How to find deals on last minute flights and hotels

It's not too late to plan that last minute summer getaway. Here's how to get great deals on spontaneous trips.

Being organised is totally overrated. If you're the spontaneous type (or maybe prefer leaving everything to the last minute) there are still ways to get great deals on hotels, accommodation and flights for that special getaway.

Before you get started, here are some general tips to help find the best deals:

General tips and tricks

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Lexy Savvides/CNET

  • Always check the hotel or airline's site for a base price, then see if you can find it cheaper on a price comparison site.
  • When using comparison sites, check the terms and conditions. What you see might not be what you pay, if booking fees and charges are added on afterwards.
  • Join the hotel's loyalty program (if they have one) as you might get discounts on your stay or deals for food or entertainment.
  • Pick up the phone. Not to use an app, but to actually call someone from an airline or a hotel. You never know, you might end up with a great deal that no one else can find online. Sites like getaroom.com offer secret, unpublished rates for callers.

Flights

The general rule when it comes to getting a good deal on flights is to book early. As the departure date draws closer, seats often rise in price. But that doesn't mean you're out of luck, as there are some ways to find cheap seats.

Comparison sites like Fare Compare and SkyScanner will let you sort through the lowest fares to your selected destination.

If you have a bit more time to spare before your selected departure date, it is worth checking and following social media accounts from airlines as they often post last minute deals. Alternatively, sign up for price alert emails from several comparison websites, and you'll automatically get an alert to tell you when a flight drops below your specified amount.

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Go on, be adventurous. Choose the cheapest flight anywhere! Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

Finally, consider getting on the first flight anywhere. If you're not fussy on location and just want to find the cheapest flight full stop, SkyScanner lets you enter "everywhere" as the destination. From here, filter by price to find the best deal on selected dates.

Hotels and lodging

There are more hotel booking sites than you can poke a very well-travelled finger at. For the quickest results you may want to use a site that aggregates and compares results from many sites across the web. Trivago is ideal for hotels, while Kayak covers both flights and lodging, so you can find two deals in one go.

The days of mystery flights may be over, but mystery hotels are still very much a thing. Priceline.com has a range of what it calls Express Deals. Enter your city and a date range, then the site will give you a list of discounted rates on hotels but without telling you exactly which property you get. As soon as you book, the hotel is revealed.

If you would rather name your own price, bidding sites are the way to go. Priceline.com has this feature, as does Stayful -- which offers a range of boutique hotels for last minute bidding.

Need it tonight?

Your plane's just landed, but you still haven't found a place to stay. Rather than drag your bags around from place to place, fire up Airbnb's mobile app. Available for select cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, the app lets you search for last-minute lodging for that night.

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Lexy Savvides/CNET

Another option is Hotel Tonight, available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Find a range of rooms that are available tonight -- just as the name suggests. Hotel Tonight covers more of the world than Airbnb's last minute feature, including much of Europe, Canada and a comprehensive list of US locations.

Booking.com's app also offers a last minute option, seeking out hotels nearby that have vacancy. You might also want to subscribe to the site's flash deals list, which offers 50 percent or more off on hotels.

 

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