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5 Sites for Last-Minute Travel

December 30, 2009
by Sarah Amandolare
During peak travel seasons, vacationers have their work cut out for them. Though navigating airport lines and packing your luggage will be a hassle, planning a trip should be quick and easy, not expensive and complicated—even when booking at the last minute. The five Web sites below have the easiest, most innovative tools to help last-minute travelers get the best deals on flights, hotels and vacation packages.

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Whether you know exactly where you’d like to visit, or need help figuring out a destination, there are three sites with a range of tools to help you find the lowest prices at the last minute.

LastMinute.com
has a simple goal: to make it easy for travelers to visit a new place every weekend. The site’s researchers learn the ins and outs of destinations around the world and jot down “spontaneous trip ideas” in the “Go Last Second” section; you’ll find vacation packages at up to 70 percent off, sold from three weeks to three hours before departure. You can also plan a trip around a discounted hotel room, specific activity or experience, or an event.

Travelzoo has two advantages over competitors: a team of researchers committed to recommending only the most valuable and legitimate deals, and affiliations with travel companies who “list their very best offers” on Travelzoo. Check “Today’s Top Deals” and sign up for the Travelzoo Top 20, a weekly list of the lowest prices. Sales on airfare, cruises, hotels, vacation packages and seasonal deals are listed front and center on the homepage.

Hotwire lists “Deep Discounts” on hotels and airfare to various destinations. Discounts are usually for travel within the next two to three weeks, and are updated hourly. To find the best deals on last-minute flights, use the Flexible Date Search; just enter trip duration and a 30-day window, and Hotwire nails down the lowest fares within your range. Also consult the Hotwire Travel Ticker, which posts “insider deals” found by the site’s team of travel experts, and is updated frequently.

If you’re worried about missing out on airfare deals after you book, there are two sites perfectly tailored to you.

Orbitz has a new money-saving feature called Price Assurance, which tracks prices from the time you book, until the day you depart. If another customer books the same itinerary at a lower price, Orbitz will mail you a check for the difference within 30 days of your trip. Also try the Deal Detector, which lets you set your own desired airfare; Orbitz will find a match and alert you to it.

Yapta has similar features to Orbitz, including a price tracker, price-drop alerts, and post-purchase refunds if the airfare dips. But instead of receiving a check from Yapta, the site will either “give you explicit instructions on how to claim your travel credit” from the airline, or call the airline on your behalf for a $15 fee.
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