I seem to always book trips last minute. And I mean the day before I travel – no mean feat when we travel as a family group with two children! Last second packing is a speciality, but I’m always wondering if I’ve overpaid for the transport and accommodation. So I’ve asked the travel blogging community for tips on how they secure the best possible prices when travel last minute on a budget.
Use the booking.com mobile app
Need a room fast? Low on a budget and need somewhere to stay tonight? You need to download the awesome booking.com mobile app. This amazing travel app gives you real-time prices for rooms around your location. This is a go-to app for any traveller.
I remember being stuck in Vietnam at 4 in the morning with nowhere to stay. Luckily I had the booking.com app. Therefore, I was able to book a room quickly and for cheap. Best of all the hotel owner came and picked me and my backpack up on here scooter. Not only a great travel app, but an absolute lifesaver.
Louis, The Northern Boy
To get the best deals we often blindly trust “the best app” or voucher codes or we try to understand how the pricing works or book things last minute. However, the one resource that we forget to use when traveling is our own emotions and behaviours (negotiation). During the last 6 months of travel we have had more situations than we can remember whereby sympathising with people, understanding their point of view and leveraging this to make them want to give us their best deal yielded better results than any code or app would ever do.
Negotiation is not a science, and different things work in different situations, but one thing that has worked for us consistently was smile and positive attitude. This helps people feel comfortable and allows them to open up for you a little more which in turns allows you to extract clues about how to leverage what the person is saying to your own advantage.
For example, it could be that the hotel is not very busy and they have a lot of vacant rooms available. Any good hotelier will know that their rooms are some of the most perishable things in the world. They have until the end of the day to sell it and after that it’s gone forever. Using this info, we have been able to continuously get better deals than what was advertised online (up to 50% discounts).
It also might be that the hotel/venue offers additional activities for guests which you might be interested in. Mention that you might go for a package of services and ask whether that could lead to a deal. This also works well when diving/snorkelling/going on tours, etc.
If the initial response is a “No”, remain sympathetic and positive. Express how you are excited about sticking with the company/hotel in mind (because of personal recommendations, or because you read excellent reviews, etc.) but you have limited budget and see how presentation of these additional “constraints” on your side affect the situation. Many people will feel terrible refusing an excited and keen potential customer and might offer a deal in the end.
As you can see, negotiation is not a science but is more of a form of art. You need to adapt your behaviour to the situation. You also need to be a good listener and good communicator to make it work for you. And it’s not easy – some people study this art for years to become good negotiators! However, don’t get discouraged – even some basic understanding of how to communicate with people can help you get amazing results. Most people are kind and have a natural tendency to want to help each other so it should not be an uphill battle most of the time. Next time you want a good deal just ask for it and see how it goes. In the end “No” is really the worst thing that could happen.
Andrius, Around the World on a Budget Blog
Be prepared to walk away
One of the joys of last-minute travelling is having to negotiate or haggle a decent price for a tour. And nowhere is this more fun, and by fun I mean stressful, than when traveling through Asia. An area of the world where tour operators can seemingly see your desperation to just get it booked in. If you find yourself in this situation, where the price isn’t moving and its way out of your budget, you need to follow this one rule – be prepared to walk away. Grab your dignity, your wallet and walk out that door. This can have a twofold effect on your budget. The seller may come back to you with a more reasonable offer or you’ll be able to use your negotiation woe with the next operator and explain in detail how you just can’t afford the previous price quoted. We’ve used this little trick on several tours and each time we’ve got a great bargain and more importantly a great experience.
Jean, Traveling Honeybird
Sometimes when making travel plans, it pays to be flexible. I’ve found the most amazing deals for last minute travel when I wasn’t so set on a specific destination. My ‘go to’ tool is Skyscanner, an anywhere search tool for moments like this. I usually start with my nearest airport and then look at the list of destinations, which are shown listed from cheapest to most expensive. And, as a back-up, I always compare the flight dates by cost on google flights. This way I get the best deals. I remember once, during one search, finding this last-minute deal to travel to Romania for only 8 euros! The true meaning of traveling Europe on a budget. I’d never been to Romania, so I just booked an Airbnb, packed and left a few days later. It was an amazing adventure! So, sometimes it’s good to give new destinations a chance and not only be limited by what’s on your bucket list.
One site that I count on to save me money as I plan my trips is Rome2Rio. This site will give you all routes and transit options from point A to B. Say you want to go from NYC to Washington DC. Rome2Rio will give you all routes, costs, distance and time options to help you decide if you should fly or take a train or bus. Depending on your flexibility, you could save hundreds. This is also useful for learning about airports somewhat farther to your final destination but cheaper to fly to so you can then take public transportation to where you want to go.
Use the ‘Hotels Tonight’ App
If there is one thing we are good at, it’s planning a last minute trip…and it’s always on a budget. That’s why we’ve picked up lots of last-minute trip planning tricks. When it comes to hotels, a good way to save some money is to check the app “Hotels Tonight”. This app gives you lots of great deals for places that have given a discount room at the last minute. Each day, there is a new “lightening deal” that gives you an even greater discount. And you don’t even need to book that hotel the same night, you can book a little in advance as well. You can download the app on your phone so it’s an easy way to book on the go.
Pick a destination from Ryanair’s Cheap Deals page
Ryanair is known for its cheap flight deals. There can be a lot of extra costs involved, such as paying for checked luggage, meals and to select your seats. But, if you’re savvy and able to travel light, you can find incredibly cheap flight deals, especially if you’re flexible with your dates and perhaps even your destination. If you visit their cheap deals page, you’ll see a selection of the best prices from your area. For example, right now you could fly to Brive, France, or Cologne, Germany, from London for £8. You might even discover a new travel destination that you totally love!
Maire, Temples and Treehouses
When I’m travelling on a tight budget, I always seek out opportunities to stay at my destination for free. One such opportunity is the worldwide network of couch surfing enthusiasts at couchsurfing.com. Here, like minded, budget-oriented individuals offer up their homes for travellers to stay in. Not only do I get a cheap/free place to stay in exchange for some conversation and maybe cooking a meal or two, but I usually end up with a local tour guide and a lifelong friend to boot!
You’ll have more and more success with the system as you acquire positive reviews from your hosts so be personable and fun. These days I’m able to find a host in hours rather than days as I roll into a new country.
Contact hotels directly
If you’re looking to book somewhere last minute and want to travel on a budget, it’s a good idea to reach out to hotels directly. If they have many rooms available, they are likely to give you a discount since they want to fill up.
You can do this by calling the hotel and asking if they have any special offers for the next coming days, or send them an email. Many hotels are also active on social media, and many have Facebook pages you can message as well.
You could also ask them straightforward if they can offer a discount of 10-20% if you book right now.
Alex, Swedish Nomad