The Art of Last Second Travel Planning

Getting Around By Stefan Zechner June 6, 2017

Last minute travel planning is old-fashioned. With the world now at our fingertips, we can book a flight in the Uber to the airport, buy museum tickets in line for the exhibit, and find a hotel as the sun goes down.

It may sound fickle, but isn’t the point of a vacation to break free of schedules and routine? Planning your trip in the eleventh hour leaves the door open to accept that party invitation, take that detour, and just generally go with the flow. Leaving it to the last second can also save you money as eager vendors drop prices to sell the last of their stock before it’s too late.

Sure, flight and hotel aggregators like Kayak are common knowledge at this point, but there are some little-known tricks to mastering the art of last second planning.

When you want to go somewhere, but don’t care where

It’s the ultimate romantic wanderlust move: deciding where to go when you get to the airport. But in reality, most of us have budgets, and spending hours going counter-to-counter comparing prices kind of takes the wind out of the sails.

Sky Scanner’s ‘flexible’ search feature takes the legwork out of choosing a destination on a whim. Just choose your city of origin and type “everywhere” as your target. Sky Scanner will list all of the available destinations based on ticket prices.

When you want to see where the road takes you

 Between calculating distances, researching conveniently located sites, and choosing the best rest stops, road trips can be an organizational headache. Why not make like Kerouac and let the road be your guide instead? You can actually use the lack of planning to your advantage.

Hotels give HotelTonight their unsold inventory to list at discounted prices up to a week in advance (think: up to 70% off). When you’re nearly done driving for the day, just pull up the app, search by map radius, and find some swanky accommodations that you wouldn’t usually be able to afford. Roomer and Cancelon also list cancelled rooms at cut rates.

When you didn’t have time to plan an itinerary

No one wants to spend precious vacation time behind a computer screen working on a schedule. If you didn’t pick up a guidebook to browse on the flight, Facebook can be your savior.

Just search your destination on the Facebook app and you’ll see which of your friends have visited and what spots they geo-tagged. You can also find “Places The Locals Go,” upcoming events, and the most popular attractions based on reviews. If you’re on your laptop, you’ll see a list of top attractions alongside which of your friends have been. And of course, there’s the old reliable: Post a status asking your friends for recommendations.

If Facebook’s not your thing, download city guides on TripAdvisor’s app to use on and offline. They’re basically free tour books with maps and reviews on your phone.

When you need nighttime plans in a new place

For last second fun abroad, change your app store country and type “nightlife” into the search bar to find a city-specific app. If you’re strictly on the prowl for a concert, you can use Songkick’s app to discover local shows all over the world.

If you liked these tips, check out our list of travel hacks from professional travel bloggers.