Business travel can be stressful enough. But learning that you must travel at the last minute and/or during a high-traffic season like the holidays can be more than overwhelming. Many times the window of opportunity for a business deal is closing, leaving no choice but to make a trip.
I've had to take a number of last-minute trips globally that were necessary to close a deal. Along with the stresses like jet-lag and time management that come with business travel, I've found that the hardest part is finding a flight deal that isn't going to cost a small fortune.
Knowing first-hand that last minute trips are sometimes a must, here are four of my tips for finding flight deals in the nick of time:
1. Do your research.
The first thing to do after learning you need to book a last minute flight is research your options. You might start your search with your desired airline in mind. Perhaps you are part of a loyalty program that you can take advantage of. However, it's certainly not the only the place to consider.
Look at sites that specialize in helping you find cheap tickets and compare them. Hipmunk and Google Flights are good places to begin. After looking at a few sites, you should see what the average price is going to be and how low deals get. If you have time, sign up for price change alerts.
2. Be wary of outrageous deals.
If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. For instance, if you've found a flight that'll only cost $300 on one site and all other sites are showing $650, there may be restrictions or hidden fees that aren't clear. Before you buy any ticket, make sure to read the fine print and see what hidden fees you'll have to pay.
In my experience, when a flight is being advertised so cheaply, it's usually because you're only seeing the price for a one-way flight. Sometimes, after clicking through, you'll find that the fare didn't include taxes, baggage fees, and other service charges. Again, read carefully to know exactly what you're getting.
3. Fly budget carriers.
While this certainly isn't everyone's preference, if you can't find a deal that fits your financial needs and schedule, consider flying with a budget carrier. Budget carriers are known for having many hidden fees. That doesn't mean you should avoid them entirely.
To get the most out of last-minute deals with them, you have to know what you need and what things you can pass up. Let's say an airline charges you for overhead bin access, for choosing a seat, and for food and beverage services. If you can fit your luggage under the seat in front of you, bring snacks, and don't mind what seat you get, those are three things you don't have to pay the extra fees for.
4. Be flexible.
If you're really out to find a good last-minute deal, then you must be flexible with your travels. When researching prices, look at deals for airports near you and your destination. You can possibly save hundreds of dollars if you take a flight at an airport that is further out from the city.
Besides airports, also keep an open mind for what date and time you'll be flying. I've found that certain days of the week have cheaper options, depending on the city and flight time. For instance, I've noticed flights on Sundays and Mondays tend to see more traffic from business travelers which sometimes shows higher pricing.
Bonus tip: Use your miles.
If you have a rewards credit card, you can use the bonus points or miles you've earned to help pay for your flight. Alternatively, you can use the best credit cards for international flights to upgrade your experience as much as possible. If anything, take advantage of the lounges and amenities that your card grants you access to so you won't be completely wiped out by the time you arrive at your destination.
Looking for deals can be fun, but it's definitely led me down a rabbit hole a few times. If you think you found a reasonable deal, take it. Or, save yourself the trouble and consider using a travel agent. While you may be required to make a few sacrifices in order to get to your destination, once your trip is booked and planned, you can focus the business that's bringing you there in the first place.