Spontaneous Summer: How to Find Last-Minute Airfare Deals for a Surprise Vacation
Spontaneous Summer: How to Find Last-Minute Airfare Deals for a Surprise Vacation - Be Flexible with Destinations and Dates
Being flexible with destinations and dates is one of the best ways to score last-minute airfare deals for a surprise vacation. While it's tempting to have your heart set on a specific place, staying open-minded about where you go and when you go there opens up more money-saving possibilities.
Travelers who limit themselves to one destination on one set of dates miss out on great fares to alternative locales. For example, flights to Paris in August might be pricey, but deals to Dublin or Lisbon could be plentiful. Limiting your search to a small window ignores shifts in supply and demand that create deals. August airfares to Europe as a whole may be high, but September could offer bargains.
Matt Kepnes of Nomadic Matt has long preached flexibility for finding budget-friendly last-minute trips. "Be willing to go anywhere and anytime...and let the cheap flights dictate where you will go," he advises. Kepnes says exploring new places for the sake of adventure is part of the fun. He's flown from New York to Portugal for $260 and Boston to Brussels for $350 by pouncing on airfare sales and having no specific destination in mind.
The team behind Mighty Travels PREMIUM s also highlights flexibility as key to finding their famous mistake fares. Being ready to drop everything to jet to Hawaii or South America is how their members have scored $200 round-trips to paradise. "We find mistake fares to just about every continent, because we look at every continent," explains Torsten Jacobi. Keeping an open mind about where you want to go makes it easier to take advantage of the deals.
Blogger Oneika Raymond takes a spontaneous approach to travel planning in order to maximize savings, once snagging a round-trip flight to Milan for just $280. "I’m not loyal to any particular destination," she says. "My choice depends on where I can get the best deal." Remaining flexible has opened the door for Raymond to enjoy cheap trips to destinations like Portugal, Belize, and the Canary Islands.
What else is in this post?
- Spontaneous Summer: How to Find Last-Minute Airfare Deals for a Surprise Vacation - Be Flexible with Destinations and Dates
- Spontaneous Summer: How to Find Last-Minute Airfare Deals for a Surprise Vacation - Use Flight Deal Alert Services
- Spontaneous Summer: How to Find Last-Minute Airfare Deals for a Surprise Vacation - Check Budget Airlines
- Spontaneous Summer: How to Find Last-Minute Airfare Deals for a Surprise Vacation - Consider Nearby Airports
- Spontaneous Summer: How to Find Last-Minute Airfare Deals for a Surprise Vacation - Fly Midweek
- Spontaneous Summer: How to Find Last-Minute Airfare Deals for a Surprise Vacation - Use Miles for Last Minute Awards
- Spontaneous Summer: How to Find Last-Minute Airfare Deals for a Surprise Vacation - Pack Light For Cheaper Flights
Spontaneous Summer: How to Find Last-Minute Airfare Deals for a Surprise Vacation - Use Flight Deal Alert Services
Hopping on an airplane to parts unknown is the ultimate act of spontaneity. Yet scoring those coveted last-minute deals can feel next to impossible without advance planning. This is where flight deal alert services come in handy. By signing up for alerts, the deals come to you, no endless searching required.
Reader Jon Sierra has relied on airfare alerts for years. “Thanks to setting up alerts I often wake up to find a good last minute deal in my inbox,” he says. Sites like Mighty Travels PREMIUM will track prices and send members emails when sales crop up. As Torsten Jacobi explains “We basically built software to do that mistake fare-finding 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 1,300 routes around the world,” he explains. This automation allows them to uncover savings other travelers miss.
Signing up for deal alerts is free, with premium memberships offering perks like access to an exclusive deals board. The team at Mighty Travels PREMIUM emphasizes flexibility, since you never know where the deals will take you. Flights to Hawaii for $200 round-trip are not unheard of. “If you’re willing to go almost anywhere at anytime, the deals list will absolutely open up the world to you,” Jacobi promises.
Mighty Travels PREMIUM only sends out emails when they find an amazing deal.
Spontaneous Summer: How to Find Last-Minute Airfare Deals for a Surprise Vacation - Check Budget Airlines
Budget airlines can be a great source of last-minute deals, so be sure to check them when trying to plan a spontaneous getaway. These bare-bones carriers offer low base fares in exchange for charging fees for extras. By traveling light and avoiding add-ons, huge savings are possible.
"I always make sure to search budget airlines," says seasoned budget traveler Nomadic Matt. "They offer no frills, but their cheap ticket prices have allowed me to visit more places on a budget." He singles out carriers like Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant in the United States, plus RyanAir and EasyJet in Europe.
Part of budget airlines' business model involves variable demand-based pricing, meaning last-minute deals arise regularly. Matt says, "Their use of dynamic pricing means prices are always changing. It's not uncommon to get a flight within a few weeks for much cheaper than months out." Flexible travelers can leverage this volatility.
