According to trends in travel search data, 44 percent of jet-setters book last-minute. That’s roughly half of all travelers scrambling to find the right flights and accommodation, then stuffing everything they think might be useful into their luggage.
Last-minute travel can be a thrilling prospect. It’s a liberating, spontaneous feeling looking at the next few weeks in your calendar and simply saying to yourself, “Hey, why not a much-needed vacation?” Left to one’s own devices – that nagging voice in the back of your head telling you to be “restrained” – you might never actually take that vacation you deserve. But when you strike while the iron’s hot, it’s an astute investment in your own best interest.
Having said that, last-minute travel comes with its own set of challenges. Without the time to thoroughly prepare, you need some help if you’re going to get the best accommodation, flight and activity recommendations.
If you plan on traveling last-minute this spring, follow these seven tips for last-minute travel success.
Get the Time off Now
First thing’s first: book your time off right immediately. Whether it’s a vacation away from work, school or simply the daily responsibilities of being around the house, ensure that you can clear a space in your schedule for travel. The last thing you want to do is book a trip only to find that immovable responsibilities are going to keep you at home.
This can be as simple as putting in a last-minute vacation request with a manager or coordinating with a neighbor to look after your precious pooch while you’re on vacation. Whatever the case may be, do it first.
Consider Travelling Mid-Week
When you travel on the weekend, you compete with the entire weekend getaway crowd, many of whom booked their flights months in advance. If traveling last minute, consider flying in and out of your destination mid-week: between Tuesday and Thursday.
Mid-week flights tend to be less expensive than their weekend counterparts. Understandably, this isn’t a reality for all last-minute jetsetters, who might only have the weekend off of work to travel, but if you can swing it with your personal responsibilities, it could wind up saving you a couple of hundred dollars.
Check Out a Trustworthy Travel Deal Curator
Perhaps the best thing a last-minute traveler can do, if they want an attractive, perfectly priced vacation, is to realize that there are limits to your own deal-seeking abilities. Sometimes, you have to defer to the professionals. In this case, that means using a trustworthy travel deal curator like Travelzoo.
While you might have some success on your own, seeking out deals on flights, accommodation and experiences, travel deal curators are far more effective, scanning wide swaths of offers and vetting them for the best prices and value. More than that, they can bundle your flights, accommodation, and activities so you not only get the best price, you also have a few less things to worry about. And when you’re traveling last-minute, the more responsibilities you can shift off your plate and onto an expert’s, the better.
To get started planning your comprehensive getaway, check out these last-minute trips from a leading online publisher of travel deals.
Make a Packing Checklist
When you’re dealing with two weeks or less of planning time for a vacation, that’s when mistakes are liable to happen. You forget your electric toothbrush, passport or – arguably worse – you forget to even pack a bathing suit!
The only way to be sure you have everything you need for your last-minute vacation is to make a list and check it twice. Sectionalize your packing list into key categories: clothing, toiletries, documents, electronics, and miscellaneous items. That latter category can cover everything from medicine you may need, to foreign cash you should pick up before departing.
If you think you may need a last-minute vaccination for your destination with advice from the CDC for last-minute travelers.
Keep an Open Mind
One thing to realize about last-minute traveling is that it may not be exactly the trip you pictured. With limited time, you may not be able to nab the precise hotel, activity or even location you’ve been daydreaming of. But that’s okay!
With an open mind, the spontaneity and exploration of a last-minute trip can be even more thrilling than a well thought out vacation. Enjoy whatever comes your way, and try to push aside any preconceived notions about your trip ought to be.
Cast a Wide Net for Recommendations
When planning out what to do on your last-minute getaway, don’t just consult one source. If all you have is a single guidebook, then the guidebook is all you’ll see. And as well-intentioned, as guidebooks are, they only represent a fraction of what’s out there.
Solicit your friends over social media for recommendations. Those close to you, who know you, maybe better poised to offer experiences you’ll enjoy. Or head to a local “subreddit” forum, where locals congregate to share recommendations in their city or region. Just Google your destination along with the word “subreddit” and click through the top link to ask for recommendations or read helpful posts.
Pin Your Itinerary with a Maps App
One of the easiest ways to plan an itinerary (and ease is what you’re looking for when traveling last minute) is to simply use your maps app. Whether you’re on Google Maps, Apple Maps or similar, plotting an itinerary is as simple as downloading an offline map of your destination, dropping pins where you want to visit, and then writing a rough timeline in your notes app.
When it comes time to follow your itinerary, all you have to do is open your maps and search for directions to your next grand adventure.
If you’re considering a last-minute vacation this spring, just do it! And follow these easy tips to ensure you plan the best possible flights, accommodation, recommendations, and itinerary.