Get a Good Deal on a Last-Minute Getaway

February and March leave most people with a bit of cabin fever. The festivity and cheerfulness of the holidays are long over, and, for many of us, frigid temperatures and gray skies remain. Even if you live in a locale where the weather is relatively mild, there’s just something dull and dragging about this late-season slump.

A last-minute weekend getaway is a popular way to beat the winter blues. And you can make it happen without breaking the bank. Here are some things to consider when you’re looking for a good deal on a last-minute getaway:

It’s About the Journey, Not the Destination

Often, wanting to get away last minute is more about the “getting away” than it is where you end up. That can work to your advantage. Lots of websites publish last-minute deals to cities and destinations you wouldn’t have considered otherwise. Head into your search with general ideas of what you’re after from the getaway – sunshine, activity, solitude, romance, adventure, culture – and let that guide your decisions instead of any particular city, state, country or coast.

Google It

Start with the basics. Search “last minute travel deals” and you’ll find a host of sites, services and apps dedicated to just that. Some, like lastminute.com and lastminutetravel.com, are self-explanatory. Others, like the “Deals” tab of Orbitz offer tonight-only deals on hotels, flights and rental cars.

Keep an Open Mind

You can find some of the best last-minute lodging deals if you’re willing to forgo a bit of control. Travel aggregation sites like Priceline, Travelocity, Expedia and Hotwire offer “secret” hotel deals at drastically reduced rates. They’ll tell you the star rating, general location and regular price for the room (and in some cases will even show you the Tripadvisor rating), but not the name of the hotel. However, some frequent travelers say that it’s often possible to figure out which secret hotel you’re about to book with a bit of sleuthing and cross-referencing.

Consider Off-Peak

Especially in the winter, it’s tempting to book a trip somewhere tropical, and to take as few days off work as possible. But if your ultimate goal is to save money, consider flying to a destination that is in its off season (so hotel and activity rates are lower) and flying in and out on off-peak days. According to experts, those days are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Don’t Forget the Details

Even if a travel deal site claims you’re about to miss out on a deal, don’t book too quickly. Consider all aspects of what you’re signing up for before you click. If a cheap non-refundable flight lands at an airport that’s a 90-minute cab ride to the city and the only available hotel rates are astronomical, any money you saved on the flight will disappear in a flash.  

Go Straight to the Source

The best last-minute deals are often found as packages, but not always. Hotels and airlines frequently keep their best deals close to the vest, so visit their websites and compare the deals there with the packages available elsewhere. This tip is especially valuable if you don’t need every piece of a package – like if you plan to use public transportation on your trip instead of renting a car.

Get Offline

If you’ve tried all the websites and apps and still aren’t finding the deals you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. The front desk staff at hotels are often able to offer deals and upgrades that aren’t available on the internet. Airbnb hosts may be willing to offer private last-minute discounts to avoid vacant rental properties.

Bon voyage to you and the winter blues!

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