How to Plan the Perfect Last-Minute Vacation
So what if all your friends planned their summer getaways back when there was still snow on the ground? Being a late starter doesn't mean you're doomed to spending the rest of your summer puttering around at home and fantasizing about faraway beaches. In fact, leaving your summer travel plans for the last minute can actually be beneficial—surprising discounts on hotels, flights, and events are available to those who wait, and the pleasures of spontaneous travel can truly rekindle the spirit. If you're willing to be flexible and free-spirited, you can still whip up an inexpensive, hassle-free summer trip that goes well beyond what you could have planned in the first place. These 5 easy tips will help you whittle down a location, find the very best deals, and wind up your summer in style.
1. Embrace Spontaneity
It's easier to be open to new ideas and seize great deals if you approach your summer getaway with an attitude of spontaneity. Shedding your expectations and letting go of your sense of control might open you up to an amazing out-of-the-box trip that you never expected to take. Being flexible and open-minded will take you a long way—from home, that is.
2. Avoid Popular Tourist Spots & Holidays
If you wait until the last minute to plan your trip, top summer destinations are going to be expensive and already booked up, especially on weekends. TripAdvisor recently came out with its list of the USA's most popular summer tourism destinations, and at the top were Myrtle Beach, Las Vegas, New York City, Orlando, Virginia Beach, San Francisco, San Diego, and Key West. These cities, along with national parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Great Smoky Mountains, and the Grand Canyon, would be wise to avoid. But if you split from the flock, it'll be easy to find vacancies and great deals, not to mention a little peace.
3. Bookmark Last-Minute Travel Websites
When airlines and hotels have vacancies they just can't fill, they look to last-minute travel websites to offload airline tickets and hotel rooms at deep discounts. We've found these sites to be particularly useful:
Travelzoo.com offers cheap last-minute flights, hotel rooms, vacation packages, rental cars, cruises, and even concert tickets.
Fly.com has a "Today's Best Fares" page that allows you to select your home city and then shows you the cheapest domestic and international flights departing from that location.
VacationsToGo.com is packed with significant deals on last-minute cruises.
4. Take a Great American Road Trip
With no flight tickets, rental cars, or airport pick-ups to arrange, road trips can be the easiest type of vacation to plan. They allow you to be spontaneous, go well off the beaten path, and travel at your own pace.
The US is blessed with some of the most scenic highways in the world, and summer is the best time of year to enjoy them. Travel the Blue Ridge Parkway in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia; Hwy 101 through Oregon and California; Glacier National Park's Going to the Sun Road; Utah's Route 12; Minnesota's North Shore Drive; Louisiana's Great River Road between Baton Rouge and New Orleans; or New Mexico's High Road & Turquoise Trail from Taos to Albuquerque.
If a long-haul drive seems like too much time behind the wheel, consider a road trip in your area. See your home state through new eyes by picking a theme and building your own custom tour around it. Do a winery or brewery hop, visit your most scenic state parks, or plan a historical tour that takes in significant sites. It'll make well-trodden ground feel fresh and give you new insight into what's close to home.
5. Be Ready to Go
You won't be ready to snatch up that discount ticket to Toronto or Tulum in two days if you don't have your travel documents and gear ready to go. Make sure your passport is unexpired and that you have most of the travel supplies you need to take off at a moment's notice, so you're not left scrambling the day before you take off. After all, even the most spontaneous trip requires some planning. Bon voyage, and safe travels!