite audiobooks and tunes, and arrive at your next travel destination on-point and in style. Bon, voyage!