- I’ve been living and working abroad for almost three years, and I always book my travel last-minute.
- Waiting until the last minute to book your flights and housing can save you money if you know the best strategies.
- Here are 12 of my best tips for booking travel at the last minute.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In 2016, in an effort to get away from the bustle and noise of big-city life, I accepted a job taking care of goats at a remote home in the Swiss Alps, nothing but mountains and silence around.
The only catch? I had just over a week to get there.
When you book travel last minute, it means you need to get creative and become more than a little flexible with your plans.
For me, the cheapest option was to take a series of three flights from Chicago to Boston to Iceland to Paris, and then finally taking a train to Switzerland.
In essence, it cost me under $400 to leave the US and start a new life abroad, and ach form of transportation was booked last-minute. Now, I’ve been living a nomadic life for two and a half years and I continue to book everything from flights to housing in the same way.
With that in mind, here are my best tips for booking travel at the last minute, so you’ll never have to plan a trip in advance again.
If you’re flying in the US, use Southwest
Southwest mainly flies within the US and neighboring countries, such as Mexico.
Southwest’s Low Fare Calendar is great for last-minute travel. Let’s say you see a flight from LA to Chicago for $99. A few minutes later, it goes up to $150 — but don’t panic. Just keep refreshing your browser every few minutes — and also try your search from an incognito window. Clearing your cache and cookies will help, too.
And, 9.9 times out of 10, a flight will become available again for the $99. If not, you can get the $150 one in the meantime and when you see the $99 pop up again, exchange it for that for no fee. You’ll get the remaining $51 as a flight credit that’s good for a year.
Also, if you don’t check into your flight and suddenly cannot take it, you can cancel it even up to 10 minutes beforehand. And, yes, you’ll get a flight credit to use within a year. You can also get a monetary refund if you cancel a flight within 24 hours of booking it.
Plus, the fact that you can check two bags for free when taking Southwest is a big bonus — especially with higher-priced baggage fees these days.
Cross-reference your cheap flights with Expedia.
In the US, I often cross-reference Southwest prices with Expedia ones. The latter, too, allows you to cancel your flight within 24 hours for no fee. You’ll get a full refund, no questions asked.
If you use Expedia abroad, however, this is not always possible due to various airlines’ restrictions. So be more cognizant before booking and call Expedia to see how much of the flight you’ll be refunded should you cancel.
Use Skyscanner if you are flexible in your travel times and your destination
The travel fare aggregator site Skyscanner is a last-minute traveler’s dream come true. Not only can you select "Whole Month" if you want to see the cheapest prices all at once from month-to-month, but if you aren’t sure where to go, you can choose "Everywhere" and then go from there.
Like my experience taking three planes and a train to get to Switzerland, you may find, it’s cheaper to combine modes of transportation to get to your destination rather than taking a single direct flight.
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