It’s only a few weeks before the kids head back to school and for a lot of people, that means going back to the daily grind. If you haven’t had a break all summer, you might feel the urge to get away before the leaves start turning – but can you do so without breaking the bank? Or is it too late to find a good deal?
•Related Read: Looking to Get More Bang out of Your Travel Dollar?
It’s true that some of the best deals to come by – especially when it comes to finding a cheap flight – are travel dates several months in the future. But you’re not out of luck. With a wide variety of travel websites and apps, it may take all of a few hours to find and book a relaxing getaway that won’t break the bank. So if a staycation doesn’t really appeal to you, here’s how you can afford and budget for a last-minute summer vacation:
Don’t be picky about where you go
With last minute travel you may not have as many choices available as if you were to have booked six or even three months earlier. So if you have a particular destination or specific hotel in mind, don’t get your hopes up – you may not find exactly what you want. If you keep an open mind and focus on a general goal instead – whether it be adventure or relaxation – you are more likely to score a good deal.
Where have all the cheap flights gone?
Let’s face it – it’s generally pretty expensive to travel by air these days. Unfortunately flights on regularly-scheduled airlines tend to go up in price as the departure date gets closer. A friend of mine was recently researching a Toronto to Vancouver flight and told me from the time he found it to when he booked only 24 hours later, it had already gone up a few dollars.
Where you may be able to find last minute deals are on charter flights to popular sun destinations like Cuba or Mexico. These, too, may come along with a full package deal for less than $1,000 per person. There are oodles of sites that are excellent for these sorts of trips and can also help find you both a flight and hotel within your preferred price point by giving you a wide range of options.
Consider the destination
The reason that flights may be cheaper to places such as Cuba and Mexico in the summer is because they’re not as desirable when the weather is warm and pleasant in Canada. The same goes for the Caribbean islands. But before you book, be prepared that it’s still quite a bit hotter down south than it is here. If you don’t do well with temperatures above 30 C and high humidity, this isn’t the trip for you.
A great place to score a great deal these days may be Britain. Since the June 23rd Brexit vote, the pound has depreciated quite a bit, making it cheaper for Canadians to visit the U.K. Many travel companies have taken advantage of this and are offering specials, so expect that spots may fill up very quickly.
Another cost-effective option: travel within Canada. Our loonie is still quite low these days. While domestic flights may be pricey, gas is not as expensive as it has been the past few summers. As a result, taking a last minute road trip is an affordable option. If you primarily travel outside the country, you may be surprised what you can find right in your own backyard.
Last minute hotel deals
If this is included as a package with your airfare, you’re taken care of and ready to go! If not, or if you’re thinking of a road trip, there may be plenty of last minute options. Once again, all you have to do is go online to find some amazing deals that you wouldn’t as easily uncover by calling each hotel individually.
Just be careful: some motels may have rooms at steep discounts because they’re simply not nice places. Make sure you read reviews online to help you decide. And yes, everyone likes to complain online about a bad experience so use your judgement. A traveller who isn’t fond of the hotel’s bathroom décor is different from someone who uncovered mold in the bathroom or bedbugs in the sheets.
Another way to save money is by checking your options on accommodation-sharing sites like Airbnb, VRBO or FlipKey (by TripAdvisor). Also check out home exchange sites, where you can swap houses or apartments with someone in another country at virtually no cost.
Travel rewards cards can help!
Look to your wallet: your credit card may be able to help you save on that last minute getaway. If you’ve got a travel rewards card, visit its website, see how many points you have and what it can get you. Case in point: my parents recently decided they needed a last minute summer getaway but didn’t want to deal with the U.S. dollar, nor did they feel like heading south when Toronto temperatures have hovered around 30 C for most of the summer. Instead, they booked round trip tickets and five nights’ hotel in Newfoundland. Best of all, they did it entirely on their rewards points. If you plan to book on points, check for blackout dates and restrictions and if you have more than one rewards card, whether or not you can combine rewards.
Don’t have a travel rewards card? It’s never too late to sign up for one and start saving up points for your next vacation. For no annual fee, the Scotiabank Rewards VISA earns one reward point for every $2 spent on the card. Point redemption is flexible and cardholders can get up to 25% off certain car rentals. Another no-fee option is the American Express Blue Sky card. Cardholders can earn 10,000 Blue Sky points after charging $500 within the first three months of receiving the card. Redemption is flexible with no blackout dates or restrictions, and the card comes with $100,000 in travel accident insurance.
Don’t forget to take out travel insurance!
This is a must – you cannot leave home without it! Travelling without insurance could end up costing you thousands of dollars should you lose your luggage, become ill or be involved in an accident. In fact, you shouldn’t even be leaving your own province or territory without purchasing insurance because coverage rules may vary throughout the country. Compare travel insurance quotes before you leave to make sure you’re getting the best possible coverage at the best available rates.