Want to plan a last-minute vacation? Timing and flexibility are key to scoring the best deals in prime travel destinations. We asked Travelzoo Senior Editor Gabe Saglie to share his insider tips on planning a last-minute family getaway.
Buy tickets on Tuesday
Each Tuesday major airlines such as United and American issue last-minute specials for travel that weekend. If you live near one of those airline hubs, these can offer good savings on a last-minute trip. “Book fast,” says Saglie. “They disappear quick.”
Check in 24 hours before flight
Of course the earlier you book a flight, the better your chances at getting the seating you want. If that’s simply not possible due to last-minute travel, Saglie says the next best thing is checking in for your flight as close to 24 hours before as possible “since this is when previously blacked-out seats (and preferred seats, like aisles and bulkhead) get released.”
Ask airlines and hotels for cancellation policies, and use them if needed to avoid incurring charges due to travel changes. Experienced parents know that having kids means plans are prone to changes.
When flying with kids, it’s easy to overpack. Be warned, says Saglie, that those baggage fees can add up. “Pack light and, instead, go with as many carry-ons as possible. If you get little kids their own kid-sized roller bag, they can even help.”
Snag last-minute savings
Take advantage of last minute savings and “Let the deal pick your destination,” says Saglie. “Sometimes incredible last-minute savings are available; keep an eye out for these through email newsletters (like Travelzoo’s Top 20) and social media.”
Look into family-friendly all-inclusive resorts in places like Mexico and the Caribbean. Since all meals and activities are included, there’s great value to be found. If you’re traveling during summer or early fall (hurricane season), travel insurance (which can tack on an extra seven to 10 percent of your package costs to your trip) might be a smart consideration, depending on travel location.
Make it a staycation
If an exotic vacation isn’t in the budget, look into locals-only or resident-exclusive bargains at theme parks and hotels. Saglie says Travelzoo’s mobile app is a great tool for finding deals when planning activities either before the trip or once on the ground.
When booking a room, research hotels with spacious accommodations. Suites are always a great choice when sharing a room with kids. Look for hotels offering free breakfast or kids-eat-free incentives and plenty of kid-friendly on-site amenities (pools, water slides, kids’ clubs, etc.). Keep the kids’ interests in mind, and get them involved in choosing activities. It’s never too early to teach your kids how to do a little travel research, road trip planning and budgeting!