Man, listen. Sometimes you just want to get away. You're having a rough week, and it's only Tuesday. You're dreaming about a beach, or the woods, or any other place not where you're currently at.
You decide on a location, and you're looking for flights and a hotel. The prices freak you out, and you almost decide to just kick it at home. But before putting a pause in those last minute travel plans, here's a checklist to follow:
1. Do your Googles
I can't stress this enough. The best way to find cheap, last minute flights or hotels is through Google. Google Flights is your friend. Google Flights will save your life. Google Flights will save you hundreds of dollars. Toggle around with the dates, and if you decide to make a trip into a long weekend, do realize that you may have to fly back home on a Tuesday. Google Flights is a hassle-free way to find last minute, often dirt cheap domestic and international flights.
For example, I want some sun and am desperate to get out of D.C. for a few days. Today is July 23. I found a round-trip, one stop flight to Cabo for July 29-August 1. It's well-known that some flights actually decrease in price the closer you get to the date, so this is a good strategy if you're a procrastinator. Not too shabby for a last-minute, international trip.
2. Peak times are not your friend
Sometimes – you may be able to fly out on Friday and come back on a Sunday or early Monday in time for work. Most time however, you'll probably have to fly on days or hours not considered ideal. When I went to L.A. in May, my return flight was cheaper because I was fine with flying back to the East Coast at 11:00 pm. Unfortunately I had a layover in Chicago, but slept on the LAX-CHI flight, landed in D.C., and went straight into work.
3. Yes, you might have to fly Spirit (or Frontier)
Spirit, and to a lesser extent Frontier, get a bad rep. It's understandable. They're late, crowded and generally unfriendly. Yeah, your flight will probably land late, but if you aren't pressed for time and don't care about not getting snacks on flights, this might be the best, economically-friendly bet for you.
4. You ain't staying at the Intercontinental, shawty. But you can find something nice (or nicer) on Airbnb
You don't get to be picky on last minute trips – mostly. I was picky on my L.A. trip and landed in a great housing situation because of AirBnB. If you're open to house sharing sites like AirBnb, you may end up with a gem that's better than a traditional hotel.
It's possible to book last minute travel and not stretch the limits of your budget. But flexibility is key. Play around with some dates and locations, and see what you can find.