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How can I find a cheap last minute deal

Dear Editors,

This is the first summer that my husband and I haven’t taken our kids on a family vacation, and we feel guilty that we haven’t gone anywhere. We’re on a tight budget but would like to do a quick trip within the next few weeks before the kids go back to school. I’ve done some research…and last minute trips are expensive! Is there anything I can do to find a cheap last minute vacation?

Meryl


Dear Meryl,

Flexibility is really THE key to saving at the last minute. To get the best deal, be flexible with your dates and your destinations. For instance, if you have a beach vacation in mind, search several spots to see where your dollar will take you. While you can expect higher airfares to destinations across the country this summer, Travelocity’s data shows below average hotel rates in Orlando, Denver, San Antonio and Portland, Ore. to name a few – so those are fantastic places to begin your search for good last minute deals.

There are several tactics you can use to hunt down last minute deals. Start with these five travel tips:

#1: Use flexible dates search. When you search a flight on Travelocity, select the “flexible dates” option to determine the cheapest days within your date range to fly.

#2: Check out Top Secret Hotels. This is a great option for last minute travelers. When you book a Top Secret Hotel, you know the location, star rating and some traveler reviews, but you don’t know the exact name of the hotel until your reservation is complete.

#3: Look for value destinations. When simply getting away is more important than where you go, search multiple destinations from your home airport to see where you can get the best deal.

#4: Consider a drive destination. Much of the cost associated with spur of the moment trips can be the airfare since ticket costs go up the closer you book. This isn’t necessarily true for hotels and car rentals, so driving can be an excellent way to save money.

#5: Search Last Second Deals. Go to lastminute.com to peruse their Last Second Deals packages. These package options include flight, hotel, taxes and fees, and it’s a great way to save money at the last minute.

Lastly, don’t forget to set a budget and stick to it. People sometimes tend to over spend when they book at the last minute, and you really don’t want to feel guilty about that getaway.

Happy Travels,

Jennifer

Editors’ Note: We’re here to help our fellow travelers, so if you have a travel question of your own, just ask! Each week, we’ll publish a response to our very favorite question from one of our readers. Need travel help now? Peruse Travelocity’s frequently asked questions.

Jennifer

My name: Jennifer Gaines, but my friends call me Gaines, Jenni-Dallas or just plain Jenn.

(Find me on Twitter @jenngaines)

Travel ambitions: It's my mission to visit each of the New 7 Wonders and to step foot on every continent before my next milestone birthday.

Greatest travel lesson learned: Find the local hangouts to experience the real, true culture of a place. During a trip to Europe, my friends and I spent several days with a French family in the small town of Vichy. We had a private party in their family-run creperie, feasting on cheese-stuffed crepes and sampling wine that we picked up in the Bordeaux region a few days earlier. Their English wasn’t much better than my French, which is limited to a few well-known phrases from Moulin Rouge and the question: Parlez-vous anglais? (I'm proud to say that I can spout this question off in several different languages, and luckily most Europeans do indeed speak English!) After a few bottles of wine, the language barrier was hardly noticeable (slurring actually sounds the same in French!), and we managed to swap stories about life in other places. What a slice of local flavor!

My most beloved place in the whole world is: My grandparents place in Texas. It’s a 10-acre oasis in between two sprawling cities: Dallas and Fort Worth. A creek runs through their enormous backyard, where Granddad built a deck over the water. The entire place is shrouded with all types of trees (mainly pecan), blocking the Texas sun in the summer. Dusk is the best time to sit on the deck, drink a glass of ice tea and watch baby raccoons from the spring litter surround their back porch as Gram feeds them bread (no lie!). There will be dozens of raccoons eating on any given night. In the fall, my family gathers in the courtyard in front of their house for an annual “weenie roast.” Granddad lights the bonfire, and we roast dogs and s'mores. Yes, y’all, we’re from Texas!

Favorite way to get around: Well, I’m not much of a driver. I get lost easily and my tires have never come across a curb they didn’t want to get to know a little better. But, I do enjoy cruising around and listening to music. That said, I much rather explore a place by foot (with my iPod in tow) for a more intimate encounter.

View that took my breath away: Coming from Texas (where the view is wide but there’s not much to see), scenes from my new home of San Francisco never fail to amaze me. The city is a pedestrian’s dream, but don’t forget to turn around and look behind you as you meander through its neighborhoods. You won’t realize it, but you’ll be at the tip-top of a hill and the ocean will suddenly seem to be at eye level. Take a drive through the Presidio and over the Golden Gate Bridge where even more stunning views await!

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