Traveling on a budget can be tough, especially if you don’t plan out your trip months in advance. By taking your time, you’ll be able to keep your eye on cheap flights, hotel deals, and other vacation savings. But sometimes, wanderlust might strike suddenly. When you get the urge to jump on a plane and take off to parts unknown, you may think you’ll have to pay an arm and a leg to even secure a seat or a hotel room. While planning ahead can certainly help you get the best prices when flying internationally, booking a room, or seeing the sights, it’s not always a requirement.
Here are just a few ways you can save money on last-minute travel plans.
Travel in the Middle of the Week
In 2016, commercial airlines carried more than 3.8 billion passengers to their destinations all across the world. But even when travelers use flight comparison tools, last-minute airfare can be incredibly pricey. Don’t let those steep prices get you down. In general, try to avoid booking a flight within 48 hours of departure when you can. If you have some flexibility with your travel dates, aim for a mid-week flight. These middle-of-the-week days aren’t nearly as popular for business travelers so prices will typically be lower. Play around with your dates and see how big a difference a day or two will make in the final price.
Be Flexible on Your Destination
Have the urge to get up and go but aren’t sure where you actually want to end up? This could actually work to your financial advantage. Many airlines will offer last-minute deals when they have empty seats on less popular routes. Leaving your possibilities open as far as destination (and even on your choice of airport) can allow you to experience a whole new city for a steal.
Fly During “Off” Times
We mentioned flying on certain days of the week, but you can also save on last-minute flights by being choosy about the time of day you depart. Booking a red-eye flight or one that leaves at dawn will usually help you when traveling on a budget simply because most people would rather opt for something at a more reasonable hour. You could potentially save hundreds of dollars if you can board your plane at midnight or at 5 AM rather than taking a sensible 1 PM flight.
Consider Flying One Way (Twice)
In some cases, a round trip ticket on a single airline may not provide the best savings. You might end up scoring a deal if you book a one-way ticket each way on two separate airlines. This isn’t always the case, so you’ll want to be sure to compare scenarios before you book.
You probably won’t have excess time to pack if you’re impulse traveling, but just in case: resist the urge to over pack. This is especially true if you’ve booked a flight on a budget-friendly airline that charges for anything more than a small personal item. Even if your carrier allows a carry-on, that checked baggage can set you back. Bringing as little as possible can help keep your costs low and can keep you more comfortable throughout your journey. After all, no one wants to lug around a 50-pound duffel bag through a busy airport!
Use Public Transport
Once you’ve actually made it to your destination, don’t waste money on expensive transportation options. Using public transportation can feel intimidating, especially if you don’t speak the language. Use the extra time you have on your flight to read up on the local transportation options and costs. Ride-hailing apps can be convenient, but they’re going to be a lot pricier than taking a bus or a subway — and those costs add up quickly when traveling on a budget.
It might not seem like traveling on a budget is conducive to last-minute trips, but it’s actually easier to save than you’d think. We hope these tips will allow you to travel smarter while still being able to go wherever the wind takes you.