Travel has been put on hold for a lot longer than most of us have wanted, but between the vaccine and ease of restrictions and quarantining requirements in some US regions, things are starting to look up.
While it may still be challenging to plan for big trips (especially overseas), as long as you’ve got a bit of a spontaneous streak, there are a few ways to prepare for a last-minute trip.
Here are some weekend getaway ideas to help you reconnect with your passion for travel — and put these uncertain times behind you for a while.
Establish a Budget
As with any type of trip, short or long, the first step is to establish a budget. Where are you headed? Who’s going? What’s your mode of transportation? How long will you be gone? These questions will help you determine a realistic travel budget because, after all, money stress is the first way to ruin a vacation vibe.
If you’re planning on flying to your destination, there are a few essential tips to help you find the best flight for the best price. For starters, the best days to book a flight are Sunday and Tuesday. However, some experts also suggest Wednesday and Saturday as well. To help you stay on track without being glued to the computer, sign up for flight alerts so you can be notified when a fare you were looking at becomes reduced.
While you may be looking for a weekend getaway, keep in mind that the least expensive days to travel are on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. You can also consider booking your flights separately versus round-trip as sometimes that can work out to your advantage financially.
Sign Up for Travel Newsletters
If you have a favorite travel metasearch engine that you like, sign up for their newsletter to stay abreast of current offers — many of which are often quick weekend getaways. Oftentimes you can choose the topics you’re interested in getting more information on. So, for example, hotels and flights versus cruises and vacation packages.
Download Last-Minute Travel Apps
Everyone’s connected to their devices these days, so having an app or two on your phone is an excellent tool for monitoring everything from last-minute hotel stays and plane tickets to full-blown travel packages. While there are copious options to choose from, we’ve got a few suggestions:
The Get the Flight Out app — a fare tracker from Hopper— is an excellent resource for those looking for same-day flights (even international, folks!). Looking to book a last-minute hotel deal? Check out HotelTonight, Secret Escapes, or One Night. Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Let your fingers do the walking when it comes to which apps you choose to download.
Consider Alternative Transportation
Flying isn’t the only option when it comes to last-minute travel. In fact, if you’re short on time, it can make more sense to take a road trip (car or RV) — or even the train in some cases. Not to mention, taking your own transportation makes it easier to get out of town last-minute since airline tickets are best booked in advance if you want to score the best price and itinerary.
Compare Packages to Individual Bookings
Suppose you’re in a severe time crunch. In that case, it could be a better idea to consider consolidating your entire trip (read transportation, lodging, rental car if applicable) with the help of an aggregator such as Priceline, Booking.com, Orbitz, Travelocity, etc. However, while this is a great option for convenience, sometimes you can rob yourself of getting a better deal by doing things on your own.
Book With Hotels Directly
Sure, you can find a good deal online, but even before the travel industry took a hit, booking with a hotel or resort directly can score you more flexibility, additional perks, and a better price in many cases. While it’s not always the case (especially during a travel drought phase), it’s definitely worth calling (or emailing) the hotel first-hand. They may be willing to give you a better price than outside resources — but definitely weigh your options.
Try Negotiating With Vacation Rental Owners
When booking on Airbnb, you're dealing directly with the property owner (or renter), and rates can be negotiable, especially if you're traveling at the last minute. While negotiating could misfire, a reasonably discounted offer could also score you some savings. For example, perhaps they’re willing to lower the price because they haven’t been able to rent the property out. While it may not always work out to your advantage, it’s worth a try.
Be Aware of Cancelation Policies
It’s always important to understand cancelation policies, but even more so during these unpredictable times when travel rules and regulations could change at the drop of a hat. While most hotels and resorts have a cancellation policy anywhere between 24 hours to one to three weeks in advance — home and apartment rentals may be less lenient. Unfortunately, last-minute vacations may have to be paid upfront and cannot be canceled. Travel protection insurance is not a bad idea, but make sure you understand what it covers before making an investment.
Hire a Pro
With so many online booking options, it can seem crazy to ask for help from a travel pro — but here’s the thing. Not only can these trip gurus quickly help you find a vacation to help fit your proverbial checklist and budget, but they are often trained in booking last-minute travel, including scoring potential upgrades. Who couldn’t get on board with that?
Before You Book
While you may be craving a getaway, just be sure not to book too quickly. For example, say you rush to book plane tickets due to an irresistible price, only to discover that you can’t find a hotel because it’s high season. Make sure all of the components are in place before making any commitments.
Remember, we’re not out of the woods yet, so if you do decide to take a trip, continue to exercise vigilance and travel safely!
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