Spring breakers watching their wallets may not need to put off vacation plans after all, thanks to some last minute deals. Here are some options to consider:
Flights: Dig for Discounts Online
Discount travel sites vary widely. To get the cheapest deals on Hotwire and Priceline.com (Stock Quote: PCLN), you can’t choose specifics like flight times and individual hotels. Orbitz.com (Stock Quote: OWW) only shows rates from a select group of airlines. Try Mobissimo.com to compare prices from travel agency Web sites, major airlines and low-cost carriers.
A New York to San Francisco flight in mid-April for $249 including taxes and fees compared with $256 at Orbitz. If you’re on a tight budget, that $7 in savings could help you pay for a meal while you’re away. Of course, rates will be cheapest if you live near busy airports like Los Angeles International Airport or Newark Liberty International Airport, or a transportation hub like Atlanta or Chicago.
Cruise for Less Cash
Last minute cruises can be especially cheap if you live near a port like Miami, Los Angeles or New Orleans. In addition to checking travel sites for deals, check with major cruise lines including Norwegian, where a four-day cruise from Miami to the Bahamas can be as low as $179 per person if you book just days before embarking. Carnival Cruise Lines (Stock Quote:CCL) offers a last minute San Diego to Baja Mexico cruise for $149 per person. Shore excursions, alcohol and gratuities aren’t usually included in the quoted price, but lodging, food and a poolside chair are.
Dedicated apartment swapping Web sites like HomeForSwap.com let you pick from dozens of homes in 80 countries where you can stay free. That is, if you’re willing to let strangers stay at your place while you’re at theirs. With HomeForSwap.com, all you pay for is transportation, food and a $59 a year membership, and you can swap as often as you want. If you’re worried about swapping with strangers, check with your network. If you have friends in other cities or countries, you might be able to set up an exchange with someone who’s been meaning to visit your town.
Braving the Bus
Discount bus lines might be the cheapest way to travel at the last minute, especially if all you’re looking for is a change of scenery. City folk from New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C. can get a roundtrip ticket for as low as $20 on Chinatown-to-Chinatown bus lines that run up and down the East Coast. Remember: You must be willing to brave the crowd and passengers talking at full volume on their cell phones.
For the best deal, Boltbus offers “walkup fares” to Boston, Philly and D.C. that start at $1, plus a transaction or booking fee. Fares depend on passenger demand and how many days until you’ll travel. The cheapest fares are available when you buy tickets a week or so in advance. To escape the city, travelers on a can also opt for a round trip ticket from New York to Richmond, Va., for $60, or a roundtrip ticket to Raleigh, N.C. for $80 with New Century Travel.
Plan a Staycation
If you’d rather stay close to home but want take a break from work and spring cleaning, plan a day trip or a staycation. You won’t have to pay for and endure a long plane, train or bus ride or worry about lodging. Plan outings to all the local places you’ve been meaning to visit, especially if they’re sights you haven’t seen in your own city.
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