7 last-minute ways to save money on your next vacation

Sometimes you just need to get away, but a vacation can often be a big strain on your budget.

In fact, about 74 percent of Americans have gone into debt while planning a vacation.

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The following seven tips will help you save money and avoid facing debt when you get back from your trip:

Look for a price-drop guarantee

If you've made a reservation for a flight or hotel online, it can be frustrating to later watch its price drop. But some sites, including Orbitz, offer a price guarantee. Some will refund the difference in vouchers for future travel, but Orbitz will issue a cash return.

Check for deals on attractions

Sites like Groupon and CityPASS can help cut the price of popular attractions if you're visiting a major city. Groupon offers deals on individual attractions (or even trips) and CityPass groups tickets for several iconic spots in the same city into one deal.

Ask for better rates

When you book a hotel, Consumer Reports recommends bargaining for better rates. Few people actually do this, but for those that give it a try, 78 percent of those surveyed scored a lower rate or an upgrade. Give the hotel a call before you leave or when you're on the road, since customers had better luck by phone than in person.

Be flexible

If you're flying, Investopedia says that being flexible can help you save money. The cheapest travel day is Wednesday, and you'll also save by avoiding weekend travel. Try to leave late at night or early in the morning, since these less desirable flight times often result in savings.

Get a Priceline deal

Sites like Priceline, which lets you name a price you're willing to pay, sometimes let you scoop up a great deal at the last minute, according to Investopedia. You may not be able to learn the name of your hotel or rental car agency before you bid, but you can set some parameters. Forbes suggests additional ways to save with Priceline, including last-minute deals that let you know the name of your hotel or car rental agency before you pay.

Get discounted meals

The cost of meals can add up quickly when you're on vacation, but a few online checks can save you some money, according to The Penny Hoarder. The site recommends Restaurant.com, which sells deeply discounted gift certificates in many locations. And when you're on the road, check Yelp, where you can search for restaurants that offer deals when you "check in" using the app.

Check for last-minute cruise discounts

If you'd like to take a cruise for your next vacation, some cruise lines offer discounts rather than leave rooms empty, according to USA Today. Check sites like Cruise Critic, which separates last-minute bargains into their own category. Be make sure to take into account any airfare costs and whether you'll need a passport (and will have time to get one).

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