There are times when booking things at the last minute, especially airfares, can cost you a fortune. On the flipside, sometimes leaving your travel plans to the last minute can save you money.
If you know where you want to go and what you want to do on your next holiday, or if you have specific plans in mind, then careful planning, timing and booking things early will most likely be your best course of action.
But for those of you who are a little more spontaneous, flexible and willing to take a gamble, watching out for last-minute travel deals can often be a lot less expensive than booking months in advance.
Most travel operators, including airlines, cruise lines, hotels and tours would prefer you to think that booking in advance is the only way to travel. But what happens when plane seats, cruise cabins and hotel rooms are left unfilled? They ‘fire sale’ them.
So how do you find these deals?
Your best friends online for finding cheap travel options are comparison sites. Try skyscanner.com.au for flights, flightcentre.com.au for flights, cruises and packages, momondo.com.au for flight deals, and expedia.com.au, wotif.com, hotels.com, kayak.com.au and lastminute.com.au for all sorts of holiday and travel packages. For cruisers, try cruiseoffers.com.au, cruiseguru.com.au and Flight Centre Cruise Specials.
You also need to be flexible with your dates. Look for departures on weekdays, late at night or early in the morning, and aim for dates way outside popular travel times: dates that don’t fall on public holidays, during summer or major events.
If you’re one to roll the dice on a destination, try momondo.com.au, enter the month you’d like to travel and select ‘anywhere’ in the region field, then look for the cheapest prices. It’s a fun way to plan a holiday and you could get a real steal if you’re prepared to be flexible.
Most airlines, cruise lines and hotel chains will also have last-minute deals on their websites, so if you like flying with Qantas, don’t be afraid to call a hotel directly and ask for the best deal on a room.
Discount sites such as scoopon.com.au, groupon.com.au, deals.com.au and livingsocial.com.au constantly offer great travel deals and sometimes you can use these deals as leverage. For luxury travellers, try secretescapes.com for cut-price rates on higher-end hotels, resorts and packages. Just quote the deal from one discount site when you call a hotel or resort directly and see if they’ll match it for you on a date that suits you.
Package tours are the best way to see a country for a lot less, because tour companies buy airfares and accommodation in bulk.
As cost-effective as some ‘flight plus accommodation packages’ can be, you may still be able to find them cheaper by booking them separately from different outlets or websites. Go back to your comparison sites, find the best deal on a flight and the best on a hotel, then see which is cheaper – the package or picking them up separately. Even better, use these rates and call the airline and the hotel directly, and see if they can match or beat these prices. You won’t know if you don’t ask.
And, as many of you know, each Saturday we feature the best domestic and international travel deals we can find, as well as heaps of ways to save on holidays and travel, so keep an eye on your inbox this weekend (and every weekend following)!
Do you have any tips for finding discount travel deals?