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Originally published Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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How to find last-minute flight and hotel deals

Looking for last-minute air and hotel deals? Search the Web and follow these tips.

The Washington Post

Finding last-minute flight and hotel deals can be tricky, but with some flexibility, creativity and maybe even a bit of gambling, you can find what you need.

Just do a little Web surfing and follow these tips:

Flexible flying, Part I: Destination. If you just want to get away and don't particularly care where you go, look for sales from your local airport. FareCompare.com's "Cheap GetAway Deals" shows a map of places with sale-price flights originating from your home airport. Follow FareCompare on Twitter to get updates on sales from your home city (www.farecompare.com/twitter).

A new site, www.Voyij.com, lets you search for flights, hotels and packages anywhere and anytime from your home airport. Also, airlines' Web sites often display where the deals are for last-minute getaways.

Flexible flying, Part II: timing. If you can take off on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, you're more likely to get good airfares. The cheapest flights also tend to be first thing in the morning or late at night, though keep in mind that those times may rule out using public transportation to get to or from the airport.

Hotel location is key. When researching hotels, use a map to locate what you want to see and investigate nearby public transportation or driving routes and parking. Staying out of the hot spots helps, too. In a city like New York, where entertainment hubs such as Times Square usually have high prices, Priceline.com spokesman Brian Eks suggests, "Think of locations just outside the city." He suggests staying in Jersey City, N.J., or nearby Hoboken for rates of about 70 percent lower than in Manhattan.

Time your stay. Eks says that the price you'll get on a room "depends on the dates and depends on the time frame, whether it's peak season or not." In a city such as Las Vegas, which caters to weekend leisure travelers, he says, going midweek is "significantly cheaper" than going on the weekend. On the other hand, "a lot of the major cities are cheaper on the weekends, especially the ones that do a lot of business with business travelers." Airport hotels are generally good deals on weekends.

Bid on it. Some sites offer auctions for flights, hotels, rental cars and more. Before you consider this option, make sure to read all the rules. For instance, Priceline doesn't let you choose your flight times, so you're guaranteed a flight only between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on the date you choose.

Eks says that, in general, "flights are even more susceptible to last-minute changes" than hotels or other sectors of the travel industry. If a flight hasn't sold as well as expected, the airline may offer seats to Priceline customers for as much as 60 percent off.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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