12 Ways to Snag Cheap Last-Minute Flight Deals

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Spontaneous Sightseeing

Squeezing in a last-minute vacation doesn't always have to cost a fortune or require months of planning. Though plane tickets are typically cheaper if you buy them weeks in advance, there are still plenty of ways to score cheap last-minute flights. Whether you're looking to unplug from the hustle and bustle of the city at a tranquil resort for a few days, planning an adventurous trip full of excursions, or need to quickly jet somewhere for work, these tips can help you save money along the way. 

Related: 22 Last-Minute Trips to Take Between Christmas and New Year's

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Compare Prices at Nearby Airports

A good way to find cheaper plane tickets is by widening your search to include nearby airports – especially if the city you're departing from (or traveling to) is located close to large airports that serve as connecting hubs. Chances are higher that you'll be able to nab cheaper tickets at a major airport compared to a smaller one. Decide how far you're willing to go, and factor in transportation costs to see if the savings are worth the extra travel time. 

Related: Cheap Last-Minute Getaways for Couples

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Search for Multiple Destinations

If your travel plans are flexible, try searching for multiple destinations to compare prices. For instance, if you want to escape the cold and sip piña coladas on a white sandy beach, try searching for destinations in California, Puerto Rico, or the Caribbean, as opposed to just Miami. On the flip side, if you're looking for winter destinations to go skiing, try looking up multiple cities in Utah, Colorado, or Wyoming to find the cheapest one. 

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Have Flexible Travel Dates

Another way to score cheap planet tickets is by having flexible travel dates. Sites like Google Flights, Kayak, and SkyScanner offer tools and flight maps that generate different dates, destinations, and fares so you can see when the cheapest windows will be. If you can, try adding one or two days before and after your preferred dates to see a wider variety of flights and prices. 

Boarding the plane, departure lounge.

Look Into Bereavement Options

Having to find an affordable flight while dealing with the loss of a loved one should be the least of anyone's concerns. Though many airlines offer bereavement discounts, guidelines and prices differ from one carrier to another. Airlines that offer discounted fares for traveling to a funeral include Delta Airlines, Air Canada, Lufthansa, and WestJet. Note that bereavement flights cannot be booked online, and apply to immediate family members only. 

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Optimize Your Rewards

If you travel often for business, you may already be familiar with programs that help you earn points and miles through your credit card. Some of the most popular credit cards for travel, including Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture, enable travelers to net thousands of airline points and miles through purchases. Check with your credit card company to see how you can optimize your rewards to save on plane tickets, hotels, car rentals, and more. 

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Buy One-Way Tickets

Though booking a round-trip ticket is generally cheaper and easier to deal with, sometimes booking separate one-way flights can offer surprising savings. This tactic often works best if you are willing to fly on different airlines to arrive at and depart from your destination. 

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Book Legs Separately

If you have an elaborate itinerary that requires multiple layovers, try booking each leg separately as opposed to jumping on the first option that airlines generate. With this strategy, you might hop on a flight on one airline to a larger airport, and then fly out on a different airline to your final destination. Be sure to allow ample time in between flights in case of delays or other unforeseen circumstances. 

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Consider Flying on Budget Airlines

Though budget airlines are not known for their reliability and comfort, they can offer hefty savings if you're willing to take a few chances. Be sure to account for baggage fees and other miscellaneous costs, as low-cost airlines typically only offer bare-bones amenities and will charge for additional items such as snacks and drinks onboard. 

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Set Up Price Alerts

If your travel dates are flexible, try setting price alerts through sites such as Hopper, Kayak, and Google Flights so you can be notified via text or email when a cheap deal rolls around. Setting price alerts can also be helpful for booking last-minute tickets, as airlines will sometimes slash prices to try and fill as many seats as possible on departing flights. 

Empty seat Plane social distance flying during Covid-19

Catch a Red-Eye

Red-eye flights — which are scheduled to depart late at night and arrive in the morning — are often cheaper than regular flights because of their less desirable travel times. Waking up in the middle of the night to catch a red-eye also means you'll likely have fewer crowds to deal with while going through TSA — and probably on the flight, too. (Hooray for extra leg room!)

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Give the Airline a Call

Sometimes calling an airline directly to inquire about cheap last-minute deals or same-day flights can result in surprising savings. Some travel agencies also offer bundle vacation deals that include airfare and living accommodations. If an airline is dealing with last-minute cancellations, you may be able to nab tickets at a very good price, so don't be shy about asking. 

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Book On Certain Days

You may have heard from frequent travelers that Tuesday is the best day to buy planet tickets. According to Google Flights, tickets were indeed found to be 1.9% cheaper when booked on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday — as opposed to the weekend. The study also showed that flying during the week was significantly cheaper (12%) than weekend departures.