Consumer Reports’ Shop Smart: Where to find last-minute vacation deals

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Need a va­ca­tion, like, right now?

ShopSmart, the shop­ping mag­a­zine from the pub­lisher of Con­sumer Re­ports, sug­gests these sites that make last-minute travel cheap and easy to book. Each one of them meets ShopSmart’s re­quire­ments for con­tact info dis­clo­sure and cus­tomer ser­vice.

In ad­di­tion, check out the last-minute travel sec­tions of the Big Three sites (Ex­pe­dia, Or­bitz and Trav­e­loc­ity). ShopSmart also rec­om­mends look­ing at opaque travel sites such as Price­line and Hot­wire, which don’t re­veal which ho­tel you’ve booked un­til af­ter you pay for it but of­fer heav­ily dis­counted rates. And try GetARoom.com (1-800-468-3578) for su­perlow un­pub­lished room deals.

• Air­bnb.com: Best for liv­ing like a lo­cal. Users can rent pri­vate rooms in peo­ple’s homes or en­tire homes. With more than half a mil­lion list­ings in 34,000 cit­ies, it can save you from a bland ho­tel — and save you money. Opt for hosts with a Ver­i­fied ID badge; they pro­vide proof of iden­tity, which gives you an ex­tra layer of se­cu­rity.

• Book­ing.com: Best for find­ing a ho­tel room. Search ev­ery ho­tel in a city and book your fa­vor­ite (you don’t pay un­til you show up). The Best Price Guar­an­tee means if you see a cheaper price, the site will match it. But dis­counts such as AAA’s aren’t cov­ered, so if you use those it’s worth it to book di­rectly with a ho­tel.

• GetGo­ing.com: Best for nice sur­prises. Feel­ing ad­ven­tur­ous? With GetGo­ing’s Pick Two, Get One pro­gram, you en­ter your pre­ferred travel dates and the ex­pe­ri­ence you want (say, a beach va­ca­tion or an out­door ad­ven­ture), and the web­site finds flights to dif­fer­ent cit­ies at up to 40 per­cent off. Review your choices, then nar­row your des­ti­na­tions to two — and here’s the kicker: The site makes the fi­nal de­ci­sion for you. After you en­ter your credit card info, you find out where you’re go­ing.

• Travefy.com: Best for group travel. These tools take the pain out of co­or­di­nat­ing a group trip. You can all vote on a lo­ca­tion, book flights and ac­com­mo­da­tions, agree on your itin­er­ary and even split shared costs (and set­tle debts, too). Join the re­wards pro­gram to earn points for ev­ery­thing you do — not just for book­ing but also for log­ging in and tweet­ing about your ex­pe­ri­ence. Those points are re­deem­able for cash, gift cards, mer­chan­dise and more.

Travel apps are an­other way of find­ing great last-minute va­ca­tion deals. Con­sider these three that ShopSmart loves:

• Ho­tel To­night: Book un­sold same-day ho­tel rooms at cut-rate prices. The rates are guar­an­teed to be the low­est avail­able. Works on An­droid, Ap­ple.

• Lounge­buddy: Long lay­over or de­layed flight? Dis­cover the best air­port lounges and how you can get into them. Hint: Some of them are free! Works on Ap­ple.

• Su­per­fly Ho­tels: Tracks air, car rental and ho­tel re­wards; sug­gests and even books rooms, then gives you up to 10 per­cent cash back. Works on Ap­ple.


By the ed­i­tors of Con­sumer Re­ports (www.con­sumer­re­p­orts.org).

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