Last-minute travel deals: How to escape winter weather on the cheap

Have you had enough of the cold weather yet? Itching to get away and go somewhere warm? Most Canadians are in this boat at this time of the year. Most of us also don't want to pay an arm and a leg to go away on vacation.

For many of us, finding a discounted rate or a last-minute travel deal is the only way we can afford to go away during the winter. The good news is are plenty of travel websites and agencies that offer travel deals. You just need to know how to get them.

Are last-minute travel deals the cheapest option?

Most people assume that waiting until the last minute is the best way to get the least expensive vacation deal, but this is not always the case. In fact, it is now widely known that the best time to book a winter vacation is about two months in advance, four to six weeks before departure being an ideal time to find lower prices.

This is not to say that you still can’t get great last-minute deals. It’s just a good idea to start looking well in advance for vacation savings. You never know when a good deal could be available.

Five tips to escape the cold winter weather on the cheap

  1. Keep your eyes peeled: Finding a cheap, last-minute travel idea is often a war of attrition. You need to be on the ball and always looking around for deals. When one pops up, you need to be ready to act on it and book right away.
  2. Be flexible with the dates: Being flexible about when you travel is a key component of getting a good last-minute deal. If possible, consider a number of different weeks or time periods when you are willing to go away. This will open the door to more travel options and give you better odds of finding cheaper travel opportunities.
  3. Don’t be too narrow in your choice of resorts and countries: The more narrow you are with your options, the more you are limiting your ability to get a better deal. Avoid focusing on a particular resort or even a specific country, if you can.
  4. The month you go matters: You can almost forget about getting a cheap, last-minute deal if you want to travel in December, and you need to make sure that trips in February and March are not during school breaks if you don’t want to pay regular fare. As a general rule, October, January and April are the best months to book the least expensive trips.
  5. Travel during the week: Most people travel from Saturday to Saturday or Sunday to Sunday. If possible, book your arrival and departure days on less busy travel days, such as Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Travelling will be easier, and you will save money.

Cheapest is not always best

While everyone wants to get the best deal possible, making a vacation decision based on price alone is not advisable. In addition to looking at what you get for the price you’re quoted, make sure you are aware of any taxes you will have to pay. Keep an eye on things like flight departure times, length of stay, connecting flights, quality of the hotel or resort, and potential hidden fees when considering your winter vacation options.

Make sure you are fully aware of all the details of your trip before booking. Also, don’t forget to purchase a travel insurance policy.