It is awesome to do last minute, impromptu travel. There are occasions when a cheap flight is advertised, and the price is so, so, good, naturally there is no other option but to jump right at it. Otherwise, I highly recommend you do a lot of research before you pull out your credit card and click buy. I monitor my flights carefully and find that buying my tickets and booking my trips at least 6 months in advance saves me cash. There is no magic number or day of the week. Sometimes ticket prices are cheaper last minute, but it is my experience that buying far in advance is better pricing than waiting for last minute deals. By doing your research, you will get familiar with fare prices and this is the best way to find a good deal. My favorite sites to search for fares are Kayak and Skyscanner. I also follow most airlines on Facebook, they always advertise their offers on social media. In addition, I follow Scott’s Cheap Flights and Secret Flying’s postings on Facebook. Both send out notifications when airlines are offering ridiculous awesome flight deals. I usually share the best flight deals, like me on Facebook @jetwithjen, then you will be aware when awesome deals are available.
2.Check your passport expiration date
This is a big one! Please, please, keep your passport current. Most countries require that your passport be valid for at least 6 months past your scheduled flight return date. Most airlines will not allow you to board, unless your passport meets this requirement. If you book and pay for your vacation and close to departure you find that your passport is expired or will be expiring soon, you are still able to process an expedited passport. But, expedited passports cost extra money, and frankly, who needs the stress?
3.Check if your destination requires a visa
Before you book your ticket, find out if you require a visa to enter the country you are traveling to. Some countries allow you to purchase a visa at the port of entry. Some countries require no visa at all, but if a visa is required, it must be processed with anticipation. Also, it is important that you check visa requirements directly with the country’s Consulate or Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These officials have updated information. If you search for the visa requirements online, you may find information that is old and obsolete. Visa requirements change. Just because your friend’s friend told you that a visa is not required, do not take their word as final. Please check! A perfect example is Turkey. Up to a few months ago, US Citizens did not require a visa to enter Turkey. Now, US Citizens are required to have a visa to enter Turkey, even if leaving the airport during a layover. The visa can be purchased on arrival, but the cost is higher than if you process your visa with anticipation. So, check on this prior to purchasing your ticket.
4.Check hotel availability
Do not book your tickets without checking if hotels or Airbnb’s are available during your travel times. At times, travelers purchase their tickets, but do not bother booking their hotels and last minute they go scrambling trying to find a hotel room. In some cities such as Paris, Rome, and NY City, you run the risk of not finding a hotel room if you do not reserve with anticipation. Cities may host large conventions, sport games, or special events and If you leave it for last minute, you may end up paying much more for the same room you could have booked in advance.
5.Check the weather
Visiting your dream vacation without checking the weather can turn into a nightmare. Unless you are traveling to San Diego, California, or similar where weather is pretty much stable. Check the weather and make sure that the days you are visiting you will have the weather you hope to enjoy. Going to the Caribbean Islands is wonderful; but booking your vacation during hurricane season may not be too smart. Do not arrive at your destination hoping to enjoy a certain tour just to be disappointed because they are closed for the season. This happened to us in Rome. We wanted to take a day tour to Mount Vesuvius in December, unfortunately due to winter weather, no tours were available to do this.
6.Book Flight and Hotel Directly
I do not recommend booking your flights or hotels in sites such as CheapAir or Expedia, I find their cancellation policies to be unfriendly. Most airlines would not make any changes to a confirmed reservation if purchased through a third party. Also, some airline’s seats and baggage policies are different if tickets were obtained through a third party. In those sites you can get a great deal, but deals come with a lot of hassle, especially when you book mixed air tickets. Please stay away from mixed tickets. A mixed airline booking is when you buy one leg of a trip with an airline and connect to with different airline. When you buy a mixed airline flight you need to pick up your bags at the connecting airport and re-check with your new airline at connection. This is a hassle! I find people get stressed and often miss their connecting flights. Some travelers aren’t even aware that they need to pick up their luggage and re-check with the connecting airline. Unfortunately, they find out about this when their luggage doesn’t arrive at their destination.
Please budget your insurance cost and purchase insurance at time of booking or shortly after. Some travel insurance company’s policies offer different coverage if the insurance is purchased later than the final payment for your travel was made. Read the fine print! This is so important. Many people count on the insurance provided by their credit card company. Read the inclusions and exclusions, get familiar with their policies and then decide if you should buy additional insurance for your trip.
Be a savvy traveler, it will save you a lot of money and you will have a pleasant, and stress free trip.