Everybody knows that buying an airline ticket at the last minute will cost you exponentially more than one purchases well in advance. Airlines know that last-minute travelers are generally desperate and will pay a huge premium for those flights, often out of necessity. I did a quick search for flights between Salt Lake City and Phoenix, a fairly short haul, and as you can see below, prices will climb quickly as the date of departure gets closer.
SLC -> PHX
$853 to fly tomorrow versus $208 in 3 weeks from now. Unfortunately, “life” happens to all of us and there are times when you just have to be somewhere TOMORROW. This was true for us just a couple weeks ago.
Kacee has recently declared on her Facebook that we were in the market for a new car, specifically a minivan. Tough to admit but yeah, a minivan. We tend to be people who like to do a lot of research before buying anything (check out: Nate’s Favorite Things & Kacee’s Gear) and cars are no exception. We would rather fly across the country and drive a car home from across the country that we got cheap than pay extra to have it close by. Last time we bought a car I flew out to Chicago and drove it to Utah. This time we approached the process the same way and were looking anywhere in the country for the right van.
Kacee had been reading and shopping around for hours per day looking for the right one. A few good options would show up but they’d be gone before she could even show me. Often they sold the same or next day. We even were told “no” by a couple in Alabama who didn’t believe that we weren’t trying to scam them but actually wanted to buy their van all the way from Idaho… On top of that we ended up selling our Equinox which made our search more desperate. Luckily, a few days later we found a van that we agreed would be great and, even better, it was in only Eugene, Oregon (much closer than the ones in Florida we were calling on). [It was actually a little bit of a fiasco…we went to buy one van but came home with a different one! Luckily, having points saved us & made it much less of a headache because we were able to get an unexpected hotel room & rental car using just points. Luckily, it ended up all working out and we got a great deal! A full post on this coming soon.]
Saying goodbye to our Equinox
Let’s pause for a second and look at this.
We’ve just sold our family car and really needed to get a new car ASAP. We were looking nationwide. We found one that would probably sell in a couple days and had to get there quickly. But, it is really worth buying a car for $1000 less when the flight there costs $800 and then you still have to drive it home?? Not really. So, how do I get there tomorrow?? This is where the benefit of the points comes into play.
Unlike paying cash for a flight and incurring huge charges for buying last minute, airlines generally don’t care too much if it’s last minute or a year ahead of time! Now, you can’t sign up for a credit card and have a bunch of points in your account tomorrow but you can plan ahead for things like this and have them ready to go when they’re needed. I consider it a type of emergency preparedness. I luckily had 100,000 American Airlines mile in my account and could quickly and easily spend the 20,000 to get to Eugene to buy the van. Things happen, emergencies arise, people get sick or have babies, and last-minute plans occasionally need to be made. Consider signing up for a few big credit card bonuses even if you don’t have a specific use for them, “just in case.”
These currently are the best 2 credit cards to have for last minute travel:
Just like when we bought our Chevy Equinox in Chicago, we used points to get us to Oregon to buy our next car literally 2 days after finding it online!
Our (new to us) Chrysler Town & Country! Got it with 75k miles on it and in mint condition!
Our New Minivan
*Note: some airlines, like Southwest, base their award redemptions on the cash price of the ticket and therefore wouldn’t be a good rewards account to use for this type of emergency situation. Also, some airlines will charge a fee to use miles within 2-3 weeks of departure. American charged me $75 to do this. Consider getting the current British Airways card (currently available with a 50,000 mile sign up bonus) since they don’t charge “close-in” redemption fees and you can book both American and Alaska Airlines flights with their points on their site.
Have you ever needed to take a last minute flight? How much did it cost?
Where would you go if you could fly for free somewhere leaving tomorrow?