How to save money on a last minute flight

Booking spontaneous travel doesn't have to break the bank.

Most of the time when you're traveling by air, the easiest way to get an affordable price is to book well in advance. As you get closer and closer to your desired departure date, airfare climbs higher and higher. There's just no way around it. But fortunately, there are a few ways to score an affordable plane ride if you're traveling at the last minute.

1. Find cheap flights by arriving on a holiday.

Most holiday-related travel happens right before and after the specified day. Because of the demand, the prices for flights during these times are usually higher. But if you plan to land on the given holiday, you can probably save a few extra bucks. Try flying very early in the morning to make it in time for the festivities. It's not ideal, but it's better than not being there at all, right?

2. Catch a red eye or an impossibly early flight.

Another way to save is to fly at an undesirable time. No one likes a late-night or early-morning flight — except you. Because those times will end up saving you money. Leaving at 3 a.m. sucks, but it's worth it for the price. You'll also get the bonus that the plane and airports won't be packed.

3. For a funeral, most airlines offer bereavement fares.

If you need to get somewhere quickly for a funeral, you can likely get a discounted fare from most airlines. But you have to jump through some hoops to get bereavement discounts. You need to call the airline directly instead of booking online. Most airlines restrict these to immediate family members only. Usually, you'll be required to provide proof of a recent or imminent death in the family. Sometimes, you can find even cheaper fares online without having to deal with the bereavement fare process.

4. Consider package deals.

Even if you're flying last minute, there might be some packages available. These will usually include airfare and a hotel, but sometimes can also include a rental car. This is convenient for a spontaneous weekend trip or an unexpected business meeting. And you won't have to take a taxi or Uber to and from the airport.

5. Take advantage of your rewards cards.

Have you been saving up your airline rewards miles or points for a rainy day? Now is the time to cash in. If you have enough points saved, you can probably get your ticket for half-price or even for free. And if your credit card is partnered with a specific airline, you'll also get preferential seating and no worries about being kicked off an overbooked flight.

6. Follow your favorite airlines on Twitter.

And maybe subscribe to a newsletter or two. Airlines will often tweet or email about sales and surprise low fares. And these prices only often last for a few hours. In addition, check out sites like SkyScanner and AirFareWatchDog. These will alert you of sudden price drops. If you're serious about snagging that affordable flight, you need to stay in the loop.


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