We’re all well acquainted with the dangers of procrastination, that pesky thief of time. When it comes to planning travel, though, sometimes waiting until the last second, due to a limited budget, a busy schedule or just lack of inspiration, can actually be an advantage. So how does a spontaneous wanderluster avoid overpaying for that flight departing in just a week? Use GoLastMinute.com’s insider tricks for scoring last-minute fares so good you’ll be bragging about them.
Being open-minded about your travel dates, times and maybe even your destination will definitely work in your favor when hunting for cheap last-minute flights. We advise starting your search with just a general scope of the region you want to visit or the type of trip you’re craving.
Dreaming of a Europe trip, maybe to Paris, Milan or London? Fares to the continent have come down dramatically thanks to budget airlines like Norwegian Air Shuttle and WOW Air. But be aware that these airlines don’t service every major European bucket-list city, and they depart from a limited list of U.S. gateways, on a limited schedule. Plus, extras like baggage and meals are typically not included in the base fare. If you’re not too picky about your destination and can pack light, those jaw-dropping savings across the pond can be yours.
Though it seems to be common knowledge nowadays, it bears reminding that the cheapest last-minute fares are typically reserved for weekday trips and those departing early in the morning or late at night. Also, most longer-haul journeys will require a layover. If inconveniences like these don’t deter you, a much broader list of flight options will be up for grabs. The key point is, keep your needs (and expectations) limber to score the best bargains.
Consider nearby airports
Travelers from highly populated regions, such as the East Coast and Midwest, should be aware of the many airports at their disposal, and consider flying out from a hub other than their standard home airport.
Live in Milwaukee? Check fares from Chicago, home to two major international airports that are both easy to reach from the Cream City via Amtrak or Greyhound bus service. Usually fly out of Miami? You’re missing out on all the budget fares offered by low-cost airlines such as JetBlue, Spirit and Southwest that only operate in nearby Fort Lauderdale.
In fact, Lucas Peterson, author of the Frugal Traveler column in The New York Times, recently identified several urban areas in the U.S. (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle, for example) for which smaller regional airports offer better fares.
Search these alternate departure points and you may well be surprised to find a better selection of last-minute flight deals than from your main gateway.
Sniff out sales
Delta regularly runs last-minute weekend sales, and airlines such as American and United occasionally sneak in short-lived sales, too. JetBlue and Southwest are known for their gone-in-a-flash nationwide offers, often providing fares as low as $40 one-way for flights departing in the following few weeks.
When airlines add new routes, they often run promotions with rock-bottom rates. For example, Southwest Airlines recently added new routes from Ft. Lauderdale to the Turks & Caicos, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, promoting the debuts with one-way fares as low as $69.
These sales are a lot to keep up with, so we help you at GoLastMinute.com by keeping our finger on the pulse of the airline world, publishing daily updates on promotions from a variety of sources. These include major and budget airlines (United Airlines, Air Canada, British Airways, JetBlue, Norwegian Air Shuttle, etc.), online travel agencies (CheapOair, Liberty Travel, Flight Centre, etc.), and travel aggregators (Fly.com, Kayak, Orbitz, etc.).
Travel to off-season destinations
That jam-packed jetliner bound for a sunny Caribbean island in February? It will be dotted with open seats come the fall months, when the higher chance of rainy weather and humidity scares off pickier travelers. And tourists tend to avoid big city jaunts when the weather is frigid, making snow-dusted cities like NYC and Chicago ripe for the picking for budget and last-minute travelers.
New Orleans, too, is a perennial favorite — in fact, Travel + Leisure calls it one of the best places to visit in 2018. But don’t venture down to the Crescent City during Mardi Gras, when tourists flood the streets. Go instead in fall, the slowest season for travel, and revel in the still-warm temperatures and more laid-back vibe.
An extra benefit to off-season travel is that accommodations are typically much more affordable compared to high-season rates.
Here’s a piece of advice you can take to the bank: If you find a good rate, don’t wait. While it can seem risky to hit the “book” button on a flight when there’s always the chance fares could drop further, the truth is, there’s very little risk at all. If a cheaper rate comes along, simply cancel the flight you booked within a 24-hour period and re-book the new, cheaper flight — a law for U.S.-based bookings of domestic or international flights gives you a full day to cancel without penalty. But beware of this caveat for the 24-hour no-penalty cancellation window: It’s valid only for flights departing a week or more after your booking date.
Keep tabs with last-minute fare alerts
Rates can rise or drop at a moment’s notice. Stay ahead of the curve with our fare alerts, specifically designed to help you find the best dates to fly in just a few days or weeks. Do a search on GoLastMinute.com in the “Compare Flight Deals” box by entering your departure city, destination and dates, and then check “add to fare alerts.” Then, simply let notifications come to your inbox so you can track last-minute fares to your preferred destinations (you can create alerts for up to 5 routes).
We’ve delivered more than 40 million fare alerts since we launched the feature in February 2017, helping thousands of travelers find the lowest fares.
GoLastMinute.com helps travelers search and compare prices on airfares, hotels, vacation packages and cruises via web and mobile sites, email newsletters and social media channels. Over 5 million travelers have signed up for GoLastMinute.com’s emails.
GoLastMinute.com is published by GraphicBomb, which was named to Inc. 5000’s list of the fastest-growing companies in America for 2016 and 2017. GraphicBomb also publishes BeachDeals.com and Bamgo.com.