I pride myself on being able to book last minute flights, often just a day before the trip. You could either see this as disorganized and indecisive or spontaneous. I’ll go with the latter!
Here’s some tips for last minute bargains.
1. Find the cheapest advance purchase fare.
Use ita matrix airfare search, or just about any tool you like that will allow a calendar view of the fares. Make sure you check alternative airports if multiple airports would be equally acceptable to you.
Your goal using the following tips is to approximate the advance purchase fare without needing the advance purchase.
The cheapest one way price is $131 from NYC to Los Angeles.
Let’s check roundtrip too. In this case, the roadtrip is basically just double the one way.
2. Check Hotwire.
Hotwire offers “opaque” deals on roundtrips, meaning you won’t know the airline or the exact flight time. You may have one connection. You can often guess the airline. The only real downside is that unfortunately they don’t offer one ways. If you select one way on their site, you just get redirected to “partner sites.”
Hotwire is a little annoying in that it doesn’t do multi airport search. Check all the airports that are acceptable to you. You MUST be careful with this. If you put in “NYC” on Hotwire it will default to La Guardia and it’s not so obviously it’s doing this.
Here’s what I found, doing one search, a couple of days before the trip.
$324 for traversing across the continent and back on only a couple of days notice is not too shabby! It’s a little more than the lowest advance purchase fare but it’s still a $90 saving on the cheapest published fare for the dates in question. w00t w00t!
3. But what if I want to travel one way?
Priceline to the rescue.
You can bid for one way tickets on Priceline. From the steps above, you will have an idea of what to bid. Again, think about what alternative airports are equally acceptable to you.
Make sure you select the “Name your own price” option.
With Priceline you can rebid after 24 hours if you offer isn’t accepted. HOWEVER, you can trick the system into allowing you a free rebid if you vary up what you enter as your departure city.
For example, if you are departing from Los Angeles, you could try “Los Angeles” as your departure cit for your first bid, and then enter “Malibu” as your departure city for your second bid, to allow you to make a second bid straight away.
But I only want to travel from LAX? Doesn’t matter. See how on the second screen you get an option to select LAX as the airport and unselect all other airports. Look at the top of each of these two screenshots below and note the different departure city.
I hope this helps you not overpay when you need to take a last minute flight!