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Being spontaneous doesn’t have to be expensive, so we did a little digging to find the best last-minute flight deals that wouldn’t break the bank.
We researched a series of routes and dates on popular travel apps and chose the top three performers based on the following criteria:
- Affordable flights available within the week of search.
- Results that show the lowest price available, including no-frills fares.
- Searches that include all standard filter options like one-way, flexible dates and nonstop.
- Interface and ease of use.
- Price-based destination recommendations.
The Top 3 Apps for Last-Minute Flight Deals
Sounds like you’re in a hurry, so I’ll make haste.
Open this app to be greeted by a sleek screen beckoning you to explore flight deals this weekend, next weekend, this month or the following months.
Once you set your departing city, the world is your oyster.
Destinations will be listed by price and country. Suddenly you’ll be tempted to go everywhere, like a quick round-trip jaunt to Mexico for $248 next weekend. Providence, Rhode Island sounds interesting for $103.
Choices will be plenty, and options and price will vary by departing city. You can play around and make decisions based off the cheapest flight, soonest date or location available.
If you’re not feeling frisky, don’t fret.
You can choose a specific destination, firm or flexible travel dates, the number of stops and the duration of your trip. Then plan ahead by finding the cheapest ticket available within the next month — or up to five months.
The app tells you in bright red letters if the ticket is overnight or has any stops.
You’ll be redirected to a travel or airline site when you’re ready to purchase your ticket. And thankfully there’s no shadiness here; you’ll be notified if the ticket you chose is basic economy or has any other sort of restrictions prior to purchase.
The deals I found on Skyscanner did not appear in searches on Google Flights or Expedia, which makes this app a winner.
Maybe it’s Momondo’s deep purple interface and clean home screen that make it so appealing to the eye.
To conduct a basic search, you must enter a departing and arriving city. This includes an option to add nearby airports to the results — a bonus feature other last-minute travel apps lacked.
Select your exact travel dates or use the flexible option to see the possibility of a cheaper flight up to three days before or after your original selection.
What makes Momondo standout is its “Mix & Match” feature.
Instead of bundling your ticket into one roundtrip, Mix & Match splits it apart into two one-way options, usually on different airlines.
This method often yielded the cheapest price for a ticket in all the searches I conducted in various apps and online. How’s that for a travel hack?
That’s not all.
Momondo caters to the thrifty free spirit with its “Explore the world” feature that allows you to search flights based on your budget. Now that’s music to my Penny Hoarding ears.
Open up this feature to find a tiered selection of prices accompanied by map with location pins of all the places you can go with your chosen price and departing city.
On the surface, Hipmunk is your everyday flight deals app.
Enter the basic info for your desired trip and apply the standard filters as needed. The results easily display which fares are no frills, economy and first class.
What’s not so easy to read is its color-coded blocks that indicate layovers, duration and airline carrier. The more you look, the better you understand what it means, but it’s definitely a con if you’re in a hurry.
That being said, don’t let its busy and confusing interface fool you.
Dig deeper through the app and you’ll uncover its special “Discover” tab.
Where other apps list the cheapest flights by country and city, Hipmunk’s Discover feature offers users to search by trip type.
Looking to hit up cities for beer lovers? What about places with the best live music? Need to keep it family friendly because you have the kids in tow? Skip the heat and want to go ski? Maybe you just want to head to the coast?
Hipmunk has it all. The app provides a variety of themes that appeal to travelers seeking a specific kind of trip rather than an exact destination.
You can pick a range of dates, from the current month to six months out. Set your parameters and find affordable results, leaving as early as tomorrow if you need.
You’ll be redirected to the carrier site and notified of any restrictions before proceeding to purchase any flight.
Tips Before You Buy a Last-Minute Flight
Always read the fine print and make sure the site you’re redirected to is trusted.
Double check durations so you’re not surprised by an overnight flight.
Most importantly, determine what the baggage fees are in advance so you don’t incur last-minute fees to accompany you on your last-minute trip.
Even if you’re in a rush, double check your deal across these apps or on another site to ensure you’re getting the best price, as fares change on the fly.
Whatever your speed, all three of these apps cater to the last-minute traveler, semi-soon planner and the bargain-basement hunter.
Stephanie Bolling is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. It took everything she had could to not hop on a plane this weekend.
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