YOU Magazine - August 2008 - Last-Minute Vacations When spontaneity leads to savings
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Kathleen Petty     Kathleen Petty
AVP/Sr Mortgage Originator
Alaska USA Mortgage AK#157293
Phone: (907)261-3458 Cell: 223-4440
Fax: (907)929-6699
License: NMLS Unique Identifier #203077
Alaska USA Mortgage AK#157293
August 2008

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Last-Minute Vacations
When spontaneity leads to savings

Last-Minute Vacations - When spontaneity leads to savings

All our lives we have been taught to plan ahead. It is a sound, almost inarguable philosophy that increases our chances of success by using time and organization to our advantage. But when it comes to the subject of vacations, especially this year, success could mean waiting until the 11th hour to book the trip.

What's the deal with '08?
The difference with traveling in 2008 compared to years past can be summed up with one phrase – the price of oil. What started as a strain on our weekly gas budget is largely responsible for the rising price of long-distance travel. In the case of airfares, costs are up a whopping 14 percent from 2007. Throw in the fact that some airlines have added fees for checked bags, as well as charging for in-flight beverages, and the average person can hardly afford to step foot on a plane.

Believe it or not there is some good news, but you're going to have to make a few concessions in order to reap the benefits. Well get to that later. For know, it is important to know that the rise in airfare costs, as well the lackluster performance of the US dollar, have caused a decrease in purchases of both airline tickets and hotel rooms. What this means is that while purchases made in advance will be more expensive, last-minute purchases may carry a huge savings. While an airline or hotel can't reduce their prices for a trip that's booked ahead of time, they have no problem doing so if it appears that a seat or a room may go unused.

The ins and outs of last-minute vacations
We know what you're thinking. There's no sense risking your valuable vacation time by planning a trip in 11th hour, right? While we have no intention of talking you into anything, we would like to pass along a few tips that will minimize the potential risks, as well as maximize the savings of booking at the last-minute.

Be flexible
In order to pull off a last-minute vacation you need to be flexible with your schedule, your destination, and your service providers. Rigidity in any of these areas can easily translate into paying increased costs.

Avoid certain days and destinations
You do not want to plan a last-minute trip if it involves a holiday. Trips such as these generally need to be planned ahead.

A destination such as Hawaii is not likely to yield a sizeable last-minute savings due to the fuel surcharge built into the price of the ticket. Instead, look into alternate destinations, especially those that involve moving the opposite way of the crowd and within the continental United States.

Have a game plan
Taking a last-minute vacation doesn't mean you shouldn't have a game plan. Start looking for deals during the middle of the week, as most airlines file their Web specials on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. If possible, concentrate on flights departing from major hub airports. And when booking your trip, be sure to include a Saturday-night stay.

Search diligently
There is no shortage of great websites for purchasing discounted airfares and hotel rooms. We'll tell you about several of them in a bit. The message for now is to conduct a complete and diligent search. In terms of airfares, don't forget to check the airlines' own websites, as some carriers do not appear on many of the discount websites.

An even more proactive approach is to sign up for airline and travel company newsletters. Many of these companies will email you alerts for any last-minute deals.

Don't forget about travel agents
Many travel agents will purchase bulk deals, giving them access to better prices. It's definitely a good idea to make a few calls as part of your search.

How about a cruise?
Cruises can make for great last-minute vacations, especially if you live near a port of embarkation, and do not require a plane flight. Generally speaking, the price of a cruise includes your travel, lodging, food and much of your entertainment. While some additional charges will apply depending on the cruise, it is a fantastic deal that allows you to see many destinations for a lower cost.

It should be noted that while cruise lines have also taken at hit with fuel costs, many are working very hard to fill their ships by offering deals. Some of the best deals right now can be found with European cruises that are attempting to offset the horrible exchange rate between dollars and euros. However, don't forget that these cruises do require a plane flight to a European port.

Timeshare condos, rented directly from the owner, can offer some tremendous savings as well as more bang for your buck. While it does require diligence and common sense on your part, eBay is a great place to start your search.

Go for it!
If you happen to see a great price now for a flight that you want to take later in the year, we suggest that you grab it. Many airlines are planning on reducing their fleets at the end of the year. This means that come September or so, you will be competing for fewer seats. Fewer seat equals fewer deals.

Websites to know about
The following are some of our favorite websites for purchasing last-minute vacations:
If the idea of logging on to every site in search of the best price has you down, you should pay a visit to Enter your search for a flight, hotel, car rental or cruise and compare the prices offered by various sites (Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, etc.) with the click of one button.
Just as the name says, this site posts some great last-minute deals, as well as options for your not-so-last-minute traveling.
This is another great last-minute site that boasts a large amount of revolving inventory.
Offering the same services as and, this site has a great "deals" page that changes frequently.
Handling timeshare rentals, purchases and exchanges, RedWeek requires you to sign up for a fee membership in order to conduct transactions.
This is an awesome site for getting great prices on hotel rooms around the world.

We hope that this article has created some new options for you, as well as shed a little light on what it takes to book a last-minute vacation. The two most important things to remember are to be flexible and search hard. The deals are out there, so go out and find them. And one more thing... bon voyage!

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