While I typically believe that planning is the best way to save money, there are some very easy ways to save on a last minute vacation.
Have you ever found yourself wishing you would have taken that trip or vacation? I’m usually a planner but sometimes I realize that a last minute vacation is an amazing break from the every day.
Last summer we picked up one of the kids from camp and whisked her away to a local hotel for some special time for her with mom and dad. She loved it, we loved it, and we were able to do it without going broke!
Ways to Save on a Last Minute Vacation
A road trip can be an inexpensive vacation option that is great for last-minute planners. Planning a day trip in a nearby state/city or discovering what’s in your own backyard can save a lot of money on travel expenses.
If driving through unfamiliar cities or areas, be sure to use an app like GasBuddy on your mobile device, which will show you the most affordable gas prices as you drive.
Remember if you are staying local, many attractions have discounts for residents. We rarely pay full price in our city!
Keep in mind that prices are highest 2-3 weeks in advance, so for last-minute airfare you can be at the mercy of the airlines when it comes to pricing.
If you have some flexibility, you may want to travel on a Tuesday or Wednesday, as mid-week flight prices are generally lower, but keep an eye out for special promotions and sales.
Hotels provide last-minute deals on unsold rooms, with discounts up to 70%. Hotel Tonight shares new deals each day at noon for dozens of cities, and you book the deals easily and securely on your smartphone.
A few years ago I was in Canada on a spur of the moment trip with my friend Heidi St. John. I used the Hotel Tonight app to score a room in a luxury hotel for around $150! That was a huge savings.
If you live near a cruise port, you may be able to snag some amazing deals on last minute cruise vacations. As the departure date draws closer, cruise lines cut their rooms by up to 80%.
A few years ago we were able to take a 4-day cruise for around $200 per person by booking about one week out.
Collecting points via loyalty cards or credit cards is something I’m not great at, but many of my friends literally travel for free due to travel hacking.
Since for many years we didn’t have any credit cards, we were not able to take advantage of these offers, but today we have the Southwest credit card.
The card allows us to earn miles on Southwest and last summer I was able to fly my entire family (ALL NINE OF US!) for free to our vacation destination.
When my husband traveled frequently for work he always stayed at the same hotel. He joined their loyalty program and collected rewards for his stays. For about four years after he stopped that job we were able to stay for free as a family on every trip.
You don’t need a credit card to sign up for hotel or airlines loyalty program and usually you can take your work travel and turn those perks into free nights for personal travel.
Usually points can be redeemed at the very last minute, helping you save on a last minute vacation.
Food & Entertainment
Look online for coupons to local venues, restaurants and more. You can also check out the daily deal sites for your city of destination to secure some discount vouchers for local events and eateries.
Another way to save on food when taking a last minute vacation is to pack your own snacks. We often take a cooler and tote bag full of snacks for the kids to avoid paying a premium at hotel convenience stores or mini marts.
You can also cut your dining bill significantly by finding places where kids eat free, or eating during “happy hour” when appetizers are usually 1/2 off.
The easiest way to save on a last minute vacation is to be flexible. If you have your heart set on visiting North Carolina a specific week in October, your biggest savings will come by planning ahead.
However if you are willing to go “anywhere” you can find great last minute deals as especially hotels and cruises slash their prices in order to fill rooms.
Are you “planning” any last-minute vacations this year? Or are you a planner-personality that wouldn’t dream of throwing something together last-minute? Regardless of timing or amount of planning, do you have any additional tips to save money on vacation? Please share!