Last-Minute Vacation Ideas & Resources for Retirees


We all know how important it is to plan carefully before taking a vacation, but there’s also a lot to be said for “flying by the seat of your pants.” Indeed, with family commitments, continual errands, and doctor appointments filling up our schedules, it can be hard to find time to hash out vacation details. Then all of a sudden, a block of free time appears. What to do? Book a last minute vacation, of course. Here’s how.

Where to Find Deals

Booking a trip at the last minute is actually a great way to save money since many companies need to sell off their inventories. There may not be as much choice regarding flight times and rooms, but there are great deals to be found. Depending on where you live, you may even be driving to your destination.

There are many websites and clubs that are solely dedicated to last-minute travel. Last Minute Travel caters to people who are short on time and need a vacation. These sites have deals on airline flights, rental cars, hotels, vacation homes, cruises, and vacation packages. Travelzoo, Expedia, CheapCaribbean, and other travel sites all offer last-minute vacation deals.

Airfarewatchdog is one good resource for monitoring changes in airfares. Users can create an account, enter their destination, and set up to receive notifications as prices change. Once the alert is received, you can book your flight knowing that you got the best price.

Be Flexible

One of the best ways to grab a great getaway is to keep an open mind. Once you know how much time you have to spend, set a radius from your home base. If you are flying, you can expand this. Check what destinations fall within these parameters, then see where you can travel within your time frame. Skyscanner has a tool that recommends destinations that are proximal to your location. It also lists travel deals by month.

If you can’t find any hotel deals or availability, consider a rental. Airbnb and VRBO offer vacation rentals provided by homeowners in destination towns. Vacationers can search by destination, home size, features, and price. Other travelers rate the accommodations after staying there, which provides excellent feedback for searchers. It may be harder to book a rental in a busy area during high seasons, but they are generally easier to find and more affordable than hotel rooms. Some have features like outdoor swimming pools and Jacuzzis. Before booking, get the home’s address to make sure it is conveniently located to the attractions you want to see.

If you’re feeling especially flexible, you might consider sharing a vacation rental with additional family members or good friends. Some of these rental homes are quite large with extra bedrooms and bathrooms. You can also share the costs of food and transportation, like car rentals or Uber rides. Of course, your travel buddies need to be available last minute as well.

A Few Adventurous, Inexpensive Jaunts

Greenville, SC

This up-and-coming southern town is getting rave reviews for its thriving downtown scene and scenic natural beauty. Greenville is located by the Blue Ridge Mountains and is full of widespread lakes, waterfalls, and mountain views. In town, visitors enjoy the Greenville County Museum of Art, culinary tours, the Arts Center of Clemson, the Carolina Ballet Theatre, the Greenville Symphony Orchestra, and farm-to-fork restaurants like Fork and Plough.

The Greenville area is also home to 13 African-American cultural sites, including Mattoon Presbyterian Church, Fountain Inn Principal’s House and Teacherage, and Working Benevolent Hospital.

Palm Springs, CA

If you can’t decide if you want to retreat to the mountains, desert, or beach, then Palm Springs is for you. Clear, sunny skies, outdoor activities, and lazy days at the pool are all hallmarks of this destination.

Golf aficionados can choose from over 100 golf courses: PGA West and Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort are amongst the finest on the planet. Tennis buffs have their choice of hundreds of pristine courts as well. And, upscale shopping, dining, and entertainment venues can be found everywhere. To immerse yourself in nature, visit The Living Desert Zoo and Botanical Garden a desert botanical garden and zoo that covers close to three square miles. Another must-see is Joshua Tree National Park, which is about a 45-minute drive from Palm Springs.

Nashville, TN

“Music City” attracts music lovers from around the world. Nashville visitors can spend days on end walking in and out of different music venues for modern and traditional country, rock n’ roll, and the blues. This is Nashville’s main draw, but it is also known for its fantastic barbecue at restaurants like Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint.

The city has many eclectic neighborhoods, each with its own personality and attractions to visit. If you have time, rent a car or Uber out to Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage home or Belle Meade Plantation. Time permitting, buy tickets online and visit the Grand Ole Opry or catch a Tennessee Titans game.


Yes, there are also websites dedicated to last-minute cruising, like Last Minute Cruises. These sites have maps that show ports along U.S. coastlines, with short and long sails on different cruise lines. The least expensive choice we found was a four-night Western Caribbean cruise out of New Orleans for $314 per person. Some travelers prefer cruising over other means of travel, and there are many ways to book these with little time to spare before your departure date.

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