Booking last minute flights can be a challenge in itself, but if you know where to look and the options available it may make it easier or cheaper to book it while you might still be able to maximize the value on the same.
Below is what I have learnt in booking last minute flights and it might be useful for you:
Start out with Skyscanner:
Skyscanner provides a meta-search engine which sources not only from the international airlines but often times from the regional/domestic airlines as well (which may be cheaper to book). It also provides something call as "maps" feature which allows to look for options by selecting your source airport. If the place you are flying in-to is an expensive one sometimes the neighboring airport might be cheaper to fly into. Below is an example view when you select your "flying from" airport.
As you can see from above, it also provides suggestion as well as an idea on what general prices you are looking at. If you are looking at specific dates then it may be easier to just search from home page, by selecting specific airports.
Search Google Flights next:
Google Flights has become go-to place to search for flights off late. It has much of its roots from ITA Matrix. You can easily search with multiple airports for both source and destination. This is a useful feature because you might find an alternative flights between different pair of airports which could be much cheaper and thus worth that extra travel trouble. Let's say you are looking to fly from San Francisco (SFO) to Hong Kong (HKG) on Oct 15th. Below is an example one way search which shows cheaper one stop options if you are willing to switch airports.
Search for reward flights next:
While the above flights example looks pretty cheap it is always prudent to search the "reward flight cost" for the same route/airports. A cheaper last minute ticket might be sometimes the one booked with miles! You can easily search the cost of reward flight by going to "milez.biz" and using their award calculator with just entering source and destination without entering the mileage program. Below is an example search for SFO-HKG which reveals the cheapest round-trip mileage cost of 45,000 miles + taxes/fees with ANA program. Do weight that not all airlines would allow one-way redemption of tickets and the taxes/fees might vary across programs (not to mention the "last minute booking" charge).
Next search the flexible currency portals:
If you have flexible points currency and the credit card which gives higher redemption value when you book for travel you should search on their booking website as well. If points redemption shows similar price as shown by "Google Flights" or "SkyScanner" then it might be worth to just redeem those points. Few of the flexible currency which give higher airline redemption value are:
Citi ThankYou points redeemed for 1.25x value when you have their "premier" or "prestige card.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points redeemed for 1.25x value when you have their Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus or redeemed for 1.5x value if you have Sapphire Reserve card.
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve rewards redeemed for 1.5x value either through their travel portal or using their "real time mobile rewards" for flight redemption
So, here you go. Hopefully above will make it easy to maximize your cash, miles or points while making that last minute booking.
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