Need to Escape Winter? How to Find a Cheap Last-Minute Getaway


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Does the Polar Vortex and its subzero temperatures have you dreaming of warmer weather? Are you in need of a last-minute winter getaway?

It’s not always easy, but it is possible. By using the right tools – and mindset – you can beat airlines at their own game and snag a deal on airfare to skip town within the next few weeks.

Here are our tips for finding a cheap flight fast.


Tip #1: Use Google Flights’ Explore Feature

Google Flights is the best travel search engine out there, and it should be your starting point when searching for any flight.

And one of the coolest features it offers is called Google Flights Explore. This is tailor-made for those moments when you need to get away for cheap and don’t care where you go.

You can type in a specific city, pull up an entire state or country or be as broad as “Europe” or “Caribbean” and bam – it will pull up a map of some of the cheapest airfare possible.

Google doesn’t heavily promote Google Flights Explore, but it’s easy to find. Simply navigate to the Google Flights homepage at www.google.com/flights and click “Explore destinations.”


Last-Minute Getaways

Google Flights Explore Feature


Google Flights Explore operates much like Google Flights itself. Be sure to read our guide on how to use Google Flights to find the cheapest flights. There are origin and destination bars, date fields, one way versus round trip selectors, the ability to choose your cabin and number of passengers.


Search Last-Minute Dates with Google Flights Explore

To begin your hunt for a last-minute getaway, start by typing in your home airport if it hasn’t auto-populated for you. From there, decide how narrow – or wide – to make your time frame search.

last-minute getaway
Let’s say you’re looking for a weekend getaway anytime in the next month. Simply search for the best deals available in the next few weeks by clicking on the date field. Then, select “Flexible dates,” “February”, and “Weekend.” The results will show you the cheapest destinations you can fly to in February for a weekend.


last-minute getaway

Search Last-Minute Destinations with Google Flights Explore

Next, you can filter your destination. If you’re up for a spontaneous trip anywhere, simply drag the map to see all parts of the world and flight prices to get there. If you have somewhere particular in mind, drag the map to that area or type it in to the destination bar. It can be as broad as “Caribbean” or “Europe”, or as specific as a state or city.

For example, here are the cheapest destinations in the Caribbean from our home airport of Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) for a weekend getaway in February:


last-minute getaway


The flight results move with you as you explore Google’s map. Let’s say you want some West Coast sun but don’t care where you go. Zoom in on that part of the map and see what destinations have cheap flight prices.

And don’t forget: you can filter your search for the most comfortable flight. In the top right hand corner, choose to only see nonstop flights or filter out budget carriers like Spirit or Frontier.


last-minute getaway


Thrifty Tip: Flexible about where you’re departing from, too? After you’ve typed in your home airport, click the destination bar again and hit “+”  to add up to five origin airports. The map will find the cheapest flight options from those airports.

Once you’ve found a cheap flight that suits you, click on the price bubble to see flight details. You can select specific flights and even play around with the schedule to see if there are better dates at the same or similar prices.


Tip #2: Book a Thrifty Traveler Premium Deal

The Google Flights Explore feature can be fun to play around with. But let’s be honest: you probably don’t have time to be hunting down the best flight deals all day, every day. But we do!

Our team spends every day finding the best international flight deals. Once we find a mistake fare, unadvertised flash sale, or crazy cheap flight deal, we immediately notify our Thrifty Traveler Premium subscribers. Usually, these flight deals save our subscribers anywhere from $250 – $500 or more on their flight.

Our flight deals aren’t for last-minute getaways only – we try to give everyone a few months to plan and pack. But sometimes, there are dates available within the current month. Many of our flight deals will span months of availability and include dates as soon as the next week to as far out as 11 months away.

Just this week, we’ve found cheap flights to tropical destinations like Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Colombia, Aruba, and more – many with last-minute dates available.

last-minute getaway

Recent Thrifty Traveler Premium flight deals.


If you’re in need of a cheap flight deal for a getaway ASAP, sign up for Thrifty Traveler Premium to get notified of the best international flight deals we find. If you’re looking for a domestic flight deal instead, sign up for our free daily newsletter and follow us on social media.


Bottom Line

When searching for the cheapest last-minute getaway, the Google Flights Explore tool is your key to success. To be the first to find out about mistake fares, unadvertised flash sales, and cheap flight deals that pop up at random times, subscribe to Thrifty Traveler Premium. Let’s get you somewhere warm, ASAP!


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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

2 Responses

  1. Mary Paula Deane says:

    Do you need to be on a laptop to use a lot of the features you are talking about? For example, I have an IPad and I can’t seem to get the map that you can drag over to search for destinations. My IPad looks different than the example you are showing.

    • Mikhala Stutzman says:

      Hi Mary, great question! Correct, Google Flights and its Explore features work best on a laptop or desktop. I’ll be sure to add a note on this in the post 🙂

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