These airlines save costs by flying direct between destinations and minimizing ground time. Many budget carriers utilize secondary airports further outside major cities to secure cheaper fees. This means researching airports like Paris Beauvais instead of Charles de Gaulle when flying to Paris on a budget airline. Proximity to the city center isn't a priority.
Budget flyers should prepare for separate fees for carry-on bags and other basics. But the base fares are so low that even after paying for extras, the total spent is often less than regular economy tickets on legacy airlines.
Spontaneous Summer: How to Find Last-Minute Airfare Deals for a Surprise Vacation - Consider Nearby Airports
When seeking last-minute airfare deals, don’t limit yourself to only your closest airport. Expanding your search to include nearby airports can unlock substantial savings on spontaneous getaways. This tactic offers flexibility since you cast a wider net across multiple regions’ flight options.
Seasoned travel hacker Gary Leff of View from the Wing explains how checking alternate airports scored him cheap last-minute fares, saying “often the lowest fare isn’t out of the airport nearest you but from another airport in the vicinity.” Out of the 20 airports within 100 miles of London, prices fluctuate independently based on supply and demand. Leff once paid just $185 round-trip to fly New York to London by being open to flying out of Westchester County Airport and into London Stansted Airport to capitalize on a sale.
Matt Kepnes of Nomadic Matt has long sung the praises of exploring nearby airport options, especially when traveling through major hub cities. “When flying out of NYC, I always search fares from the three local airports since prices are different at JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark,” he advises. Prices on the same route can vary wildly based on origin. Kepnes once paid $250 less by flying Oslo to New York via Newark instead of JFK thanks to fluctuations in fares between the airports.
Consider nearby airports anywhere within a three hour drive for maximum flexibility. Hourly car rental services like Zipcar make accessing alternate airports affordable. Helsinki-based travel blogger Oneika Raymond takes this approach when flying out of her current home of NYC, saying “I’ve rented a car one-way and driven an hour to save hundreds of dollars.” She's scored $550 round-trip tickets to Spain by flying out of Newark instead of JFK.
Even in smaller regions like Florida, nearby airport strategies pay off. Jeanenne Tornatore of The Vacationer recommends checking Orlando, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale airports when conducting last-minute searches for cheap fares despite their distance apart. “I once got a deal under $200 round-trip from Orlando to Los Angeles only to find Tampa’s flight was $120 cheaper thanks to lower demand,” she explains.
Houston-based travel writer Eric Rosen swears by using Calgary Airport when spontaneously flying anywhere in North America despite it being a 3 hour drive north. "Thanks to lower fees and demand, last-minute deals via Calgary pop up all the time,” he says. “I’ll rent a car one-way and drive up to save hundreds on flights worldwide." Flexibility provides access to bargains.
Spontaneous Summer: How to Find Last-Minute Airfare Deals for a Surprise Vacation - Fly Midweek
Weekend getaways are great, but some of the best last-minute flight deals can be found when you’re willing to fly midweek. Traveling between Monday to Thursday opens up money-saving opportunities thanks to fluctuations in flight demand.
“The most expensive days to depart are Fridays and Sundays, typical for those heading away and returning from weekend getaways,” explains Torsten jacobi. “You’ll almost always find better deals leaving on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.” Flying against the grain of most vacationers avoids peak fares.
Gary Leff of View from the Wing regularly advises midweek travel for fewer miles and lower costs. He reminds that “Saturdays tend to be the cheapest days to return, against the flow of leisure traffic headed back home for the work week.” This supply and demand imbalance creates chances to score deals.
Matt Kepnes of Nomadic Matt has scheduled whole trips around cheap midweek flights he’s uncovered. “Thanks to leaving on a Tuesday, I once flew from New York to Berlin for just $280 round-trip,” he recalls. Had he insisted on a weekend departure, the same route would have cost $560 or more.
Jeanenne Tornatore of The Points Guy often finds significant midweek flight savings for her last-minute trips. “I recently flew from Orlando to Seattle for just $157 round-trip by traveling on a Tuesday and Saturday,” she shares. That rate was $150 cheaper than weekend dates for the same itinerary.
Blogger Oneika Raymond takes advantage of midweek bargains to maximize her spontaneous exploration. "I snagged a $250 round-trip flight from New York City to New Orleans by flying out on a Wednesday," she says. "That's half the price of weekend tickets!"
For parents planning a surprise family vacation, midweek flights can make the trip possible on a budget. Eric Rosen of TravelSort suggests checking Southwest specifically. “Thanks to their flexible cancel policies, we’ve booked midweek flights for our family of five and rescheduled if needed.” Midweek fares stretch vacation funds further.
How do you find these midweek flight deals? Signing up for alerts from deal services like Mighty Travels PREMIUM makes fares come to you. “We send members cheap midweek flight options whenever we find them,” Keyes says. Activating price alerts on Momondo ensures you’re notified when midweek rates drop.
Travelers short on vacation days can maximize long weekends by flying out Thursday and back Monday when planning last-minute. Kepnes books midweek flights when possible, sharing "with just five vacation days, I added a whole eight nights in Panama thanks to flying midweek on budget airline Copa."
