How to Find Last Minute Deals for 4th of July Travel
Fourth of July weekend is just a few days away but it’s not too late to find good deals on travel whether you plan to hit the road or book a last minute flight.
A rebound in air travel this year has driven up prices about 9 percent on average so finding great airfare deals is tougher than it’s been previous years. But in a never-ending quest to fill every seat on every flight, airlines are constantly changing prices and offering last minute deals to get light flights filled.
George Hobica of www.airfarewatchdog.com said the best place to find deals is on trips to major destinations like New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago, air routes that are heavily traveled with lots of flights and plenty of competition.
“I always advise people , if you look at an airfare on a particulate route and you think it’s really way out of your budget, come back a day later, a couple of days later or even a few hours later and look again,” said Hobica. “You may be surprised because fares yo-yo all the time.”
And those price fluctuations aren’t arbitrary. Airlines use a complex system that drives rates up and down at certain times to ensure that every ticket yields maximum profit. But when the system determines a flight will be light even with last minute stand-by flyers factored in, it lowers prices to get some value out of what would end up being an empty seat. So there are deals to be had booking flights even one or two days in advance.
And there’s no shortage of Web sites to browse for deals. Some people prefer old standards like Expedia and Priceline but newer sites like www.hipmunk.com and www.airbnb.com are worth checking out for unique deals you won’t find at other sites.
The same holds true for finding good deals at hotels, which hold out as long as possible before lowering rates to fill rooms. During the summer, it’s easy to find good rates in places like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Houston and Dallas, where the brutal heat tends to discourage travel.
“Go back and look at the hotel rate and you may discover you can get the same room for less money,” said Hobica, who recommends going back to search for better rates even after you booked a room. “You can go back, cancel your reservation and rebook it at a lower room rate.”
Checking social media sites like Twitter is also a good way to find low rates, since airlines and hotels know those sites attract a heavy volume of younger consumers who tend to make more impulse buys.
Hitting the Road
According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), about 39 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more to their destination over the Fourth of July weekend, a 2.5 percent decline from 2010. That decline is attributed to gas prices that are $1 higher per gallon than they were at this time last year.
But there are ways to save money when you fill up your tank before a trip. The best way is to shop around for gas prices at stations off the beaten track, meaning those located away from highways in less affluent cities and towns. You can easily save 20 cents per gallon or more by looking for the best deal, which equates to about $5 per tank for larger vehicles. Inflating your tires to their proper level and having your engine tuned up can also improve your gas mileage and save money, particularly on longer trips.
And if you’re renting a car, shop around for deals from companies other than the ubiquitous Hertz and Avis. Budget and Enterprise typically offer lower rates than their larger competitors and in many case offer superior service (Enterprise’s home pick-up and drop-off is a perk that makes them stand out). A quick check of travel Web sites can also provide coupons that can knock $20 to $30 off a weekend or weekly rental.
In short, if you’re itching to hit the road this weekend but on a low budget, browse the Web for bargains. You may able to put together a great trip for less money than you’d think.
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