Being on a budget and being in a desperate need of a vacation is a tricky thing indeed. The next thing you know is you feel like there is no point in even trying to find a decent offer because someone has already snatched it.

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Believe it or not, a lot of people have already mastered the art of learning how to find extremely cheap last-minute flights and the sooner you hop on that train, the greater your chances of booking your ultra-cheap flight are. Here is what you need to do.

How to find cheapest last-minute flights

How to Get Extremely Cheap Last Minute Flight Deals

Be the Early Bird

By the time you read the introduction, there must have been dozens of people who managed to find last-minute flights. This only translates into an extremely competitive situation which requires that you constantly stay vigilant. The only logical thing to do is to stay informed by keeping a close eye on the budget airlines through signing up for their newsletters. In order not to overwhelm your inbox with thousands of newsletters half of which you won’t even read, invest some time in compiling the list of the best websites specializing in last minute travel. Websites such as Hopper, Expedia, or Orbitz are the ones to turn to as the first line of defense. On top of that, it’s always a good idea to pay attention to their Twitter or Instagram accounts because this is where the magic happens, too. Airline companies tend to test the anticipated performance of their best deals and they usually give them a gentle push by making them available to followers only.

Prepare for Red-eye Flights

There are certain times of day when you will stand greater chances to have fewer people competing over one-off deals so this is when it might be the perfect time to book. Often called “red-eye flights”, these gems provide you with an opportunity to book flights which stand greater chances of having unfilled seats because they are carried out during the night hours. If a little drowsiness means getting your hands on the cheapest flight out there, then it’s certainly worth the trouble. What you need to know is that these flights are rather common although they are mostly available for long-haul routes. Apart from being less popular and hence easier to book in the nick of time, red flights also allow you to travel during the night and arrive at your destination during the day. This means you will have an entire day at your disposal.

Red eye flights

Avoid Popular Flights

Some days of the week are busier than the others. The term “dead week” is well-known in the travel world and it refers to the days between January 2 and January 15 when the holidays are over and people get back to work. In the same way, there are months which are less likely to be heavily crowded with passengers flying one way or the other. According to Skyscanner, a travel search engine, the findings derived from their extensive research on travel patterns indicate that May is the month which sees the least air traffic or traffic in general, for that matter. In the same way, the date you make a booking is insignificant as long as you do your travel in May. On top of that, May is a glorious month weather-wise. Europe and North America have mild temperatures this time of year and there is very little rain in Asia, too.

Read more: How Do Airlines Allocate Seats to Passengers?

Use Price Alerts

Another good method that will make offers come to you instead of actively browsing for them is to use price alerts. What these alerts do is that they help you track specific routes and notify you the moment they pop up on the radar. Flight prices fluctuate heavily on a daily basis, sometimes even within a single hour. Not only can these alerts you keep track of one specific flight but they can also do so for multiple flights simultaneously. This is extremely useful for budget travelers who haven’t made up their minds exactly where to go just yet. There are dozens of awesome apps for receiving price drop or flight sales alerts so make sure to do your homework and install a few of them on your phone. Some websites even have forecast tools which predict the likelihood of ticket price drops for a 7-day period. Skyscanner and Hipmunk are two of the most notable examples so make sure you pay them a visit.

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Useful mobile apps to book last-minute flights

Consider a Stopover

If you’re a budget traveler in search for flights, then you have to be willing to make a sacrifice and not be too choosy. Long-haul flights tend to be pricey, especially if you’re looking to book on short notice. Picking the routes that are not direct not only provides you with enough alternatives to choose from but is also likely to save you some money. In addition to this, flights that include stopovers also let you visit some destinations along the way. So, if you have a couple of hours to spare, or even better – a few days, then try and book a last-minute flight with stopovers and go out and about during the break between the flights.

Think about Package Deals

Going after package deals is also an option provided that you are not visiting your family or else staying in pre-arranged accommodation. Specifically, be on the lookout for those package deals that don’t require advanced purchase. A lot of airlines offer a combination of airfare and hotel which helps you save big. You might think that travel deals are way too costly but as a matter of fact, you may be surprised to discover that the price of air packages is sometimes actually lower than paying for the flight alone. For this reason, you may buy a package, not use the hotel at all, and still get a great bargain.

Look into Alternative Airports

Checking airfares from a number of nearby airports can do wonders for those of us who travel on a budget. Airlines often compete over who gets to sell the most tickets and are willing and able to lower the prices in order to reap the benefits. A lot of cities have alternate airports and the chances are you will find an affordable last-minute flight if you check out every single one of them. Although they might be a bit further away from the city, it often adds up on your tight budget to pay extra cash for a cab or fish out discounts for group rides to nearby terminals. Companies like Jayride and Uber let you canvas the available transportation to and from individual terminals, covering over thousands of airports worldwide. Depending on your desired destination, you can check out international sites easily found on the world airport list.

Alternative airports are less crowded

Gift Cards

Flight vouchers have gained a lot in popularity when it comes to the cheapest flights. The most sought-after are those that are given away during big holiday promotions, such as Christmas or New Year’s Eve. There are gift card options out there that cater to budget-limited travelers in search for cheap last-minute flights. These vouchers are free of fees and have no daunting booking procedures either. It is these gains that have been driving people toward using the gift cards for their own travels. You still have to be careful about one thing, though. It is necessary that you make preparations in advance because these vouchers are usually time and destination-limited.

Charter Flights

Cash-limited vacationers opting for charter flights can make a good deal on their last-minute shuttle. So, what exactly are charter flights? To put it simply, travel operators usually order an entire plane’s capacity to transfer their holidaymakers to and from desired locations. There is also a possibility of their customers canceling the trip at the last moment which is perfect timing to hop in. By the same token, there are often a few spare seats left on an aircraft which are available to flight-only passengers and they come at a very low price. In order to make use of this unique opportunity, you need to do research on finding the cheapest charter flights. Many airline companies have recently developed softwares which run inference for travelers who need to find vacant seats on charter flights as well as to help passengers with similar intended routes partner up.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Smart Airline Seat Selection

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Air Miles

An experienced traveler must have come across this term at least a hundred times. Also known as “frequent flyer miles”, these miles refer to the points you make as a part of a loyalty program offered by airlines. Generally speaking, the more you travel, the more points you get. Once you collect the allocated number of points, you get the chance to fly for free on the occasion of your choice. Of course, you can pick one airline and opt for their loyalty program or you could sign up for air alliances and garner the points you can later use on any of their partner airlines.

Flying Solo

By now, you must have guessed that it’s much easier to find one last-minute ticket then chasing group airfares. When you come to think about it, it’s quite difficult to coordinate everyone’s schedules and find an ideal flight opportunity that everyone would see fit. After all, you stand a better chance of finding one spare seat on a flight then searching for two or more.

Flying on your own

Emergency Flights

Although this is not an option someone would voluntarily resort to, there are situations which simply call for immediate flights we have to make on short notice. In these situations, we seldom have the time to pick the travel dates and when they catch us off guard, we might happen to be short of money, too. Probably the only positive aspect of this prospect is that airline companies recognize the trouble and are willing to make special offers for those in desperate need for a cheap last-minute flight. Some of the world’s largest global airlines offer additional flexibility in cases of emergency so it’s extremely useful to have that option at hand during those difficult times.

Summary

Having read all of the insider tips and tricks, it’s obvious that the rule of thumb is to be flexible because good things come to those who wait. Although it’s often easier said than done, you will have to be prepared to renounce the comfort and ease which characterize regularly planned flights.