Whew. Last minute travel can really test your planning skills. For example:
- A difference of few hours matters. One of the fares we were looking at jumped $60 while we ate dinner. When you are traveling at the last minute, and the trip is a must, you simply might not find a good deal. Find an OK price, hold your nose, and buy. This goes against our best frugal family travel related tendencies, but you might not have the luxury of options. Unless…
- See if you DO have options. This particular trip could have been turned into a long drive if necessary. Be sure to creatively consider all options. Would a drive be cheaper or more realistic? How about the bus? Even if these things aren’t better, having checked and considered them will ease your mind about the logistical ramifications of the trip.
- Frequent travel can lead to a “travel snowball.” Frequent travelers probably already pay attention to the frequent flyer miles game. But is your kid a frequent flyer? We didn’t have enough miles to offset the cost of this trip, but our oldest son did. He literally saved us over $1000. If you ever pay a fare for your child, make sure they get the miles, they come in handy. (No miles for lap children, which is another con I guess)
- Be flexible. You’ll hear this a lot around here, it’s so important for family travel. It’s true in this case as well. Be flexible with your hotel and rental car standards, be flexible with flight times and travel methods, be flexible with price. In this case more than others, some preferences need to take a back seat.
- Rest in advance if you can. This is probably worth a post of its own. We arrived after midnight. Then we spent a ton of time together with family. We flew back a couple days later at 6:30 AM (there’s a 6:30 in the morning now?!?) A good night’s sleep before the trip can make a huge difference in successfully navigating a couple of short nights (which will be short nights for your children, and you already know how they can act when tired.) A nap after the trip is also great if possible.
It’s hard to step back and think through this at the last minute, so put it in the back of your mind now for future use. Last minute travel isn’t ideal, but hopefully with these tips you can get through it a little easier. I’d be interested to hear other last minute family travel tips others can come up with.