Need to book a last-minute trip? These 5 tips can help you save on plane tickets.

Sometimes, a last-minute trip pops up and it can be expensive. Airlines often raise ticket prices as the departure date draws near, so savvy travelers try to plan well ahead.

But, experts say, it doesn’t have to be that way. If you need to travel unexpectedly, there are some strategies you can use to find the best possible deals. A big part of finding the best deal is being as flexible as possible, but there are also a few best practices that can increase your odds of finding cheap tickets.

Here are five things to know if you hope to find a last-minute flight deal.

1. Fly midweek if you can

Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be the cheapest days to fly, so if you’re not tied to a specific day for your travel, it’s best to seek out departures on those days.

“By flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday, you can save an average of 18% or $51 per ticket on domestic airfares this summer. For trips to Europe, flying on weekdays can save you as much as $435 per ticket this summer,” Hayley Berg, lead economist at travel platform Hopper, said in a written statement.

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2. Book the first or last flight

Early morning and red-eye flights are often the least popular with other travelers, so tickets for those departures can be cheaper.

“These flights tend to be less desirable and thus less expensive and less crowded. That means you’re likely to score a deal and be able to stretch out comfortably across empty seats,” Laura Lindsay, global travel trends expert at Skyscanner, said in a statement.

Berg added that an early departure comes with the added benefit of being less prone to disruptions.

3. Search nearby airports

Berg and Lindsay said it’s a good idea to seek out flights from more than one nearby airport.

“Destinations with multiple airports give you more airline, itinerary, and price options,” Lindsay said. “By expanding your search to nearby airports, you expand your flight options. So, you may end up getting a better flight time and a better deal. Consider airports that are also within driving distance of your final destination. You can book a last-minute car rental and drive the rest of the way. Depending on the flight options, you may be able to get in even earlier than the quickest direct flight.”

For example, Berg said, if you’re flying to South Florida, consider Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in addition to Miami. Or, if you’re leaving from Boston, think about looking for flights out of Providence, Rhode Island, as well.

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4. Do your research

Using online booking platforms like Hopper and Skyscanner can help you explore your options. If you’re flying at the last minute, it's best not to be too wedded to one airline.

Calling a tour operator can also help you get a good deal if there are unsold seats at the last minute, and booking two one-way flights rather than a round-trip itinerary can save some cash as well in some cases.

5. Play chicken

This high-risk, high-reward strategy can pay off but also could cost more.

“Waiting until the very last second before making a move could pay off. Flight prices can drop as the departure date draws palm-sweatingly closer. Want to travel on Friday, but can’t find the right fare on Tuesday? Don’t give up just yet – try Wednesday, Thursday, and the big day itself before you throw in the towel,” Lindsay said.

Zach Wichter is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in New York. You can reach him at

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cheap tickets: How to get the best deal on last-minute plane tickets