Travel

How to Save on Last-Minute Flights

Booking air travel just days -- or hours -- in advance can be especially pricey. But you can keep costs under control if you're flexible.

I had to book a last-minute flight today. A representative from Genworth Financial reached out to me and asked if I would participate in a videotaped roundtable discussion April 26 in Washington, D.C., about long-term-care planning and caregiving. Kiplinger's headquarters are in D.C., but I live in Kentucky.

So I went to Kayak.com -- one of our favorite travel sites -- to see how much a flight would cost from Nashville, Tenn. (the closest city to me with an airport), to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (the closest airport to the site of the taping). I knew it wouldn't be cheap, but I wasn't expecting $885 to be the lowest price available (on a flight with two layovers, to boot). I mean, I could fly overseas for that amount.

I wasn't ready to give up, though. So I checked flights to Baltimore Washington International Airport, which is about 45 miles away from Washington, D.C. I found nonstop flights on Delta and Southwest Airlines (at Southwest.com) for about $500 -- a savings of nearly $400. I can hop on a commuter train in Baltimore and be in D.C. in no time.

As my example shows, being flexible about which airport you fly into can help you save big. And if you were planning on renting a car anyway, driving an hour or so to get from the alternate airport to your final destination probably is worth it. (If you weren't going to rent a car but will need to if you fly into an alternate airport, make sure the cost of the rental doesn't match or exceed the cost of flying directly to your destination.)

For more tips on cutting costs on airfare, as well as lodging, cruises and vacation packages, see 20 Secrets to Save on Travel.

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