You planned to stay home this year then heard about all the amazing deals. Is it still possible to find last-minute getaways without going broke? Of course it is, we wouldn’t tease you that way.
LISTEN: Yeah, you really can save some money.
6 Ways to Find Last-Minute Getaways
All our information comes from airfare analyst Rick Seaney (also CEO of FareCompare); he’s been steering people to cheaper flights for more than a decade now. Here are his six ways to find better deals plus a bonus tip. Feel free to combine these methods.
1. Compare fares
Go to an airfare search site: Yes, this is basic, but it works. Unfortunately some people will never know how well it works and continue to go directly to an airline’s site that ‘always has the best deal.’ Problem: No single airline always has the best deal. If you don’t compare, you may overpay.
2. Look for cheaper destinations
Some cities are cheaper than others: This has been a good year for finding deals to Dallas, Denver, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Other cheaper cities include Boston, Ft. Lauderdale and New Orleans. If you have your heart set on Europe, we’ve seen excellent deals to Scandinavia and several good fares to Paris.
3. Fly cheaper days
Avoid Fridays and Sundays: The cheapest days to fly are usually Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Most expensive days are usually Fridays and Saturdays. A good itinerary could be a Saturday departure and a Tuesday return.
4. Avoid non-stops (sometimes)
Try connecting flights: You can often save as much as 50% or more if you add a stop to your route. Airlines often factor in what we call a ‘convenience fee’ for non-stop flights and most of us willingly pay it. If you don’t mind a little inconvenience – including a longer travel day – you could save big. Just be sure to price both non-stops and connecting flights so you can see the difference for yourself.
5. Delay travel
Wait until late August: Generally speaking, most domestic and international fares drop when demand drops and this year’s magic date for that is Aug. 23. Fly then or later in the fall and you can save a lot of money.
6. Travel light
Use a carry-on bag: You will avoid the checked-bag fee* and your bag will not get lost and you won’t have to wait at the baggage carousel after you land. By the way, Rick Seaney uses a carry-on when traveling to Europe [and so does his editor].
*Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit also charge for carry-ons but do allow small under-the-seat bags for free.
Bonus tip: Weekend deals
Airlines used to offer last-minute deals for weekend travel but that’s gone the way of free meals in coach – except at United Airlines. Their weekend specials typically start at around $170 round-trip but don’t forget to compare ticket prices with other airlines because you never know which if another will have the same deal or a better one.