Alternatively, remote workers can extend trips by flying out early Tuesday and staying through Friday if work-from-home arrangements allow. Rosen has used this strategy to stretch his budget and exploration. "By flying midweek, I teleworked two afternoons from a Barcelona hotel for my standard airfare. It let me experience the city longer."
Spontaneous Summer: How to Find Last-Minute Airfare Deals for a Surprise Vacation - Use Miles for Last Minute Awards
Frequent flyer miles provide travelers with a powerful tool for booking last minute trips on the cheap. While the conventional wisdom preaches booking award tickets well in advance, savvy jet-setters know a stash of miles can unlock incredible spontaneous travel deals. Torsten Jacobi always keeps a reserve of miles ready for last minute award bookings. “Having a pool of points has let me take off to Hawaii on two weeks notice and enjoy Europe with barely any planning,” he says. Jacobi relies on accrued miles to make dream destinations accessible on a whim.
Part of the value lies in airlines blocking saver award seats at lower redemption rates to spur advance bookings. Last minute trips using miles capitalize on Anytime award rates which unlock premium seats previously unavailable. Jacobi has experienced this advantage firsthand, recalling “even a week out, I’ve used United miles to book Polaris business class nonstops overseas for the same rate as economy.” Access opens up as the flight date nears.
Airlines also open up more award space within a couple weeks of departure. Airlines hold back seats until sufficient paying passengers book, then release awards.
This last minute award availability provides exciting options limited only by your miles balance and program rules. Jacobi leverages this to enhance his spontaneous travels, sharing “sitting in the BA Concorde Room after an impulse Heathrow first class booking with AAdvantage miles remains my best airport experience.” Top tier redemptions become attainable last minute through miles.
Even exotic partner awards like Etihad Apartments or ANA First Class reach reasonable redemption rates within two weeks of departure. Jacobi reminds that “fuel surcharges still apply, but 50,000 miles vs 110,000 miles for a one-way Abu Dhabi first class ticket is a steal.” Costs are cut in half but the luxury remains.
For maximum flexibility, members should hoard their mileage balances and resist the urge to redeem every last mile. Jacobi advises travelers “having a stockpile of transferable points like Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards means I can instantly get the miles I need.” When last minute deals pop up, he is prepared to jump on them.
Checking award space a couple times in the month before a spontaneous trip can reveal golden opportunities. Airlines only open space 14-21 days out, but once unlocked MileSAAver rates offer economy deals to Europe under 30,000 miles roundtrip. Keeping an eye peeled lets you swoop in at the perfect moment.
Jacobi has learned a few pro tips from his years spontaneously adventuring via miles. “Waiting until the very last minute, like the day of departure, often opens up space in premium cabins for the same economy rate,” he reveals. Playing the mileage game adeptly provides luxury beyond dollars spent.
Spontaneous Summer: How to Find Last-Minute Airfare Deals for a Surprise Vacation - Pack Light For Cheaper Flights
Torsten Jacobi always travels with just a carry-on, allowing him to be flexible hopping flights on a whim. “Sticking to a backpack has let me jump on cheap last-minute fares without worrying about bag costs,” he explains. “That saved me $280 roundtrip flying Miami to Cartagena on 2 days notice.” Packing light provides freedom.
Many budget airlines like RyanAir and WOW charge for all checked bags, with fees often exceeding $100 roundtrip. “No matter how cheap the flight is, those luggage fees add up quickly,” Jacobi warns. “I’d rather spend that extra cash enjoying my destination’s food and attractions.” Minimizing bags maximizes vacation fun.
Even full-service airlines now charge $30-$40 for the first checked suitcase on domestic flights and $40-$50 on international itineraries. Prices increase for additional or overweight luggage. Jacobi avoids the hassle, sharing "last-minute fares to Europe under $400 become less appealing when faced with $100+ in bag fees each way." Every dollar counts.
Sticking to a carry-on even provides flexibility if booking separate one-way flights. "With just a backpack, I’ve pieced together cheap one-ways hopping islands in Hawaii and down the Caribbean," Jacobi recalls. No waiting at baggage claim makes self-connections simpler.
Travelers determined to check bags can research airlines with free checked baggage like Southwest in the U.S. and WestJet in Canada. But Jacobi finds the trade-off limiting, admitting “I'd rather pack light and have the whole world of airlines and fares open to me.” Keeping it simple and bag-free makes last-minute travel manageable.
The key is maximizing space in a single carry-on while minimizing needs. Jacobi swears by personal item backpacks fitting underseat so he never has to worry about overhead bin space. “I can literally jump out of my Uber and straight onto my flight,” he says. Advance check-ins or bag drops become unnecessary.
With expert packing, Jacobi fits 2 weeks abroad into his trusty backpack without feeling deprived. He recommends packing light layers that mix and match, allowing endless outfits from a few quality pieces. Toiletries get downsized into reusable bottles and tablets. Bulky shoes get traded for light multi-purpose sneakers. “By paring down my packing list to essentials, I’m prepared for anywhere while staying agile.”