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Last Minute Travel Planning: It Doesn’t Have to Hurt

Contributing Author April 28, 2022


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Vacations are meant to be fun. There are a number of things that can ruin a vacation, but planning one on short notice doesn’t have to be one of them. It may seem like a gargantuan task to pull an entire vacation together at the last minute but it might not take as long as you think. In fact, the actual planning part can take as little as a couple of hours if you know what you are doing (you may just miss out on the prices of booking in advance). Let’s take a look at some of the things that you need to do if you need to plan a vacation on short notice.

Bean bag on beach
Last minute vacation planning doesn’t have to hurt.

Start Planning: Laptop tools

First, You’ll want to grab your laptop to start researching some of the information that you need. For example, you should be looking through hotels, flights, packages that are on offer and so much more. A few of our favorite sites/apps to start with?

Google Flights is king for general airfare searches. It does the best job aggregating and pulling outbound and return options from airlines. Honorable mention goes to Skiplagged.com for those that like to study things like hidden-city fares for *reference.

*Booking and not using the full ticket on these fares is risky and often violates a carriers contract of carriage. Use at your own risk.

When we’re not booking with flexible points like Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards, we almost always book directly with the hotel. This tends to ensure easier coordination with hotels and gets us perks provided by their respective loyalty programs. If you find a better rate at a third-party site, call the hotel or chain directly to see if they’ll match it.

Car rentals can be trickier. We’ve tried a number of sites but our best deals have typically been found off-airport if you can find a nearby neighborhood location that you could Uber/Lyft/Taxi to once you’re off the flight. This, however, is time consuming and not entirely helpful if you’re travelling with kids in tow. We’ve had some success with hidden-agency rates like hotwire’s “hot” rates but more recently those deals have been less than ideal at airport locations. Our best success with cars has been direct with the agency.

Or maybe just stay AT the airport? Jake likes Royal Park Hotel at Tokyo Haneda.

With those tools in hand it’s time to search. If your laptop is running a little slow and you’re on a Mac, you can’t afford to wait forever for each page to load. Look at free and paid mac cleaners, just to get things moving along a little better. You’re on a tight schedule here, so you don’t want your laptop to be the reason that you’re behind!

The Part About Money

Once you have decided on a vacation spot, you’ll want to make sure that you know what your budget is. You can’t be spending more money than you have, so why would you not look at this? Apps like tripcoin can be helpful for planning and keeping track of expenses, but for some a simple spreadsheet will do. We know that sometimes the budget isn’t as high as you want it to be it and can be a little disheartening, but you don’t always need a ton of money to have a fantastic time when you are traveling. Just look at the number and then get planning. If you’re not someone who needs a fancy place to sleep, focus more on the things that you do while you are there and how much fun you want to have outside the hotel.


Last minute doesn’t always equal stress. Jake atop the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

List it!

It’s never a bad idea to make yourself a list of all the things that need to be done, and then all the things that you need to pack, and then all of the things that you want to buy. Three lists, but they’ll help you remain organized as you can tick things off as you sort them, and then you can feel a real sense of accomplishment as you’re going through. It also means you won’t forget anything!

Have your own vacation planning tips to share? Let us know in the comments or @modhop on twitter, instagram or tiktok!

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Contributing Author

General travel tips and advice on destinations, hotels and flights.

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