Five ways travel websites can increase last-minute bookings

Posted by Tracy Parks on August 08, 2019
last minute bookings travel website

Last-minute travel planning can be a dreaded undertaking for many users, but for the travel industry, it is their life's blood. Getting customers to move quickly on their travel plans is a Herculean task, with prices always in flux and cost-conscience customers on the hunt for the best deal. So how can you help your site get those coveted last-minute bookings? 

There is a nearly exhaustive list of things you can test on a travel website to ensure that you capture that time-sensitive transaction. We compiled a short list of the best practices.

1. Create a sense of urgency

Providing a sense of urgency, whether through clever wording – “only 3 seats left” “act now!” or “going fast!” – or the use of an eye-catching countdown clock, can dramatically increase last-minute bookings. Customers feel compelled to act quickly, suspending their deliberate thought processes and completing that transaction. But if you don't act now, this best practice may expire!

Screen Shot 2019-08-08 at 9.24.39 AM

Celebrity Cruises does a great job here of creating a sense of urgency and promoting their cruise deals as time-sensitive. The offer countdown clock, combined with "urgency" copy, encourages travelers to book fast before the deal is gone. 

2. Limit your user's choices

More options for users should mean more sales for your website, right? Wrong! All too often, too many choices on a travel website can have a negative effect on conversions and sales. When users are faced with a large number of choices, they intuitively freeze, get frustrated, or abandon the purchase altogether, and this is especially true for last-minute users who need to book quickly and easily. Thus, more choices make the act last-minute decision-making more difficult. And when do we ever want to make things more difficult for our users?  

Screen Shot 2019-08-08 at 9.31.58 AM

Occidental Hotels offers a clean homepage and doesn't overwhelm its users with too many choices, images, pop-ups or content. They entice with a persuasive image, and immediately direct users to the search fields to move them along the booking funnel.

3. Keep the messaging clear

Tickets to Cancun are 20% off until noon today, with a $250 instant dealer rebate for first-time buyers or third-time buyers who also purchased a hotel room at half off on Thursday, and an additional $30 cash back when you buy one and get one free. Are you confused yet? Well so is your user. 

Confusing messaging on your travel site can frustrate, making the customer work extra to find what they’re looking for or what the deal is – not something a last-minute traveler (or any traveler, for that matter) wants to spend the time doing. For example, placing several overlapping promotions on your travel site can seem that you’re offering great deals to your users, but, in reality, it often makes the task of finding out the actual price perplexing, time-consuming, or difficult. Again, all things that seriously repel last-minute bookers.

Sure customers like to think they are getting a special deal or a limited time offer, or a great and affordable bundle, but they don't want to pull out their calculators to try and figure out the price. So, be straight with your customers about deals and pricing, and they won't feel like there is too much work to buy or that maybe they’re being misled and the deal is “too good to be true.” You run the risk of damaging your entire brand image if users feel they can’t trust your site’s deals, promotions, or offers.

4. Clean up your checkout funnel

Keeping the checkout free of distracting noise and clutter keeps customers focused on the ultimate task you want them to complete: checkout! Since this is the primary function of the checkout funnel, don't clutter it up with extraneous or fluffy information. If you do have content at certain points in the checkout funnel, make sure it is directly relevant to the completion of the transaction or booking.

Remove navigation and search elements throughout checkout to keep the exit points low. While may want the customer to "add some fries" to their order, you risk site abandonment … or worse, users “adding the fries” then realizing the price is too scary and dropping the order altogether. They've already made the conscious decision to checkout, so let them checkout. They can always come back later to add more items. In fact, once an order is placed, they already have the great potential of being a repeat customer.

5. Make the funnel steps obvious

I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've had to explain to clients that hiding the button or link to the next step in the transaction funnel is a bad idea. I have seen hundreds of sites with hidden CTAs, broken “next step” links, etc.

Royal Caribbean Cruises provides users tells users where they are in the booking process and what's coming up, which creates an overall better (and more transparent and trustworthy) booking experience. 

Screen Shot 2019-08-08 at 09.41.02

I like to explain to the customer that the checkout button is like the red "EXIT" signs in a darkened movie theater. Cinemas light those up so they can get patrons out of the theater in a timely fashion to allow other patrons to come in and watch the next viewing. Can you imagine if the theater didn't have those signs there in a pitch black room? Where's the exit? Exactly.


As always, you'll learn which methods work best with your site's visitors. So what are you waiting for? Start testing these tactics today!

Need help increasing sales and direct bookings on your travel website? Email us at

Topics: Test and Optimization, Digital and Media Marketing

Written by Tracy Parks