(BPT) - Sometimes the vacation bug bites without much notice. If you find yourself craving a travel adventure in the near future, you might worry it will be too complicated or costly to plan without adequate time. But the truth is, sometimes last-minute trips offer the best opportunity to score big bargains, if you know where to find them.
There's no need to ignore your last-minute itch for travel. Try a few travel tips and planning strategies to ensure your trip is not only memorable and stress-free, but saves you cash, too.
1. Skip air travel and save at the pump
Last-minute plane tickets are costly, so for spontaneous trips, consider hitting the road instead. Pack up the car, RV or motorcycle and let the road be the gateway to your next great vacation. Download an app that tracks gas prices, like gasbuddy or Gas Guru so you can always find the best price per gallon to cut down on fuel costs. Want better fuel economy? Improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure, says the U.S. Department of Energy.
2. Uncover hidden gem locations
Popular tourist towns with massive crowds will always cost more than those hidden gems visited by fewer folks. Get destination inspiration on websites like www.LiveLifeLocal.com. With a focus on car, RV, boat and motorcycle travel, the site - created by Safeco Insurance - makes it easy to search for fun destinations and routes by geography, vehicle and tags. You'll find valuable content from authors and bloggers as well as everyday users passionate about travel.
3. Be flexible and ask for discounts
If you can be flexible with travel dates, you might be able to score a last-minute deal. Booking accommodations for weekdays rather than weekends will save you cash, and often there's more availability last-minute. If you know you want to travel in the near future, call hotels and campgrounds and see if they offer discount rates for open rooms/sites. Often rates are reduced 24 to 48 hours prior, but you need to ask. For hotels, a discounted room is better than a vacant room. For you, a fantastic deal awaits. Check out sites like Orbitz.com, Expedia.com or Booking.com.
4. Plan activities en route
Getting there is half the fun when you plan stops along the way. When you're short on time, go online to map your route and discover unique places to stop along the road to your final destination. For example, LiveLifeLocal lets you map your route and suggests nearby activities. To help organize and plan your stops along the way, you can add your preferred activities to a 'collection' on your online vacation portfolio. It's a great way to quickly research and organize a last-minute vacation, plus it is free. Just add a title and save it for easy access, then share adventures on your favorite social media sites and make all your friends jealous.
5. Package and save
When it comes to saving money, package deals are a great way to ease a tight budget. Can you bundle activities together and purchase all your tickets for a deep discount? Does your hotel offer any freebie activities to local attractions along with a reservation? Always ask about possible discounts and packaged savings so you can get the best deals throughout your last-minute trip.
Give in to the wanderlust and take that last-minute trip with confidence. Whether you're hitting the road solo or bringing the whole family along, a few simple strategies will ensure a trip to remember without breaking the bank.