Maybe you put it off because you expected to be swamped with work through Labor Day. Or you didn’t think you could swing a trip financially. Or it completely slipped your mind to make any vacation plans and now that August has closed in, you’re afraid the opportunity for a getaway has come and gone.
But that's the magic of summer: With weeks to go until Labor Day, it’s still not too late to get your travel on. As a personal finance blogger who hits the road with the wanderlust bug as often as possible, let me assure you that you can still roam far and wide between now and September—and have a total blast on a budget too.
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Whether you’re thinking of a long weekend at the beach or hopping a jet overseas, these eight tips will help make this your best summer ever—especially when you see how much cash stays in your bank account with these last-minute travel deals.
Scour Last-Minute Booking Sites
When you're planning an on-the-fly getaway, it pays to browse a site that specializes in them. Sites like lastminute and airfarewatchdog constantly scour airline websites and newsletters to find the latest fare reductions and deals. They also offer deals on spa packages, accommodations and rental cars.
Don’t Get Stuck on a Specific Date or Time
Flexibility is key for any kind of travel, but when you’re looking for a spontaneous trip, the more flexibility you have as to when you can take off and when you have to be back, the better.
And don't get too caught up thinking that booking a flight on a certain day of the week leads to automatic savings. Airlines are always fiddling with prices, and there are too many variables in play (domestic or international; nonstop or layover) to guarantee that buying on a Tuesday saves you more than if you booked on Saturday.
Be Open to Out-of-the-Way Airports
This can require some tricky maneuvering—like arranging for a friend to pick you up or relying on a connecting bus or train. And it generally only helps you if you’re traveling within the U.S. But jetting in or out of a smaller airport than the big-city terminals might save you significant bucks, depending on your destination. There's no guarantee, but it's worth looking into.
Hit the Slopes and Tropical Resorts
You may dream of strolling the French Riviera in the summer, but off-season prices in locations most people visit in the winter offer super deals this time of year. Instead of hitting the beaches of Mexico or the Colorado Rockies during winter break like everyone else, head there now to reap big savings.
Follow Airlines and Hotels on Social Media
Here's a solid excuse to keep checking Facebook or Twitter: Sudden deals and packages pop up randomly on social media sites run by airlines and hotel chains. Official tourism boards for the city or area you’re hoping to head to are also great to follow, because they often offer discounts as well as travel tips for their area.
Get Someone on the Phone
Sounds old-school, but try calling hotels, airlines or car rental companies directly. Reaching out and asking if they are offering any specials not listed on their website or have any last minute cancellations can land you an amazing (and money-saving) trip.
Live Like a Local
Lodging can carve a big hole in your budget, especially if your dream destination is booked solid. So checking out short-term rental marketplaces like Airbnb or HomeAway can score you lower prices as well as more control over what part of a city or area you want to stay in. And when it comes to renting wheels, consider checking out Turo to see if it makes sense for you—it’s like Airbnb for cars.
Get an Assist From Travel Apps
Apps are especially helpful when you're on a spontaneous trip and haven't had the chance to plan every last detail of where you'll eat, fuel up and spend your time. Detour and Fieldtripper are free apps that use GPS to pinpoint where you are in the world and offer sightseeing info and self-guided tours.
LearnVest Planning Services is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of LearnVest, Inc., that provides financial plans for its clients. Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice. Please consult a financial adviser, attorney or tax specialist for advice specific to your financial situation. LearnVest Planning Services and any third parties listed, linked to or otherwise appearing in this message are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies. LearnVest, Inc., is wholly owned by NM Planning, LLC, a subsidiary of The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company.