It seems like ‘last-minute travel’ and ‘saving money’ go together like hangovers and Mondays. But it’s possible to get out of town without blowing the savings account you’ve been working on for months.
A little research time upfront can pay off later. For your bank account and your stress levels. Here’s how to GTFO, guilt-free.
Hack your hotel res. Travel insiders say booking a separate reservation for each night could save you money. Hotel rates usually fluctuate throughout the week, and some smaller or boutique brands stick you with the highest rate for your whole stay. Hitting ‘confirm reservation’ a few different times could swerve that. You might have to switch rooms, though, so do some math to decide if it’s worth the trouble.
Reward yourself. If you’re a ride-or-die for a certain airline, hotel chain, or rental car brand, try cashing in some loyalty points to offset higher, last-minute prices. Even better if you’ve got transferable points — from Amex, Chase, Citi, Capital One, or Marriott Bonvoy — to burn. These give you the flexibility to redeem points for dozens of airlines instead of just one. Speaking of members-only benefits...most credit card companies have a portal — fancy word for a booking engine for cardholders — that offer travel discounts, upgrades, or other perks. Log in, find out.
Give up the star treatment. A little inconvenience can put some money back in your wallet. We’re talking off-hours flights (hi, red eye), alternative airports (think: Long Beach, not LAX; Westchester, not JFK), and non-direct flights instead of straight shots. More money for room service later.
Kick back in a lounge. One way to make a long layover less painful: buy a day pass to an airline lounge. They usually go for $35-$50. But it can be worth it if you’re there long enough to indulge in a free drink (or two) or meal anywhere else at the airport. You might even be able to find a second-hand pass online for more than 50% off. Just read the fine print to make sure the pass isn’t expired and you’re buying from a verified seller.
Got it. Anything else?
If you’ve spent a little more than usual on just getting there, look for free or cheap fun once you’re officially OOO. Beaches, museums, outdoor festivals...you get it. Free walking tours can also be a fun way to get the lay of a new land. Don’t forget to tip your guide.
When you gotta go, you gotta go. Save where you can by booking smart. Then mind any (budget) gaps once you’re there by finding some freebies. So that after you come home, you can just focus on hitting ‘inbox zero.’ Not ‘credit card zero.’