Personal Finance

Haven’t booked that summer vacation yet? Here’s how to snag a last-minute deal

© Marco Bottigelli | Moment | Getty Images

Haven’t booked that summer vacation yet?

You aren’t alone. According to a recent survey by BankRate, 22% of Americans still haven’t decided whether they are going to take a trip this summer.

However, it’s not too late. While the season is one of the busiest, there are still deals to be found.

“There are so many different ways to save that travelers are not aware of,” said Steven Sintra, North America commercial director at travel website Kayak.

The first thing you need to do before you dive in is figure out your budget. That will help determine just where you can go and for how long.

Then, knowing when to book is really important, said Alexis Tiacoh, spokesperson at travel site Expedia.

“If you are going to book flights, book them on the weekend, preferably on a Sunday, as average ticket prices tend to be lower when booked on a weekend,” she advised. Hotels are best booked on a Friday night.

There is also an upside to waiting until the very last minute: Booking a week out could save you more than 15% on hotel costs and about 25% on hotel and airfare packages, said Tiacoh.

Check travel websites and apps

Head to any travel website or app, such as Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz or Kayak, and you’ll find a deals section. The same goes for websites for airlines and hotels.

That’s when flexibility on your destination and your dates can really help you get a bargain.

“There have been great deals that I’ve seen that are two months out; some that are less than a week out,” Expedia’s Tiacoh said. “Being flexible and being open to a new destination can really work to a traveler’s advantage, especially if you are looking to save.”

If you have a specific destination in mind, you can keep an eye on the price through alerts from travel sites, which will inform you of any changes.

Think outside the box

If you can, hold off on that vacation until later in August or even in September, when prices come down, said Kayak’s Sintra. Or, if you have your heart set on going away for the July 4 holiday or Labor Day weekend, flying on the actual holiday can often save you some money.

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It can also sometimes be cheaper to book two one-way tickets instead of one round-trip fare, he said.

Another way to save is choosing an alternative airport for either your departure city or your destination, according to Sarah Schlichter, senior editor of the online travel magazine,

“You can also sometimes save money by flying into a major gateway and then booking a separate flight to your ending destination,” she said.

For example, when flying to Eastern European cities, purchasing a transatlantic flight to London and then a separate onward ticket on a budget airline can be cheaper than flying nonstop from the U.S.

When it comes to lodging, you could find bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals or even hostels with private rooms are a more affordable option than hotels, Schlichter said.

Where to go

If you are like the majority of U.S. residents traveling this summer, you are staying within the country’s borders. According to a recent poll by Expedia, 3 out of 4 Americans don’t plan to leave the U.S.

Of those who plan to take a summer vacation, 51% were taking to the road, 27% were flying and 15% were doing a combination of both, the survey of 1,000 Americans found.

Phillip Suddick | DigitalVision | Getty Images

If you are one of those who want to fly to your destination, there are some locations that may be more budget-friendly than others.

“Consider destinations where summer isn’t high season — such as warm-weather cities (Phoenix, Las Vegas), tropical places where summer is rainy season (Costa Rica), or the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s wintertime,” said Sarah Schilichter of

She suggests also considering destinations where the U.S. dollar is strong, which will save you money once you are there. That includes places such as Argentina, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

European destinations

“Europe is super-hot right now, and the prices are also very cheap,” said Kayak’s Sintra.

The best bargains can be found by traveling to Spain, Ireland and Portugal, he said. Airfare to these locations can be found for under $800.

And despite the collapse of Icelandic discount carrier Wow Air, Reykjavik is the most affordable European city to fly to this summer, according to Kayak. Median airfare is around $550.

Other deals

For even cheaper flights, consider flying to places such as Guadalajara, Mexico; Montreal, Canada; or San Francisco. According to Expedia, they all have an average ticket price of under $300 for travel dates between May 20 and Sept. 30.

When it comes to accommodations, you can find a place with an average daily rate of $250 at a number of destinations for the same time frame, including Kailua-Kona, Hawaii; Atlanta; Clearwater Beach, Florida; and Vienna, Austria.

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