Emergency Trip – How to Find the Best Cheap Airlines and Hotels Last Minute

man in airport watching plane take off

Emergency loans for last-minute travel. Traveling for a death in the family.

Need to take emergency travel? We can help with that. Here is your go-to guide on emergency travel and last-minute travel. Learn how to save money on flights and housing, compare alternative travel options, and find financial resources to help cover the costs

Sometimes unexpected things happen in life. You could experience a family emergency, death, or even a much-needed vacation. Life happens suddenly. When changes come, we have to learn to adapt quickly.

Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you have to plan a last-minute trip. You might need to take off work, book a flight, and travel somewhere for a few days. It happens to most of us at some point in our lives. If tomorrow looks different than how you planned, we can help.

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Why people need to take emergency travel

No one can predict when they will need to travel for a tragedy. It might not be realistic to have money saved aside for something like that. Who wants to think about saving money in case of a funeral?

Traveling is stressful. Traveling for an emergency is even more stressful. You have less time to plan, a smaller budget, and fewer opportunities to save. Along with planning your trip, you are also likely stressed about the reason you have to travel in the first place.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the travel industry has taken a hit. Thousands still need to travel for work or emergencies. We all have reasons we might need to make an emergency trip this year.

Most types of emergency trips usually revolve around family or close friends. A person might need to travel to help a relative who is currently in a difficult situation and needs physical or financial help with the home or kids. Someone might take an emergency trip to visit a sick or dying relative. Emergency travel might be necessary for a funeral. A person might need a break from their current surroundings to save their mental health. They might have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to surprise a loved one.

If you need to make an emergency trip, you are not alone. Whether you are traveling for a tragedy or something fun, use this guide to save money and get the funding you need for your last-minute trip. 

Save money on last-minute emergency flights   

Infographic on how to save money on last-minute emergency flights

Use air miles and rewards

If you travel often, you might be able to cash in some frequent flyer miles. You might be surprised how much of a discount you can save on your flight. Call your preferred airline to see if you have flyer miles. With most companies, you could probably check online if you prefer. 

If you do not have frequent flyer miles through an airline, you may also check in with your credit card company. Oftentimes, credit cards come with special perks. These perks could include free flight miles with a specific airline company. You might have gotten them when you signed up for your card or accrued them over time. Using rewards like these could help you save hundreds, or you might even be able to fly free. 

Use a flight map

You need to get from point A to point B. You could take a direct flight, which might be more convenient. However, that tends to come with a larger price tag. If you are flexible with your travel, you could search for cheaper flights in the area. Instead of being dropped off at your airport of choice, you could be dropped off at a different airport in a neighboring city. You might have to drive the remainder of the trip. Using a flight map might not be ideal and renting a car might be both timely and costly. Flight maps display several pickup and drop off points near where you want to travel. By allowing some flexibility in your schedule, flight maps can help save money! Consider using flight maps like Kayak, Google Flights, and Skyscanner to find the best rates on affordable flights. These websites compare hundreds of flights at the same time to find you the best prices! The amount you save could cover the cost of a rental car and then some.  

Call the airline directly

It never hurts to call the airline, or even head to the airport and see what options they currently have available. If they have several passengers cancel last-minute — which happens a lot in the industry — you might be able to snag a plane ticket at a much lower price. Unfortunately, booking at the last minute is a sign to airlines that you need to travel fast. They may charge you even more if they think you are desperate. Booking last-minute, or flying standby, is definitely a gamble. If you come to the airport without a ticket, you might leave without a flight. Flying standby might not be a good solution if you are traveling with several people. It only works in your favor if you have the ability to wait for another plane. 

Along with booking last-minute flights, you might be able to find special rates if you are traveling for a funeral. Bereavement flights are discount tickets for people who have experienced a death in the family. Several airlines offer bereavement flights. Check with airlines such as Delta, Air Canada, Lufthansa or WestJet. These tickets cannot be booked online. You will have to call the airline and provide information and details about the person who passed away and their funeral arrangements.

Budget airlines

Instead of flying with the big companies, consider flying with budget airlines. You might miss out on a complimentary snack and even extra leg room, but you could save decent money on your fare. There are several budget brand airlines in the U.S., including Spirit, Frontier, Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin. Not all of these airlines travel across the U.S. Destinations may be more limited with these airlines.

