If the destination is less important than the experience, head to the Caribbean, which accounts for more than one third of all cruise-ship travel from the U.S. A recent Norwegian Cruise Line’s four-night Bahamas trip, available 10 days before departure on Last Minute Travel.com, went for $348 a person (a 27% savings).
If you’re looking for a luxury cruise, call the expertsCruise-savvy agents can also negotiateextras such as prepaid gratuities, Internet, and shipboard credits.
Booking sweet spot: 2-4 weeks
Last Minute Travel specializes in discounts on flights, cars, hotels, cruises, etc. And if you're unsure of where you want to go, and just know you want to get the heck out of dodge, they have a "deals" tab that highlights super cheap last minute trips. For travel next weekend, we saw a four-star hotel in the Central Park area of New York City from just $164 per night with taxes. (Tack on an “Everything Chocolate” tour for $49 per person.) Less luxurious hotels are offered from $72 per night with taxes.
A couple of caveats: In several searches, the actual price (particularly for hotels) was higher than the initial advertised offer — it all depends on your travel dates. Also, a la Priceline, the site doesn’t reveal the name of your hotel until after you book. You will be shown its neighborhood, star rating and amenities. However, there is a tab to see the name of the hotel on Last Minute, but the prices are just a little higher than the mystery hotels.
Priceline has a "Great Last Minute Deals" section that features, well, great last minute deals. At the time of typing this, there's a flight from Baltimore, Maryland to Los Angeles, California for $150! That's crazy!
Living Social Escapes
Living Social falls into the "flash site" category (as does Groupon). Find random, last minute (really good) deals on places you might not have thought about going to.
Another flash site except this one specializes in travel. You need to sign up for Jetsetter (it takes 2 seconds), but there are truly awesome deals for places both in your area and beyond.
Another big travel website that has a "Deals" tab. Actually, right now, they're having a "winter hotel sale" that offers deep discounts on warm weather destinations. Fifty-five percent off on hotels in the Caribbean? Yes, please.
Every week, American Airlines offers a variety of Net SAAver Weekend Getaway fares, including domestic fares for both this weekend and the next, and international fares for the next weekend. (From the airline’s Web site, click on Travel Deals and then Sale Fares.) These deals are a good bet for travelers who simply want a last-minute airfare rather than a full-out package (perhaps you don’t need to book lodging because you’re staying with a friend, or you’d rather rent an apartment than stay in a hotel).
American isn’t the only airline peddling last-minute fares; check your favorite carrier’s Web site to see what’s available.
If you have a specific destination in mind, your best bet is often to focus on a Web site that deals with one region specifically. CheapCaribbean.com has a last minute area on its Web site that offers low-cost packages set to expire quickly. However, though you can’t hem and haw about whether or not to go, you will often have plenty of time to plan — some packages can be booked for travel several months out.
Use apps to your advantage. It's never been easier to score a room at short notice—and at a bargain.
It can be hard to deduce which days offer up the best airfare deals, which is where Hopper comes in. The data-analyzing app will alert you when fares for your desired route have hit their predicted low point. Hopper lays out all of the prices in an easy-to-follow, color-coded calendar. If you want a cheaper itinerary and have a flexible schedule, check out the calendar boxes shaded green. If you're booking a domestic trip, shifting your travel dates from red (the most expensive) to green can save you an average of 16%.
Pioneering app HotelTonight helps out truly last-minute guests by offering heavily discounted rates on properties until as late as 2 A.M. on check-in day.
Roomer fills another market need by selling off the prepaid reservations of travelers who had to cancel and want to recoup some of their losses.