- Natalia Lusinski
- I’ve been working and traveling abroad for more than two years, and I’m a firm believer in waiting until the last minute to book flights and hotels.
- Waiting until the last minute can save you money on airfare and lodging.
- Last-minute travel plans can also lead to unexpected adventures and a sense of independence.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
For about two and a half years now, I’ve been living out of a suitcase, working, and traveling abroad at beaches in Sydney, a monastery with nuns in Venice, and many other destinations.
But the thing is, 99% of my travel plans are made at the last minute.
Sometimes, I blame it on my free-spirited astrological sign (Sagittarius). Other times, I attribute it to my grandma who raised me, as we’d take many spontaneous trips when I was growing up, whether to a chocolate festival in the suburbs of Chicago or a cross-country Amtrak trip to Los Angeles.
Years later, I’m still convinced that waiting until the last minute to book travel is the best way to go, especially when you’re a solo traveler (although the benefits apply to all travelers).
Here are my top eight reasons why I still prefer last-minute travel.
You don’t spend too much time planning (or overplanning)
- Adam Berry/Getty Images
When you travel at the last-minute, you often don’t have time to do much, if any, research in advance. As a result, you save time and spend it packing and getting to the airport instead.
You learn to become more independent and resourceful
- De Visu/Shutterstock
When you arrive in a new destination without housing, transportation, or any plans, it forces you to become resourceful and independent.
For example, when you land, your phone may not work – and the airport Wi-Fi may not be working either. So you’ll have to ask a local for the best way to get to where you’re going – and take the train with them into the city.
If you’re lucky, they may even offer to show you around the next day. Before you know it, you’ll know all the city’s secret hotspots – and you’ll have made a new friend in the process.
You have more opportunities for unplanned adventures
- Reuters/Michael Kooren
While some people may prefer to have every minute of their trip planned out, when you don’t, you have more opportunities for unplanned adventures.
On group tours, for instance, you often have allotted time at each destination on the itinerary. But, if you’re really enjoying that particular place, you cannot stay longer – unless you want to miss your tour bus and potentially the rest of your trip.
Some of my most beloved experiences would not have happened if I’d planned everything in advance.
For example, an American can only stay in Croatia for 90 days within a six-month period. On my 90th day there, I went to the Zagreb bus station and decided to hop on the next bus leaving for Slovenia. I felt I was in a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel.
When I arrived in the city of Maribor, I found an Airbnb in a 100-year-old tiny stone house in a woman’s backyard, and there was even a treehouse sleeping option. To date, it’s one of the most memorable places I’ve stayed.
You can find amazing flight deals when you book last-minute
- Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty
One of the primary questions my American friends ask me is how expensive it is to travel from country-to-country within Europe. When I tell them it’s cheap – often under $50 for a one-way ticket – they’re shocked. Of course, it helps if you have some flexibility when it comes to your travel dates.
My favorite go-to flight website is Skyscanner, where you can check out a whole month’s worth of flight dates at a time – or even several months’ worth.
One moment, a last-minute flight from Madrid to Berlin, for example, may be around $200, but the next, later that day or the following day, it may be around $50. And then it may increase again.
Since the prices tend to fluctuate, if you don’t want to keep checking the site yourself, you can set up flight alerts that’ll let you know when a fare increases or decreases in cost.
It forces you to travel light
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Packing light goes hand-in-hand with taking a last-minute trip since you may have to be at the airport – or train or bus station – in a few hours.
Plus, traveling with just a carry-on bag makes things less stressful: You won’t need extra time to check your bag at the airport, you won’t have to pay extra baggage fees, and you may end up having to lug your bag(s) around more than you think, which will be simpler with a lighter load.
It’s often easier to negotiate housing when you book last-minute
A lot of travelers are afraid to negotiate for housing when they’re on vacation, but I’ve found it’s possible, especially when you’re trying to find a place at the last minute.
Unless I’m staying with friends or family, I use Booking.com and Airbnb to find last-minute housing. Booking offers “deals of the day,” and with Airbnb, I find a few similar listings, all different prices, and then message the hosts and try to get my favorite one to match the least expensive one. Most people would rather get their place booked than not and are happy to create a “special offer” for you – whether they reduce the cost of the room or remove the cleaning fee.
In addition, if you tell the Booking.com or Airbnb host that you’re traveling alone, they may reduce the rate on their own since some tend to price their place based on two people.
If you want to extend your trip, you can do so without ramifications, such as paying hefty fees to change your flight
When you book travel last-minute, you can extend your trip without worrying about paying big fees to change your airline ticket.
For instance, in June, I was in Iceland and was about to leave for Madrid when I learned that the Reykjavík Fringe Festival was about to begin. I decided to stay in town for it, met and networked with fellow creative types, and saw some of the best comedy acts and one-act plays I’d ever seen.
That wouldn’t have happened if I had a tight schedule I needed to follow, or if I couldn’t afford to change my flight.
- Read more:
- I’ve been traveling around the world for 2 years with just a carry-on – here are my best tips for packing light
- I travel the world full-time – this is how I budget so I can actually afford it
- Travel guru Rick Steves shares 10 tips to save you money, time, and stress when you’re on vacation
- I traveled around Portugal with 35 people around 70 years old, and left with several valuable life lessons