A Travel Agent Shares With Us Their Genius Tips For Booking Last-Minute Trips

Travel prices fluctuate by the day, sometimes by the hour. With the holidays right around the corner, many folks are keeping a watchful eye on getaway fares, eager to see if there will be any price drops worth snagging. If you're one of them, you might be wondering whether to swoop up your ticket now or wait it out. While it's impossible to know for sure, as there are so many factors at play, we asked travel agent Victoria Fricke of Vic's Vacations for her best last-minute travel advice.

To be clear, "last minute" means something different for everyone. From Fricke's perspective, it refers to those final 30 days before you're planning to go on vacation. "Of course, if you live on the edge, that can be week prior or even closer to travel," she explains. But, in general, last minute planning means you'll be closer to having to pay full price for your vacation. Unless a great deal comes along, that is.

Tally up the overall value

Ticket fares and packages are based on supply and demand, among other factors. A hotel or cruise line, for example, is going to look at their existing inventory and set a price point that encourages the highest occupancy level. That's where the deals come in, says Fricke. If the demand is low for a certain date, prices could drop to encourage last-minute travelers to commit. Set an alert on your phone to check the price every few days and keep track of changes. For airfare, set up a flight alert on Google to receive email notifications.

Always use the flexible calendar option to see how different days impact the price. To figure out if you've stumbled on a great rate, look up the same days of the week in the same season. For example, if you're looking at a weekend package, look at the same dates but one or two months out to compare prices. "Keep in mind if your trip is in August during hurricane season and you compare dates over Thanksgiving, those rates will be much higher," Fricke says.

Book a refundable flight before you commit

If you decide to book a deal, remember that you'll need last-minute airfare to go with it, which typically gets more expensive the closer you get to departure. If the hotel drops by half, but the airfare doubles, the price levels out. Look at the overall value of the bundle when you're making a decision. You can create a spreadsheet of the different packages on offer, tallying up the airfare and hotel in the same column to see if it truly is as good of a deal as it seems like it is.

‌If the rates on your vacation package are still high but you're pretty certain you're going, Fricke suggests booking your flight as soon as possible using points or cash on an airline with a flexible refund policy, like Southwest Airlines. "Then you can just watch the hotel for pricing to drop the week of," she says. "If it doesn't and the price is too high you can cancel your flight without being penalized." Or, if you do decide to book at a higher price point, you can lessen the blow by using your stored up points and miles. For the right deal, it's worth it.