We all know that booking travel on the Internet is no longer just for those grungy, living-life-on-standby backpackers you trip over in airport food courts. Full-service sites like expedia.com and travelocity.com, and say-what-you'll pay priceline.com, have travel agents running in fear -- they'll get you anywhere without too many connections at a decent price. Last-minute travelers can get even better deals a few hours to a few weeks before departure, when airlines and hotels start unloading extra space on a handful of Websites (including their own) that specialize in quick escapes.
Tell lastminutetravel.com you want out next weekend, and they'll give you a list of terrific deals, especially if you leave the destination box blank (flying Northwest to Barcelona for $225 round trip sounds too good to pass up). Once you have a flight, visit bedandbreakfast.com -- it works with thousands of B&Bs and features rates, addresses, and photos (pretty enticing ones, everywhere from Chamonix to Staten Island).
You can also book idiotproof getaways to prime vacation spots (and see lots of photos, so you won't relive that spring break in Cancún you bought by phone in college). For road trips in Europe or South America, go-today.com has "Fly & Drive" packages that cover plane and car rentals for little more than a ticket alone (think $329 for seven days' cruising around England), plus inexpensive fly-and-stay packages. Weekends.com has a list of cheap fares for immediate travel plus short trips to places like London, Los Angeles, or Rio -- we'd go to Marrakech and stay at a three-star hotel for $1,000. Similar but even cheaper is 11thhourvacations.com (stick with weekends.com for $25,100 yacht cruises). Many places come with a variety of hotel options (jaunts to Telluride, for instance, can start anywhere from $260 to $540 per person,
depending on where you want to stay).
Picks of the Week
UNFRAMED 2000, the Community Research Initiative on aids's art sale, has works on paper by well-known contemporary artists for $300 each (proceeds benefit CRIA). Admission is $10 (cash); Sotheby's provides free coffee and doughnuts for those who line up early (and many do). Charles Cowles Gallery, 74 Grand St. (212-924-3934, ext. 107); A.E., M.C., V., checks; Sat. 10-4; 3/11.
Z'Baby Company's warehouse sale offers kids' clothes from high-end makers like Kenzo, Petit Bateau, and Sonia Rykiel at 60 to 80 percent off. Nothing's over $40. Girls' sizes 0-16; boys' sizes 0-8. 445 W. 50th St. (212-245-2229); cash only; Mon.-Wed. 10-7; 3/6-3/8.
Room is filling up its new TriBeCa space and taking up to 70 percent off lots of chic contemporary furniture and accessories before renovating. Mouth-blown Italian glasses are $10, leather cushions are $85, a Frank-style armchair is $600, and an Ultrasuede sofa is $2,400. 182 Duane St. (212-631-9900); A.E., M.C., V.; Wed.-Fri. 10-5, Sat. 10-3; 3/8-3/11.
Nicole Miller's fall and winter leftovers (pictured, left), are up to 75 percent off at the sale: Dresses are $75; sweaters are $35; pants are $60; men's ties are $18. Parsons School of Design, 560 Seventh Ave., at 40th St.; A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Wed. 9-6:30, Thurs. 9-5; 3/6-3/9.