How to Plan a Last-Minute Summer Vacation

How to Plan a Last-Minute Summer Vacation

Maybe you put it off because you didn’t think you could swing a trip financially. Or it completely slipped your mind to make any vacation plans.

But that's the magic of summer: It’s never too late to get your travel on. As a personal finance blogger who hits the road as often as possible, let me assure you that you can have a total blast on a budget, no matter your planning timeline. Here's how.

Scour Last-Minute Booking Sites

When you're planning an on-the-fly getaway, use sites like lastminute and airfarewatchdog, which 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 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 flying in or out of a smaller airport than the big-city terminals might save you significantly, depending on your destination.

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

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 and offer sightseeing info and self-guided tours.

For road trips, GasBuddy is a great app to scout out cheap gas, and ScoutMob, an event and listings app, consistently has 50% off discounts for restaurant meals.

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