Find a last-minute travel deal
Plan your President's Day escape with these travel-trade tricks.
President’s Day is one of those holidays that sneaks up out of nowhere; you never realize you have that Monday off until the last minute. Even if you haven’t already booked a long weekend trip (or budgeted for one, for that matter), there’s still time to plan a getaway. Follow these expert-approved strategies for where to look online, destinations that are practical and cheap…and other ways to leave some change in your pocket come Tuesday morning.
Where to look
E-mail newsletters Sign up for a newsletter from an airline or travel-oriented site (such as SmarterTravel.com) that delivers great deals to your in-box each week. That way you’re already conscious of what to look for in price and package.
Deals pages Decide on your price range, then check out the “Deals” sections online on sites like Kayak.com, BudgetTravel.com, BookIt.com and VirtualTourist.com. Courtney Lichternman, PR director at VirtualTourist, notes that the site has more than a million travel-savvy members who post great online deals they’ve found. Travelzoo’s page recently linked us to loads of deals from Chicago, including a $203 round-trip to warm weather Miami and $212 to Long Beach, California. The site also has a specific “Last Minute” section.
Crawlers If you have more than a rough itinerary in mind, try the award-winning cFares.com, which searches the top travel consolidators, major airline sites and online travel agencies to find you great fares. It nabbed us a $394 nonstop round-trip flight to Cancún for a long weekend only a week in advance—not too shabby for high-season travel.
Where to go
Where it’s cold Fly north and stay in the colder climates to find rock-bottom deals. Airfares to places like Minneapolis, Detroit and Denver dip with the mercury. For example, Chicago’s biggest carrier, United, recently offered round-trip flights for under $90 to many northern cities. On Orbitz.com, we found three-night weekend package getaways with three-star lodging and a nonstop flight to San Francisco—chilly and foggy this time of year—for as little as $414.
Hit the hubs Visit a city with a big-ass airport. There’s always a weekend getaway deal to Vegas going on somewhere, even in the dead of winter. In fact, Vegas, Orlando and Los Angeles (as well as Chicago) are all listed as last-minute deals on websites such as Orbitz. That’s primarily because there are always seats to fill on flights to those cities. The result: You can score three nights with airfare to any of the above for around $300. New York packages can be had for as little as $450—consider flying in to Newark airport for a better deal.
Get over Europe Theoretically, Europe should be off-season cheap in the colder months, but with the weak dollar, that’s not the case. If you are dying to get out of the country, try Canada instead. Montreal is in the opposite direction of the tropics but has extensive underground walkways and subways that only add to its European feel and foodie appeal. VirtualTourist says that a three-day, two-night Friday-to-Sunday stay including hotel, flight and car rental can average about $461 per person based on double occupancy.
Hotel discounts Check travel websites for exclusive lodging deals. VirtualTourist, for example, has a “free merchant program” that lets hotels advertise on the site for free if they offer a specific significant discount.
To sweat the details Find lodging with breakfast included and you could save some dough. Nab a hotel with shuttle service and you’ve already saved on cab fare.