This isn't a travel site but I do like to help my readers save money. My goal in helping you is simply so that you have more money to invest in the stock market and retire in luxury. I travel a great deal and here are a few tips that I have picked up to help me save a few dollars when I am rushing to make arrangements.
My first tip is to plan ahead but maybe that isn't possible. The reality is that the more advanced notice that you have, the easier it will be to get bargains. This is the plus one that I advertise in the title since if you don't have a choice then you must make a choice (sorry for stealing the Rush lyric but couldn't resist).
1 - Flexibility
Do you have any flexibility? The more you have the better you will do in finding a deal. If today's events have caused you to make travel arrangements for today, you will probably be at the mercy of the airlines. If you're even a little flexible with your travel plans, you may be able to find a deal that doesn't break the bank.
2 - Update your twitter account and Facebook before you need it
A little bit of preparedness is well advised. One place to start is your Twitter feed and your Facebook account. Accounts like @Airfarewatchdogs and @farecomparedeals are just two of the many that should be in one of your feeds if you're watching for last-minute deals. In addition, popular travel sites and even some airlines have e-mail lists, twitter feeds, and Facebook pages that send daily, weekly or monthly specials.
3 - Those last minute travel sites actually work
Search the last minute travel sites. Lastminutetravel.com as well as Expedia, Orbit and Travelzoo are places to check. Even if they aren't the cheapest, you can get an idea of what would be a normal price so you have a basis of comparison. The one less obvious place to look are travel sites that cater to local areas. For example, Airtech.com offers last minute deals to Europe and Hawaii. Sites like this may be harder to find, but the best way to find these sites is sometimes through local connections. The person or group that is insisting you are traveling at the last minute may give you some ideas. It never hurts to ask.
4 - Date of the week matters and so does time of day
It is my observation, the cheapest travel day is Wednesday as most business people leave on Monday or Tuesday and then return home on Thursday afternoon or Friday. Your best bet is to avoid weekend travel which is when most people leave for vacations. Try to leave on a weekday and return on a weekday if possible. Also be flexible with your airport choice. For some travelers, there are multiple airports within a few hours from home. If you can travel to a larger airport where discount carriers have service, you may be able to save a substantial amount of money. Finally, leave late at night, early in the morning, or at noon. Those less desirable travel times have more flexibility in their pricing.
5 - Go by yourself
If you have to travel as a group or family, you are at the mercy of the airlines. Because airlines have reduced their total number of flights in order to keep all planes full, finding a good price for a group is difficult. Flying alone allows you to take advantage of a single last-minute seat that may have come available due to a cancellation or an unsold ticket.
6 - Travel agents can be your best friend
It's true that travel agents will charge a premium to book your travel for you, but they often have access to discount travel deals that aren't published online or alternative locations that are not easy to find. This doesn't just include airline tickets; hotels and rental cars are worth discussing with an agent. The agent will be more helpful though if you have already created a relationship or at least they feel like you are coming back in the future.
7 - Name your price
Sites where you can name a price you're willing to pay for a hotel, airline ticket or rental car sometimes net consumers fantastic rates at the last minute. Make sure you shop around before bidding so you don't end up bidding higher than another site's regular price. Priceline.com is the most common of these but there are others out there - just do a little web searching.
8 - Lower your standards
You may love to book at Delta, United, Westin, Marriott, or Hilton because of the great service that you receive and their loyalty program. However, those loyalty points and extra perks cost money. There is no free lunch. Consider lower budget hotels and airlines if you are in a rush. The reality is that if you are rushing to get somewhere, all you really probably need are clean sheets and towels. That free bottled water and mints on the pillow are nice but may not be affordable in all cases. Prioritize your reason to travel above your desire to add loyalty points and you can surely save a few dollars.
Image from Wiki Media (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lufthansa_Airbus_A320-211_D-AIQT_02.jpg)