Contrary to popular belief, the early bird does not always get the worm. At least not as far as last-minute sell-off vacations are concerned. These generally occur when an airline, cruise ship or hotel has open bookings in the near future and wants to fill them, even at a discounted price. You can book these vacations yourself or through a packager. Below are tips on finding sell-off vacations and ensuring that you get the most for your money.
1. Do Your Homework
You need to be familiar with travel prices in general so you can spot a deal when it comes up. You also need to know about high (expensive) and low (inexpensive) seasons in different destinations. To stay in the loop, sign up for newsletters and deal alerts emailed out by airlines, hotel chains, tourist boards and online travel sites. Use social networks as well. Twitter, for instance, is loaded with last-minute deals; search for popular hashtags such as #TravelTuesday.
2. Be Flexible
There's a catch to getting last-minute travel deals: You must be flexible or even spontaneous, especially when you book using websites that specialize in sell-off vacations. Being open to traveling somewhere that isn't necessarily on your list will open doors to some great deals. So will being open about when you can travel — the season, the day of the week, and the time of day. For instance, the cheapest flights are early in the morning and late at night — and on Tuesday and Wednesday. The most expensive flights are Friday and Sunday.
3. Consider Several Options
Rather than just researching airfare and hotel separately, look into packages or even all-inclusive vacations. Also, consider vacation rentals. Not only can you get more for your money (an entire house, perhaps, for what a hotel stay would cost), but property owners get nervous if they aren't fully booked, and this can lead to some great deals. If there are limited or no bookings on a property's website calendar a couple weeks out, email the owner to see if he or she is willing to negotiate on rates. If a place is fully booked, don't despair. Ask the owner to put you on a cancellation list; if someone backs out, you'll probably be able to get a reduced rate.