7 Tips for Finding Last-Minute Summer Travel Deals

Summer is half-way over: if this has come as a shock to you, it’s time to book a vacation! Last-minute summer travel deals can be had if you know where to look. Find time on the calendar (preferably during the week) and hit the internet to find a deal for July or August. Before you know it, you’ll be sipping a tropical drink or hitting the links.

last-minute travel deals

1. Book directly through resort and airline websites. Destinations and airlines list exclusive deals directly on their own sites, so don’t overlook this avenue to savings. Even if nothing is advertised, the chances of snagging a deal directly through a resort website are high: simply ask if they have any promotion they can give you. Usually, the answer is yes, and even if not, upgrades upon check-in are common. Resorts like to be loyal to customers who book directly with them instead of booking sites.

2. Check destination and tourism center websites and social media. Destinations often write about local events and celebrations on their Facebook pages. If you’re thinking of taking a last-minute vacation to a particular region or city, check to see what’s happening there right now, or what’s upcoming on the tourism calendar. Deals on lodging or attractions can be found this way, especially on a city or destination’s tourism department Facebook page. Many tourism departments have lodging partners, and pass on savings to you when they refer you.

3. Find last-minute airfare deals by being flexible. If you’re flexible about your destination, airfare deals can be found on sites such as AirFareWatchDog, which allows you to search by best deals instead of particular cities and dates. Kayak has a similar feature. But don’t pair airfare deals with hotel or rental car add-ons: you can almost always find the better deal booking each component separately.

4. Choose first-come, first-served campgrounds. If you’re driving and camping, steer clear of campgrounds where reservations are accepted. These will most likely be completely booked during the summer months. Instead, head to campgrounds where the policy is first come, first served (many national park campgrounds abide by this policy for at least some of their campsites). Hit the road early to get a spot.

5. Consider a mid-week vacation home. If you’ll be staying in one location for the duration (or majority) of your vacation, consider a vacation home. While many are booked solid on summer weekends, they’re often empty during weekdays (especially Sunday  night-Monday night), and owners are willing to make deals. Many vacation home booking sites allow travelers to make arrangements directly with owners (HomeAway has this policy), giving travelers the chance to negotiate.

6. Think outside the ‘summer travel’ box. Instead of heading where the masses go in summer–beaches, theme parks, and national parks–think outside the box. Head to a ski resort with rooms standing empty (most now offer mountain biking, ropes courses, or hiking in summer) or a typical spring break location, such as Arizona or Palm Springs. Yes, it will be hot, but activities can be planned for morning or evening with plenty of poolside fun in-between.

7. Book activities mid-day. While on vacation, most people don’t want to sweat on the golf course mid-day. Ditto for bike excursions, horseback rides, or outdoor tours. Often, these activities will be discounted if you do them during the heat of the day. Book your tee time for 1 pm and ask for a discount.

By thinking counter-intuitively (and doing whatever the crowds are not doing), you can find great deals on summer travel. Go directly to the source of the deal instead of using impersonal booking sites, be flexible, and think outside the box.

Have you planned summer travel yet? What deals have you found last-minute?