It's Not Too Late for a Last-Minute (Affordable) Summer Getaway
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Save on swanky hotel rooms.

Once you’ve landed on a destination, find a place to bed down. In addition to HotelTonight, which lists luxury accommodations at up to 70 percent off, check out RoomerTravel. People who had to cancel a trip and are stuck with a hotel room they can’t get out of list their reservations for other travelers to purchase at more than 80 percent below market price.

Branching out to less popular areas of a city is another savvy move. Look for accommodations in the suburbs of a major city, but right on the subway line with easy access to the main attractions. Or consider staying in a city’s business district, as hotels there will offer better rates during weekends and holidays, says travel advisor Suzanne Wolko of PhilaTravelGirl.

Or rent for even less.

You already know that renting a vacation home through Airbnb, VRBO or HomeAway is often thriftier than a hotel stay. “You get double the space for half the cost,” says consumer and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. “Plus you have access to a kitchen, so you can prepare most of your own meals.”

Now there’s a website that can nudge home rental prices even lower, allowing travelers to save up to 50 percent off home rentals. Through Tansler, you can name the price you want to pay, then owners from properties you like compete for the booking. The first host to accept the offer confirms the reservation.

Pitch a tent.

New apps are giving the old-school, low-budget camping trip a nice upgrade. First, book a site online using ReserveAmerica. Then sign up for the Moonlight app, where you can import your campground reservations, access meal and activity recommendations and coordinate itineraries and details with your group, like who’s bringing food and equipment.

If you’re not into roughing it, scan the luxe accommodations on GlampingHub, where you can choose from cozy tree houses, fancy yurts and secluded cabins. Or book a reservation with Under Canvas, which operates hotel-quality camps next to four National Parks.

See the sights—at a discount.

You may subscribe to daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial in your hometown, but don’t forget about them when you’re traveling, too. “It’s a great way to get local deals on dining and activities,” Portillo says. “I recently bought a last-minute Groupon for a vineyard tour and tasting for 50 percent off the normal price.”

While you’re researching, don’t forget to look for free entertainment, too—from movies under the stars in public parks to gratis museum admissions. Check the city’s website in your destination of choice for a calendar of events.

Be flexible.

Finally, make sure you’re approaching your spontaneous travel plans with the right mindset. If you have a rigid idea of what you want, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, from sky-high rates to hotels with no vacancy.

“Be flexible with travel dates, keep an open mind about trying new airlines or accommodations and consider heading to an off-season destination instead of limiting yourself to one place that may be crowded and costly,” Woroch says. Then relax and enjoy.

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