How to Save on Your Last Minute Summer Vacation

Summer Vacation

Summer VacationBelieve it or not, sometimes waiting until the last minute can be the best way to score deals on your summer vacation. If you keep your mind open as to where you want to go, you?ll likely be surprised at where you can go relatively cheaply.

We love to travel in our family and usually like to plan those trips out. However, there is something to be said of being spontaneous and going on a last minute summer vacation. With that in mind, I?ll show you how to find cheap vacation packages if you are scrambling to come up with a destination. If none of those interest you, I can still provide you a plan B option that will allow you to visit virtually anywhere in the U.S. for pennies on the dollar.

Find a Cheap Luxury Vacation

If you aren?t one that likes to lie on the ground and gaze at the stars above you, then I?m guessing that you?d rather stay in a nice hotel. Well, if you wait until the last minute, you just might be able to find a great deal on an entire hotel or cruise package. Though this may not always be the case, it can be a great way to save money when it works out in your favor.

You see, hotels and cruises are typically not packed at full capacity from day to day (even though they?d like to be). By waiting till the last minute, you could show up to the hotel with bags in hand and offer to rent one of their rooms that are currently earning nothing. To them, renting a $200 room out for $100 – $125 is still a win because it was just sitting there empty before you came! They would much rather earn $100 than $0.

I have seen a friend of mine use this tactic several times. Often, they give him an amazing deal, but if they don?t then he leaves and goes somewhere else. It is important to remember though that there is a risk associated with this, so make sure you keep that in mind before planning on using this as a way to save on your summer vacation.

Cruises operate much in the same way. They absolutely hate leaving the dock with a ship that?s only half full. They would rather give you a 75% off stay on their ship than to leave the room empty the whole trip. There are various websites that you can track to find those kind of deals; I typically just use sites like Kayak or Travelocity myself. The thing to remember with this though is that you may also be dealing with a short timeframe to get to your destination.

The Cheap Alternative for a Summer Vacation

If you actually don?t mind the outdoors and like to go camping, then I would encourage you to travel around the U.S. with some hiking boots, a blanket, and a tent. You would be amazed how relatively cheaply you could travel by seeing all the sites, but then setting up a tent for the night.

In a rustic campground, you could get away with a $5 stay (believe me, I know people who have done it). By purchasing your food from the local grocery store, instead of expensive restaurants, you can save money on dining while also eating healthy too.

For this method to work really well, it works best to have a fuel efficient car. My wife and I drive a Nissan Altima which allows us to get roughly 500-550 miles per tank which cuts down on our gas costs quite a bit. If we had a less fuel efficient car that would impact your cost quite a bit and possibly not make the trip worthwhile. That said, if you can do it for cheap it can be a great way to take a small summer vacation and not bust your budget in the process.



What tips do you have to save on a last minute summer vacation? Do you prefer to plan your trips out, or be completely spontaneous?



Photo Courtesy: sparkleplenty_fotos

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  1. I have never scored an amazing last minute deal on a package deal, however I have been known to book things on my phone while we are headed there!
    I like to fly by the seat of my pants a lot when it comes to traveling, it makes it fun and if neat things come up that you don’t know about in advance, you can still go.

    • John Schmoll says:

      We’ve not done the phone thing, that I can remember, but we have scored a couple last minute deals that have worked out nice.

      We like to be spontaneous with traveling as well, though that can be more of a challenge now that we have three kiddos.

  2. Kim says:

    I gave up sleeping in a tent long ago, but there are a ton of campgrounds that offer cabins. They are more than a campsite, but much less than a hotel in many places. I think VRBO also does some last minute deals for the same reasons you mentioned. No one likes vacancies, so it’s worth an email if you see something open at the last minute.

    • John Schmoll says:

      That’s a great point about campgrounds that offer cabins Kim! We have a local state park that have cabins and they’re always booked because people love them so much.

  3. Michelle says:

    We usually go on a lot of last minute planned vacations. I can usually score deals by doing this by calling hotels and seeing if they have any vacancies and negotiating from there. We also camped on our last vacation for a few days and saved a lot of money that way!

  4. I actually feel as though last minute deals used to be better than they are now, or I just haven’t found one recently. I love the idea of a last minute vacation, but hate the thought of spending too much for it. I like a good stay cation to save money, especially if you have a “summer friendly” home like one near the pool or beach. We have a pool in our neighborhood and spend lots of time there.

    • John Schmoll says:

      I agree, I love the idea of going on a last minute trip but don’t want to spend a crazy amount for it. I love staycations as well…assuming I stay off my computer. 🙂

  5. Anytime we go on vacation, we try to book a place as inexpensively as possible, but always try to get a kitchen or kitchenette in the room, so we can cook some of our own meals and don’t have to eat out every time we want anything.

  6. I plan way ahead for vacations but I occasionally plan a last-minute weekend trip. I really want to take the kids camping but I am afraid they will hate it!

    • John Schmoll says:

      I’ve moved that way a lot now that we have the kiddos. But, I do still like to do something last minute every once in awhile. Our kids have asked us quite a bit to go camping, though I’m quite certain the fun would wear off in about 5 minutes. 😉

  7. We are not very good at spontaneous. We like to have a solid plan, so your hotel recommendation would not work for us. But I like the cruise idea very much. I’ve heard of people getting some incredible deals on cruises!

    • John Schmoll says:

      We used to be, then we had kids. 🙂 There can be some great deals on cruises, especially if you live in certain areas. My Mom & Step-dad live in Florida and they’re always getting offers for crazy discounts because the ship may not be at full capacity.

  8. I usually like to plan ahead my vacation, but if I had to do last-minute vacation I’d go somewhere close by. One time I decided to be a tourist of my own city and it was interesting to visit places I wouldn’t have visited on a normal day!

  9. debt debs says:

    The next winter vacation that I do will be roughly scheduled with flexible dates but nothing booked. I will book a last minute deal. If I can’t get anything (highly unlikely) I will at least be satisfied that I tried. I will do things in my home city that I never have time to do but always wanted to do i.e. sit in on a courtroom trial, visiit a museum at a leisurely pace (hopefully taking advantage of any deals going on), do a project that I have been putting off at home and reward myself when completed. I can’t lose with so many options open!

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