Secure a last-minute travel deal with these top tips

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You’ve made it to the last quarter of the year and you need a quick getaway from the humdrum of daily life, so now what? You have two options: call a travel agent or secure the (cabin) bag yourself — which actually isn’t as difficult as it sounds. The key to booking a last-minute holiday without breaking the bank is simple: don’t be too quick to book the first flight or hotel you see. With a little research and planning, you’ll be ready to go even on a tight budget.

FLIGHTS

Yearning to catch the next plane out of here? There’s a world of flight-searching tools at your disposal to make sure you get the cheapest flight possible. An aggregator like Skyscanner allows you to compare fares across various airlines, view airline combinations, compare the fares on different days throughout the month on a calendar, and keep an eye on flight fares with its flight tracker.

Free apps like Hopper will even go so far as to tell you if the price for your flight is likely to go down or increase and if you should book now or wait, to give you a fighting chance at getting the best fare.

Also consider which days of the week you travel: flying on a Friday is much more expensive than flying on a Wednesday. According to Kulula, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are the best days to fly. Additionally, take your travel research a step further and compare flight costs to hiring a car or even taking a bus — if you want to save and have some time to spare getting there and back.

ACCOMMODATION

If you really want to save on a last-minute trip, opt for more basic accommodation instead of splurging on a luxurious room you’ll only really be sleeping in. Airbnb is the best place to find decent accommodation that will fit into your budget.

If you prefer hotel living, use a hotel aggregator like Trivago or hotels.com to find out who has the best rate for the hotel you want to stay at. Booking.com is also a great resource to find a hotel at your destination easily — register as a “Booking Genius” to qualify for special discounts on hotels anywhere in the world.

For more luxurious hotel deals, check out the Secret Getaway website — it offers limited-time discounts on great stays in SA and Africa and the deals often include some, if not all, meals and spa treatments.

REAP YOUR REWARDS

These days, pretty much all transactional accounts have some sort of rewards system in place and points can make all the difference when you’re trying to travel on a budget. Whether its FNB eBucks, Nedbank Greenbacks or Discovery Vitality points, you can use whatever points you have collected to pay for your last-minute flights, accommodation, and car hire.

THE FULL PACKAGE

If time isn't on your side, look for package deals from trusted travel companies like Travelstart, Flight Centre, and even airlines like Kulula. With a little digging you may find something within your budget, but read the T’s and C’s — the downside to package deals is that they often stipulate when you can travel, so if you want to get out of the city as soon as possible, you may have to go back to the drawing board.

HACK OR MYTH?

YOU WON’T KNOW TILL YOU TRY

Everyone has some sort of travel hack they swear by — secrets to getting the best bang for their buck when booking a break. Here are three that could get you on your way a little quicker:

1. Book on Tuesday or Sunday

The rumour has always been that booking on a Tuesday afternoon will yield more pocket-friendly results, but Skyscanner’s recent study, based on years of data from its site, reveals that Sunday is the best time to book domestic and international flights. There’s no harm in trying both days to compare.

2. Clear your cookies

The internet is always watching. If you visit a travel-related webpage multiple times, apparently prices may increase accordingly, particularly when it comes to flights. Some say clearing your cookies and browser history may help.

3. Browse incognito

If you don’t want to go through the trouble of clearing the data in your browser, try browsing in incognito or private mode —your cookies are reset in every new incognito window and your information is not tracked in this mode. So, fingers crossed, you may just find a gem of a flight this way.

This article first appeared in print in the Sowetan S Mag September 2019 edition.

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