Fly at night

Only a few people want to wake up early enough to drive to the airport and board a plane at 4 a.m. Sometimes booking the first or last flight of the day can help you save money. Fewer people are willing to wake up early or stay up late for flights. Those tickets often cost less than flights that take off in the middle of the day. In addition, early flights are often less crowded. If you want to avoid crowded planes right now, this might be your best bet.  

Follow their social media

Sometimes companies share offers and discounts on social media and email. You can see real-time if they have any specials or offers. With COVID-19, many airlines have or have had discounts on flights. Some discounts were up to 55% off the original price! You never know when they will run a special. Some airlines, such as Southwest, have routine specials. You can be sure to stay up to date by signing up for email offers or following the airlines on social media.

Other ways to save 

If you really cannot save money on a ticket, you might want to look into business or first-class seats on last-minute flights. If a plane is about to depart, you might be surprised how much you can save on a first class or business class seat. Their prices might be comparable to coach tickets. You are not likely to save money here. However, an emergency trip is already stressful enough. If the ticket prices are close enough to coach, you might as well fly comfortably. 

Economy hotels and housing deals 

Travel rewards, points, and discounts

Check to see if you have points with a specific hotel chain. Hotels often offer loyalty programs to loyal customers. If you’ve booked several times with them, you might qualify for specialty discounts. Call the hotel directly or see if they have a customer portal online that you can access. 

If you do not have points with a hotel chain, you may still be in luck. You can try calling your credit card company to see if they offer travel rewards or discounts to major hotels.

If you do not have travel points, you might still have other options. Check to see if you are a member of AAA. It is a little old-fashioned, but some hotels still offer discounts for AAA members. If you are a veteran, it does not hurt to ask if they have discounts for veterans. While uncommon, some hotel chains do still offer veteran discounts. 

Call the hotel directly

You might be able to negotiate the price. If you plan to stay for a long time, or need to book several rooms for family, those are items that could help you negotiate. Hotels have sales teams, and those teams have goals of filling all vacancies. If you have experienced a death, or have family in the hospital, there may be discounts available. Unlike airlines, hotels may not have bereavement rates set in stone. However, they might be able to offer discounts if you are traveling to visit family in the hospital or have a funeral to attend. These discounts will not be available online. You will have to call the hotel and ask. If you can, try calling between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. local time to increase your chance of speaking with a sales representative who can best assist you. You will have a better chance of talking to a sales rep, rather than the receptionist. 

Budget hotels and motels

Sometimes budget hotels and motels can make a person feel uneasy. At the same time though, a room for $45 is a room for $45. Many people avoid budget hotels and motels because they worry about cleanliness. Before you unpack or lie down, there are a few things you will want to check first. 

Check for bedbugs, which can live in bedding, clothes, and even walls. You do not want those things biting you, or worse, coming back with you to your house! Pull back the sheets and blankets at the top of the bed near the headboard. Check the seams on the mattress and box-springs. Look for bugs, eggs, exoskeleton, and even rust-colored spots. All are signs of bedbugs. For a more complete list, check out this article on bedbugs.

Next, you’ll want to check the door and be sure it locks correctly. Be sure to check the blankets and towels to ensure they were properly cleaned. If you have concerns with any of these items, bring it up with the front desk or housekeeping. Sometimes staying at a budget hotel or motel can feel more comfortable if you are staying with a group of friends or family.

Visit Airbnb

Check out sites like Airbnb where families are able to list a room or house. Families offering a room or guest house might have low prices on listings. Some Airbnb hosts are more involved. They are there to make sure you have a great vacation stay. It is likely that these hosts will charge more for a room. For the hosts that just want to make a quick buck or two, they will usually post lower rates. They may be less involved, but that might give you more space, especially if you are feeling stressed from your family emergency. You might be surprised by some of the rates. Along with homeowners, some hotels also list their rooms at lower rates on these same websites. 

Stay with family

If you are there to visit family, it does not hurt to ask if you can stay with them. If you are not picky, this might be an option for you. You might need to sleep on the couch or on the floor with a sleeping bag and a few blankets. You might consider investing in an air mattress, which typically sells for about $50. 

