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Why last minute travel is the best way: deals and more

Have you ever thought of going to the airport without any travel plans and booking a last minute flight to any place on the spot? Jazzy and Ben, who run the Road Affair travel blog, took this approach on a recent trip.

They went to the Chicago airport with no travel plans and bought plane tickets for a last-minute trip to Iceland. “During the pandemic, we found ourselves yearning to travel even more than usual,” says Jazzy. “But planning trips became impossible. So whenever there was an opportunity to escape, we jumped on it with a spontaneous trip somewhere.

They are not alone. In the post-pandemic era, spontaneity is the new name of the game in travel, and travelers are booking more last-minute trips than ever, according to a new study from the site Skyscanner.

Skyscanner research shows that more than half of respondents (53%) have booked a trip to a destination they know nothing about, proving that spontaneous and flexible holidays are the new travel norm. The research also shows that 56% of travelers arrived at an airport with no destination in mind and booked on the spot to get away from it all.

“The impact of the pandemic and ever-evolving travel restrictions have reignited appetites for spontaneous travel, with three-quarters of US respondents (75%) saying the events of the past two and a half years have led them to want to be more spontaneous” says Laura Lindsay, global travel expert at Skyscanner.

This wasn’t the first time Jazzy and Ben had embarked on such an ultra-last-minute trip — it’s something the duo have been doing regularly for the past nine years, ever since buying airline tickets to Cancun, Mexico on a whim. “It all started when we got stuck on an elevator from Chicago while on our way to hitchhike across the US,” says Jazzy. “We spent that day trying to get a ride without getting the upper hand — we found ourselves with nowhere to go.”

Their solution: They decided to take the last train into town, which happened to be headed for Chicago O’Hare Airport. On the spot, Ben asked if she had ever wanted to just go to the airport and buy a ticket for everything. “The answer was definitely yes,” says Jazzy. “Without thinking, we booked the cheapest flight, which happened to be Cancun.”

With nothing but their backpacks, the pair landed in Mexico without knowing anyone, the language, what to do or where they would be staying. “That was all part of the fun,” says Jazzy. “We ended up staying for a month before moving on and touring the rest of Central America. Since then, we’ve taken more spontaneous trips than we can count. It’s our lifestyle now.”

The latest data from Skyscanner suggests that spontaneous travel is perhaps one of the most financially savvy ways to travel, and today’s technology makes it easier for people to book a trip while on the move or even at the airport. For example, on Skyscanner, travelers can use the ‘Anywhere’ search to find destinations or timings that will give them the best deals. “For all bookings made through Skyscanner for trips departing in September 2022, booking within September 2022 was the cheapest time to do so,” says Lindsay.

Saving money doesn’t come naturally – you need to be strategic and smart. “Travelling without pre-booking a flight or hotel room can end up being more expensive than having everything pre-booked,” says Jazzy. “Depending on the season, however, there are last-minute flights and hotel deals that spontaneous travelers can take advantage of.”

Depending on the airline you use, you may also be able to save money by booking at the airport. Lifestyle blogger Kevine McMillan explains how this works in a viral TikTok video explaining a solution for low-cost airlines like Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines, which usually charge online booking fees to passengers who book through their website.

Besides saving money, a huge motivation for travelers is the chance to do something really spontaneous. “The opportunity to get to know a country’s culture by not reading about it, but actually experiencing it is invaluable,” says Jazzy.

Indeed, psychologist Emma Kenny says there are proven benefits of spontaneous, last-minute travel. “A common stressor is decision making in the holiday planning process. That’s why it can be so liberating to forego the methodical organization that so often accompanies a planned vacation and opt instead for an impromptu break,” says Kenny. “While it may seem scary to just pack your bag and get on a plane to take a chance on an unfamiliar destination, you will benefit psychologically as this creates a ‘can do’ attitude and reminds you to the limitless possibilities that are available . And because you don’t have a clear agenda or plans, every step you take will carry a sense of adventure, which is really liberating.”

Here are some other tips to save money on last minute travel:

To be flexible: “Searching on multiple dates and airports gives you the best chance of a bargain. Flight prices are all based on supply and demand. Because some dates are more popular than others, prices will vary,” says Lindsay. “Consider traveling a day before or a day after your original departure dates, flying on less popular days of the week is always cheaper.”

Mix & match:“Being flexible to mix and match the airlines you fly with can significantly reduce costs,” says Lindsay. “Look at flying on one airline and back on another or from one airport to another.”

Find a spontaneity buddy“If you’re struggling to be spontaneous and you know you need that extra push to get out of your comfort zone, enlist the help of your partner, best friend, or parent,” says Lindsay. “Let them plan some fun trips and agree that they won’t tell you where you’re going until a few hours before you have to leave.”

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