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Now Is the Time to Plan Your Memorial Day Flight

Start tracking prices now and book your trip at least three weeks in advance. If you wait too long, tickets go up by $9 per day!
Toy Plane at the Beach

Memorial Day is coming up on May 28. If you want to book a weekend getaway, now's the time to start planning. While you can always find last-minute deals, you shouldn't count on the perfect bargain showing up at the last second.

From flights to food to hotels, here's what you need to know to plan a great Memorial Day trip without breaking the bank.

When Should You Book a Memorial Day Flight?

You'll want to book your plane tickets at least three weeks in advance, according to airfare-tracking app Hopper. On average, flight prices go up by $9 per day from 14 to seven days before departure. And fares increase by more than $11 per day at seven days out! So if you're booking a flight for Memorial Day weekend, go ahead and start tracking prices.

If you plan on flying over Memorial Day, you'll want to book your tickets at least three weeks in advance.

According to Hopper, a good deal for domestic, roundtrip airfare over Memorial Day is $271 — you should aim for tickets in that price range. However, costs can vary a lot based on where you're traveling from, where you're traveling to, and the exact days you're flying. You'll likely find cheaper flights leaving on Thursday rather than Friday, or returning on Tuesday instead of Monday.

To make it easier to keep tabs on the cheapest flights, we recommend the Hopper app. When you check prices with Hopper, it'll tell you whether you should buy now or wait for ticket prices to fall. And if you wait, it'll notify you when prices drop, so you won't miss the right moment to book.

Drive to Your Destination and Save

If you aren't going far, driving can be much more economical than flying — though the time it takes to drive to and from your destination will cut into your vacation. But if you're on a tight budget, look at destinations within a few hours of home. The larger your traveling party, the more driving will save you. A couple tanks of gas for your whole group is a lot cheaper than $270 per person for airline tickets.

SEE ALSO: The 6 Best Credit Cards for Gas Rewards

Spend Memorial Day at the Right Hotel

Of course, getting there is only part of your travel adventure. For most trips, lodging is a big expense — which makes picking the right place crucial. Check a travel aggregator like Kayak or Hipmunk to find the best prices at your destination.

But price is only one factor when selecting the perfect hotel. Here are a few others to consider:

Location. Hotels that are closer to tourist hot spots will usually be pricier, but also make it easier to get where you want to go. If you plan on hitting the beach, there's a big difference between a hotel that's a block away and one that's 10 miles away. You'll want to balance cost and convenience.

Transportation. If you aren't driving or renting a car, it's important to figure out how you're going to get around. Is your hotel within walking distance of where you want to go? Are there public transportation options? Does the hotel offer a shuttle to popular tourist destinations? Paying for transportation can add a lot to your costs; it may be worth considering pricier hotels that offer more options.

Quality. Some people just need a bed to sleep in after a long day of touring. Others want luxury accommodations. If the level of luxury you're after doesn't fit your budget, think about what compromises will work for you — like picking a hotel that's farther away from popular spots.

Extra fees. Does the hotel charge for WiFi? Parking? Airport transfers? Resort access? Check for extra costs — or extra perks — before you book.

If the level of luxury you're after doesn't fit your budget, think about what compromises will work for you — like picking a hotel that's farther away from popular spots.

Don't forget to look for discounts you may be eligible for, too. AAA, senior, and military discounts are common at hotels, and those discounts could beat sale prices. If you qualify, be sure to check.

Research Your Destination

You probably have some idea of what to do after you arrive, but it's worth checking out your destination. While you don't have to plan every minute of your trip, knowing the attractions and events (and how much they cost) in advance will give you a good idea of what your entertainment options are.

SEE ALSO: The Cheapest Time to Fly to 10 Top Destinations

Look for free events or discounted tickets on specific days, which are always a good deal if they fit into your travel plans. As a bonus, large cities sometimes have deals bundling multiple attractions into a single ticket. These offers can save you money over buying individual tickets — check out CityPASS if you're visiting a major city.

Remember to research food, as well. Restaurants closest to tourist destinations often offer mediocre food at high prices; they're about convenience rather than quality. Look at restaurants in the area on Yelp (or even Google), and you can find great food that won't cost an arm and a leg. Knowing you have other (better) options will help you pass by the tourist traps.

Consider Nonrefundable Bookings

These can be great travel options... or they can be terrible deals. Nonrefundable travel offers — most common with hotels — often come with a steep discount. However, you need to be absolutely certain of your travel itinerary before you buy. If your plans change, all your cash is gone. But if you are confident, a nonrefundable booking can save you a bundle.

About Those Last-Minute Deals

Though last-minute deals can feature amazing prices, they're unpredictable. These special bargains won't always (or even often) pop up for the destination you want — and they may not pop up at all.

Last-minute deals are a great option for adventurous people, or for staycationers who want a little luxury close to home.

They can be a great option for people with a sense of adventure, because you never know where they'll send you. If that sounds like a lot of fun, then keep your eyes peeled for those late bargains. Check Expedia's last-minute deals section for all your last-minute travel needs, or HotelTonight for last-minute hotel bargains. (And even if you don't go anywhere, HotelTonight can offer a luxurious place to relax for a nice staycation.)

But unless you have the flexibility to take advantage of these deals, you'll find modest prices disappearing while you wait on that last-minute bargain.

Readers, what are your best tips for saving on weekend getaways? Let us know in the comments below!

Contributing Writer

Originally working in IT, Elizabeth now writes on tech, gaming, and general consumer issues. Her articles have appeared in USA Today, Time, AOL, PriceGrabber, and more. She has been one of DealNews' most regular contributors since 2013, researching everything from vacuums to renters insurance to help consumers.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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