By Susan Breslow Sardone
Suddenly, next weekend looms before you -- and there are no plans yet on the calendar. Great! It could be the perfect time to get away for a last-minute romantic getaway to a place you've always wanted to travel -- or a visit to destination you know and love.
At the last minute you can grab a flight, jump into the car, and spend an unforgettable romantic weekend, just the two of you.
According to a travel poll by the Travel Industry Association of America, half of all U.S. adults take at least one weekend trip per year, and almost 30 percent have taken five or more weekend trips in the past year. Traveling by car (74%) is the most popular mode of transportation for weekend trips, followed by flying (16%).
For childfree couples on a budget, the proliferation of last-minute travel sites and discount hotel deals has been a boon. There's even a name for quickie, last-minute weekend getaways for lovers: mini-moons. And they can be fabulous: A whirlwind romantic weekend in a new city, sleeping in a top-rated hotel for less, savoring delicious meals at just-discovered restaurants or from room service, seeing the sights.
Get Ready to Go
Once you understand the pros and cons of last-minute travel, be ready to scoop up a deal and hit the road. Here is how can you be prepared to take advantage of a last-minute romantic getaway:
- Shop the Last Minute Web Sites. Get an idea ahead of time of what's typically available by visiting these sites and signing up for their newsletters to take advantage of late-breaking deals.
- Pick your ideal destination. Discuss beforehand with your partner where you'd like to go if you have a few days to get away together.
- Don't forget the cat or dog. If the place you pick is pet-friendly and yours is a good traveler, great. If not, line up a petsitter you can depend on. Write out instructions in advance and the name of your vet just in case.
- Pack a "getaway" bag. Throw a couple of things in a suitcase so you can grab and go. Pack toothbrushes and toothpaste. One change of clothing per day. An extra set of toiletries and underwear for both of you. Something sexy. Something playful. Lube. Travel candles. And just in case it rains, a sexy game for two to play.
Yet taking advantage of a last-minute deal on the Web could disappoint an unwary couple. In many cases, last-minute travel sites sell what is known in the industry as "distressed inventory" -- aka center seats on airplanes and left-over rooms no one else has booked. And since, as a couple, the point is to be together -- and you are likely to spend more time in a room than a single or business traveler -- your satisfaction with both air and hotel arrangements is important.
Also, there can be hidden costs. While the first price you see on a last-minute deals site is usually quite affordable, that generally reflects a stay in the least expensive hotel available in the destination you choose.
Want something more romantic? If you selected a weekend in Washington, DC, for example, it could cost you an hundreds of dollars extra per room per night to upgrade to a superior hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Finally, keep in mind that most last-minute weekend travel deals are non-refundable. So don't buy that mini-moon trip until you're positive you can make it -- and then go and have a terrific time.