If there are a lot of people staying there, you might be able to camp in their backyard. A 1-2-person tent typically sells for about $60. If several people are staying at the same house, be considerate of their needs. Older relatives or relatives who have injuries may need the bed. If you are all sharing one or two bathrooms, be prepared for a wait time in the mornings and at night.

Travel smarter – alternative travel options

There are several alternatives to flying. Many alternatives are more affordable. Flying is definitely the fastest and most convenient way of traveling long-distance. However, there are also trains, buses, and automobiles. These types of transportation can get you pretty far across the U.S. If you have to travel a long distance, you have options.

Traveling by car

You could drive to your location. Of course, you will still have to pay for gas, but that can be a lot cheaper than airfare. You could get a rental car for the whole trip, but that could get expensive fast. If you do not have money for a rental car, you could take your own vehicle. The downside is that your car will rack up mileage, thus increasing other costs. You will have to buy new tires, or replace the oil, sooner than expected. Racking up a few thousand miles in one weekend can do a lot to your car. Using your own car will likely increase maintenance and upkeep fees. Over time, the amount you spend on maintenance versus a rental car. The major difference is if you want to spend that money now or later.

If you are traveling with several people, taking a car might be the best solution. You can all carpool to your specific destination. Your passengers can help split the costs, such as food or gas, along the way. Plus, riding in a car with several people often makes the ride more enjoyable. Passengers can help decrease stress and make the drive feel faster. Make sure to schedule for plenty of bathroom breaks along the route.

Traveling by train

Consider taking a train. There are several train stations along the U.S. They might not get you to your exact location; but if they can get you close enough, you might be able to take a rental car for the remainder. You can take a look at the Amtrak US map, which lists all available train stops. Train tickets can be relatively expensive. They might save you $100 in comparison to plane tickets, but the tradeoff is your travel time will likely be longer. This is one option to consider if you have more time than money. Traveling might take a full day so be sure to consider the day and time your train departs and arrives. Double-check the dates and times because sometimes that print can be really small.

Traveling by bus 

Another alternative is taking a bus. You might be familiar with local transportation like subways and buses. There are long-distance buses as well. Similar to trains, this form of transportation has limited stops, and they can still be expensive. You might be able to save about $200 round-trip should you go this route. However, your travel time may increase. This is another option if you have time to travel, but your wallet is really hurting. Similar to a train, be sure to double-check your departing and arriving days and times.

Traveling by boat

Depending on where you are traveling, a boat might be an option. If your current location and destination both have ports, this might be a solution for you. The cost will likely be comparable to a bus or a train. Look online to compare. The transportation with the more direct path, either over water or over land, will likely be the one that saves you the most time and money.  

Get emergency cash for travel   

Now that we have explained how to save money along the way, you might still be wondering how to cover remaining expenses for emergency travel. Traveling is already stressful enough. Finding the funds to cover it should be easy. 

If you need to travel this week, you need the funds to cover it now. You do not have time to get a part-time job, sell items around your house, or save up an emergency fund. 

Consider an online payday loan for emergency travel. An online payday loan is a quick solution for urgent or emergency expenses. At Net Pay Advance, our application takes less than 5 minutes to complete. We deliver an instant decision and offer same-day funding options with a valid debit card on file.  

Don’t worry if you have bad credit. We don’t do a hard credit check. There’s no credit needed for our payday loans. You could have the funds you need in your bank account, today.  

In an emergency, a payday loan might be your best bet. In the future though, it is always a good idea to save up for emergencies like these. There will be a time that you will need to help out a family member, attend a funeral, or go on a much-needed vacation. 

You won’t always have time to save up money when you need it. Instead, practice saving money now. When you get back from your upcoming emergency trip, take time to focus on saving money. For more resources on saving money, check out Budgeting 101

Net Pay Advance is a licensed loan provider, locally owned and operated in Wichita, Kansas. Our No. 1 priority is helping you, the customer, by providing access to the cash you need and helping support financial independence goals with valuable, informational, and entertaining content. Stay up-to-date on our posts by following the Net Pay Advance Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. Our organization is committed to transparency; learn more about our authors and editorial policy. The information provided within this blog is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or legal advice. Please contact us if you have any questions.

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