15 Hacks for Booking Last-Minute Summer Vacation Deals Slideshow

Summer's almost over, but it's not too late to squeeze in a budget-friendly vacation
Beach tote and hat on shore
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15 Hacks for Booking Last-Minute Summer Vacation Deals

15 Hacks for Booking Last-Minute Summer Vacation Deals

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Summer is nearing its end, so now is the time to take advantage of the sun for your vacation days. Of course, last-minute planning limits your options, which can be a challenge when your wallet is already thin.

There are ways, however, to find good deals at the last minute. Remember that accommodations don’t have to be limited to hotels, and expanding your search to multiple airlines and airports helps, too. Your credit card company may also be able to help, as can different apps and websites dedicated to helping you spare your wallet. Believe it or not, you can also sometimes get free food or places to stay by helping out locals! Travel can involve a lot of planning, but it doesn’t have to be hard or stressful. Here are some creative tips for saving time as well as money for your last-minute travel plans.

Book Something Atypical for Summer

Book Something Atypical for Summer
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While everyone else is headed to the beach or parks, why not go off the beaten path? Typically winter destinations, such as ski resorts, have cheaper rates during warmer weather. There are also certain destinations, such as Canada, the Caribbean, and the Scandinavian countries, which are typically very budget-friendly in the summer. You can also check out the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s actually winter time!

Check Your Credit Card Benefits

Most major credit card companies have a reward system that allows you to earn discounts and rewards towards flights and hotels, sometimes specific chains depending on which card you have. You can even get entire nights or upgrades for free, as well as complimentary meals. Sometimes booking flights through your credit card company’s portal gets you even more savings either through a discount or a bonus that you can redeem for gift cards, cash, or future trips. Using the right cards while on vacation can also get you travel protection, free checked bags, good exchange rates, and, of course, more reward points. According to WalletHub, you can save up to nine percent while traveling internationally — and domestically, your credit card could give you as much as another $625 to spend.

Don’t Buy a Travel Package

When you buy a travel package, you’re saving time, but you’re not always saving money. Because you’re paying for convenience more than anything, buying a whole package is often more expensive than just purchasing all the flights and accommodations separately.

Fly Foreign

Fly Foreign
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Where possible, check to see if a foreign airline is taking your desired route. Many of them are expanding business in North America, and a whole host of discount carriers are popping up too. Not only do they give you more variety, but you also can sometimes get better deals or better perks such as free blankets and pillows, newspapers, more food and drinks, and hot towels — even in coach.

Go at the Very End of Summer

One of the reasons summer tends to be an expensive period for travel is that it’s a popular time for families with school-age children and college students. That means fewer crowds too. If you go at the tail end of August or beginning of September, however, demand will be down and so will prices. You should keep this in mind for next summer, too — the same holds true for the start of summer, in late May and early June.

Have One or More Layover

Trips with connecting flights can sometimes be much cheaper than flying non-stop. There’s also the added benefit of being able to add another city to your itinerary, so consider a layover of 24 hours or more if you have the time.

Housesit for a Local

You can get free accommodations and even free food in exchange for watching someone’s house and/or pets! Websites like TrustedHousesitters and MindMyHouse charge you a fee, but it will soon pay for itself.

Look for One-Way Flights to and From Every Airport in Your Departure and Arrival Locations

One-way tickets can sometimes be cheaper than round-trip, so look through your options. You might end up on different airlines both ways, but that has the advantage of giving you arrival and departure times better suited to your needs. You can also book open-jaw tickets — tickets for different origin and/or destination cities.

Rent a Vacation Home

Rather than booking your stay at a hotel, save up to 50 percent — more if you travel in a bigger group — by renting a home or apartment through services such as AirBnB, VRBO, or HomeAway. Unlike booking a hotel, renting a vacation home also offers you the ability to negotiate price and arrival and departure times with the manager of the property, saving you even more money. This is a great way to experience the area like a local, and you’ll save on more than just accommodations too. According to Time, grocery prices went down last year while restaurant prices went up, so you can save by cooking and eating some of your meals (such as breakfast) in your rental instead of a restaurant. Access to laundry on the premises is also a possibility, meaning you won’t have to pack as many clothes.

Schedule Your Departure or Arrival on a Holiday

Schedule Your Departure or Arrival on a Holiday
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The best time to get a good deal for summer holidays is on the actual day of the holiday. If you need to be at your destination before then, however, the next best deal would be flying in the Sunday before and flying out the very next day after. You can do this for Labor Day weekend, but keep this tip in mind for next year when you’re making Independence Day plans.

Stay Outside Big Cities

Stay Outside Big Cities
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Cities are expensive. One night’s stay can often cause a couple hundred dollars or more. If you stay somewhere even just 20 or 30 minutes away on the outskirts, however, you can often save more than half on accommodation and even food, if you so choose.

Travel Overnight

Travel Overnight
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When you book a sleeper car on an overnight train or take an overnight flight, that’s one night of accommodations you don’t have to pay for — two if you do it both ways, and even more if you’re hitting multiple cities. Plus, when you’re already rested from your trip, you can hit the ground running once you arrive.

Turn On Private Browsing

Those sneaky travel websites often plant cookies on your computer that enable them to increase flight prices every time you come back to check on them. They don't all do this, but to avoid the possibility, turn on your incognito mode before browsing or clear your cache first.

Use Coupon Apps or Websites

Use Coupon Apps or Websites
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Not only can you find discounted tickets and hotel stays through sites like Groupon, Living Social, and Coupon Sherpa, you can also find discounts on local attractions, as well as food and drink. We also recommend looking up promo codes online before you book anything.

WWOOF

WWOOF, or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is a federation of organizations that give you the opportunity to work on a farm in exchange for food and accommodation. WOOFers, as their volunteers are called, sign up for the national organization in the country they want to visit and pay an annual membership fee of around $30 per country. There are 99 countries that participate in WOOF, so your options are extensive.