Here’s How to Score a Last-Minute Holiday Travel Deals

travel planning computer map
Budget holiday travel is almost an oxymoron. If you haven’t already planned your end-of-year vacation yet, you may think you’re out of luck — but, that’s not necessarily true. With the boom in ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit and WOW air, the big-name airlines are working harder than ever to stay competitive. That means there are still last-minute holiday travel deals to be had — if you know how to work the system.

Be Flexible

Holiday season or not, flexibility is always the key to finding the best travel deals. Consider flying when other travelers aren’t. This means a few days after the Christmas holiday or New Year’s Day. Flying midweek (say, Tuesday to Tuesday) is a good starting point, as most travelers prefer to build the weekend into their vacations. Also, the first and last flights of the day are often cheaper because, again, no one likes twilight or red-eye flights.

Head North (or Anywhere Cold)

If you’re open-minded about where exactly you should go for your Christmas vacation, consider heading north. More specifically: anywhere with a colder climate. Every able-bodied, holiday-going American and Canadian is flying south to sun, sand, and surf, and every destination in Mexico and the Caribbean is priced accordingly. If you’re willing to pack a few extra layers and brave the cold, non-ski destinations like Montreal and Paris can prove to be a solid budget options for a last-minute vacation.

Hack Your Fares

“Hacker fares” bundle two one-way tickets into a single round-trip itinerary. Often, each ticket is on a different airline (e.g., you’ll fly out on Delta, but return home on JetBlue) as this can be an invaluable tool for the savvy budget traveler. Kayak takes most of the guesswork out of the process by listing hacker fares within its default flight search.

Subscribe to Email Alerts

Many airlines offer the best deals to subscribers of their email alerts. Spirit, for example, sends out great airfare deals almost every week. Sites like Scott’s Cheap Flights, on the other hand, scour the web daily for last-minute and mistake fares that can prove absurdly cheap. A recent deal touted roundtrip flights from San Francisco to Bali for $364 (including tax), when the usual rate is north of $1,000.

Book Yesterday

You may have already missed out on the absolute best holiday air travel deals. However, the prices are only going up through the end of the year. On average, airfare increases between $4-7 per day after Thanksgiving, according to airfare-analysis app Hopper. So, if you’re ready, pull the trigger now.

Travel

You Can ‘Find Yourself’ on these Ultra-Luxurious, Wellness-Inspired Tours

It's so much easier to "find yourself" amid Egyptian cotton sheets and daily spa treatments.
Travel

How to Choose The Best Carry-On Luggage For Your Travel Style

Carry-on luggage is getting lighter, better, stronger — even smarter. Which suitcase is right for you?
Travel

21 Best Travel Books to Inspire Your Next Adventure

Get out of town ... or just go to the library. Travel books simulate the sensations of sailing, sightseeing, and setting out to explore.
Outdoors

The Best Cooking Gear for Car Camping and Backpacking

We’ve rounded up the best camping utensils and appliances to help you make the perfect meal right beside the truck or 20 miles from it.
Travel

‘App in the Air’ Could Help Travelers Survive the Next Government Shutdown

It's like an airport survival kit in your pocket. It will be handy long after the government shutdown ends (again).
Travel

The Palms Casino’s Newest High-Roller Suites Have a Bowling Alley and Whiskey Room

The Hardwood Suite is a basketball-centric masterpiece, while the Kingpin suite is a bowling bro's paradise.
Travel

10 Reasons to Visit Norway in 2019

The picturesque ruggedness of Norway is just part of the appeal of what may arguably be one of the most beautiful countries on the planet.
Travel

Celebrate Your Single-ness This Valentine’s Day with a Cheap Vacation

Contiki is looking to make solo celebrations even better with deeply discounted travel packages for Singles Awareness Day.
Travel

Win a Private Island Getaway for You and 7 of Your Closest Friends

Bring the entire squad on an ultra-luxe Belizean getaway worthy of a one-percenter.
Living

The Jamaican Villa Where Ian Fleming Created James Bond is for Rent and It Is Amazing

You can vacation at the birthplace of secret agent 007, complete with butlers to make your martinis.
Auto

PlugVan Converts Most Vans Into Full-Fledged Campers in 5 Minutes

Your van can be backcountry-ready for the weekend and back to work Monday morning.
Travel

Enjoy a Different Kind of Island Life at this Private Scottish Escape

Eilean Shona is a self-described, lakefront “Neverland” where visitors are encouraged to appreciate the lost art of sitting still and doing nothing.
Travel

Travel Switzerland Like a Gentleman Aboard the Luxury Glacier Express

You can sip cognac like a sophisticate aboard Europe's most iconic and breathtaking rail journey.
Living

Kickstarter, a Team of Designers, and a Determined Owner Brought the Jennings Hotel Back to Life

The Jennings Hotel is the hotel that isn’t. It doesn’t offer food service. It doesn’t have a lobby. It doesn’t have televisions. And not all of the rooms have private bathrooms.