4. Call on a “virtual travel assistant” to do the searching for you. The Hipmunk site is a great source for travel steals. Its new “Hello Hipmunk” feature, which uses artificial intelligence, lets you email what you want (a quick getaway to Vegas, for instance). Within seconds, you’ll be given options for flights and hotels, with sassy commentary from a cartoon chipmunk in aviator goggles hauling a roll-aboard suitcase. “Vegas, Baby! … stress no more,” the Hipmunk replied when asked for flights from Washington, D.C., and hotels in early August. The lodging (Stratosphere hotel, $76 a night) and cheapest round trip ($268.38 on Spirit) were cheaper than on hotel and airline sites. Hipmunk then sends users to sites including JustFly and CheapoAir to book. It also ferrets out Airbnb rentals in your chosen destination.
5. Pay less for rental digs. Owners don’t want properties to sit vacant, so it’s possible to score lower last-minute rates via sites such as Airbnb, FlipKey, VRBO and HomeAway.com, where you deal directly with homeowners or property managers. Sometimes you needn’t negotiate: Sale rates for certain rentals are shown.
6. Bed down cheaply on an impromptu road trip. Have points in hotel loyalty programs? Book a free stay along the way. Or bid for low rates at Priceline.com to score a deal, though you won’t know the name of the property until you book. Priceline’s “Express Deals” don’t reveal the hotel, but also don’t require bidding. If extreme last-minute planning suits you, HotelTonight has access to unsold rooms and can put you into one cheaply the day you wish to stay. You can book up to a week before through its website or app.
7. Scope out a last-minute cruise. When ships don’t sell cabins, prices sink. Unfortunately, now that cruising is so popular, rock-bottom prices are scarcer. This summer, Alaska sailings sold out fast, says Travel Weekly. A reservationist at the CruiseDeals site said sailings everywhere now fill faster, so booking early is a smart move. She did find a seven-day Mediterranean cruise from Savona, Italy, in October on the Costa Pacifica for $392.60 a person, double occupancy, including taxes and fees. “Last Minute Cruise Deals” on the website are worth checking out.
8. Go one-stop shopping at Last Minute Travel. Whether seeking a vacation destination, flight, cruise, air and hotel package, or rental car, you’ll find it at the Last Minute Travel site. The website offers “Undercover Hotels” at rates below the norm (you won’t know the lodging name until you book). Join the Last Minute Travel Club for $50 a year to nab even lower prices; if you don’t save what you paid to join, you’ll get a promo code for discounts to make up the difference.
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