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September 12, 2006 5:15 PM   Subscribe

If I don't care where I'm going, and I want to pay as little as possible for a round-trip ticket (over a few days) what's the best way to do it? I don't need any advance warning where I'm going... I'm willing to just get on a plane and go, as long as it's a round trip ticket and I can get back within a known period of time.

Surely there is some way I can take advantage of last minute underbooking realisation on the part of the airline...
posted by phrontist to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Try checking the last minute airfare deals at SmarterTravel.com. They sometimes have some good deals.
posted by justkevin at 5:29 PM on September 12, 2006

Southwest Airlines ? They fly out of DC, ( Reagan, I think ) and usually have some good fares. Wouldn't hurt to give their online thingy a whirl.
posted by lobstah at 5:38 PM on September 12, 2006

Response by poster: I'm in Lexington, Kentucky (Bluegrass airport, of recent crash fame) for the purposes of this question, with the ability to get to Louisville.
posted by phrontist at 5:40 PM on September 12, 2006

Kayak Buzz
posted by blue_beetle at 5:51 PM on September 12, 2006

Site59 usually has some good deal available.
I like it because you can pick things like "This weekend" or "Next Weekend" with "All Destinations" to see where you can go.
posted by madajb at 6:00 PM on September 12, 2006

Travelzoo's Top 20 should be just the ticket.
posted by rob511 at 7:10 PM on September 12, 2006

Lobstah: Minor correction, Southwest has flown from BWI for years and has recently began flying out of IAD (Dulles), but has never flown out of DCA (Reagan National).
posted by skynxnex at 8:16 PM on September 12, 2006

Geez, this never works. Because you're not really open to going anywhere. No one is. I always see great prices for places like Sioux Falls on Wednesday afternoon for the weekend from Travelocity Last Minute Deals/Site 59 (it's the exact same thing, down to the cringe-worthy name of the package).

And I always think "Wow! 169 bucks per person for two nights in Sioux Falls, including airfare? I'm going to surprise my wife!" And then I remember that it's Sioux Fucking Falls.

Here's what I would do: Decide what you are willing to pay for a lark. Decide what the lowest-tier acceptable destinations are for said lark. Then rank them. Then Priceline tickets for what you are willing to pay (or a bit less, depending on ho much effort you want to commit) for destination number one. If you don't get it, go for number two, etc.

Judt decide that you are going to travel, pick your dates, and run with the plan above. That's how you get absolute bare bones and still get a decent destination.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:42 PM on September 12, 2006

I have no experience with this, but being a courier (NY Times) might get you somewhere interesting. Also, here.
posted by yqxnflld at 8:52 PM on September 12, 2006

Mayor Curley -
I do it all the time.
I've taken cheap trips to (among other places) Omaha, Nebraska, Columbus, Ohio and Green Bay, WI.

I've also been to Sioux Falls, and while it might not be the place you fly to pop the question, there is some nice countryside up there.
posted by madajb at 9:42 PM on September 12, 2006

Having grown up in Sioux Falls, I can guarantee everyone that reads this that you aren't missing anything if you don't visit Sioux Falls... Then again, that's kinda the point...

Anyways, to keep from completely derailing... the beauty of traveling to any of these towns is A) $30/night hotels that are actually clean, B) you don't need public transportation, OR a rental car to get around... just hoof it, C) You can meet some very friendly people...

Though, I'd suggest retiring to one of those places, and taking your vacation to slightly more scenic areas.
posted by hatsix at 12:21 AM on September 14, 2006

Best answer: I like your style! If I wasn't slaving away in the English-teaching mines of Asia, I'd be on the next plane to anywhere.

First, go around the world for less than two grand here. Probably a good value; you could do something as simple as DC-somewhere in Asia-somewhere in Europe-DC in a few days, or go a little crazier. Tokyo and Paris? London, Dubai, Seoul? Johannesburg, Singapore, Auckland, Lima?

IndiaKane can show you a bunch of (domestic) destinations, sorted in order of price or alphabetically, from your home city (tip: instead of inserting DCA, BWI, and IAD, just put in WAS, which is the code for a search of all Washington airports at once, if you aren't picky). Don't worry about the, um, utilitarian site design - it clicks through to Yahoo! Travel.

FareCompare has a mappified-prettyated set of prices on flights departing any destination, domestic and international.

This message board on Flyertalk is full of people who, given the chance to earn quadruple platinum whatever points on Airline X, will fly Airline X and its code-share partners from Texarkana to Singapore twice in a week if the price is right. These folks CONSTANTLY scour the internet for fares, so just keep a tab open with them as you're online through the day and who knows, maybe you'll be flying somewhere for almost no money because of a fare error on the part of the airline. Somewhere like Larnaca, Cyprus for $12 instead of $1200 (there's an 8000-plus reply topic on the front page if you'd like to peruse).

Do keep in mind that sometimes, you might be able to score a deal on two one-ways instead of round trips, or with a hotel thrown in even if you don't plan on using it.

Here are the flight destinations available from Dulles and National (400K+ PDF!), and here's the same thing from Bawlmore.

Caveats: Re yqxnflld's courier suggestion, fishfucker's comment on this post has some contrary insights. Also, jet lag: fly north or south instead of east or west to stay in a not-all-frazzled-state. And maybe take someone along?

Suggestions (destinations): The Caribbean might be cheaper as it's hurricane season now. Banjul, The Gambia (apparently, there are weekly flights from BWI!); Montreal (IAD, DCA, BWI); Reykjavik (BWI). Ethiopian Airlines, Aeroflot, TACA, and Saudi Arabian Airlines (IAD) can probably also get you a most-exciting few days off.

Suggestions (mentality): Spending "as little as possible" is as little as the airlines are charging for the place you want to go, not some impossibly frustrating number you cannot reach. Go somewhere you want to go and be glad you spent the money having a grand old time, not that the guy next to you got his tickets for $20 less - money you're gonna squander on an awesome underground harmonica show or a tour of a 13th-century baronial manor or something.
posted by mdonley at 7:35 AM on September 14, 2006 [4 favorites]

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