Q: I'm expecting my first grandchild next year. Is there any way I can get a great fare that will get me there just before she delivers? Would it be better to book the flight now and change it to coincide with the baby's arrival?
A: There are several ways to approach this. One is to try to find a low fare on Hotwire.com, since their last minute fares are quite good. You may not learn the exact departure time or airline until after you pay for the flight, but you can choose the departure day.
In the event that you are over 65, Southwest is a good choice, because despite their recent fare simplification to three basic fares (Wanna Get Away, Business, and Business Select) they do still offer senior fares which can be booked at the last minute for really low prices. (For example, we checked Austin to Birmingham for same day travel recently, and found that the Wanna Get Way fare was sold out, and the lowest business fare was $268, but the last minute Senior Fare was $165 one way.)
Even if you're not over 65, Southwest is still a good choice. If you book a trip while a sale is in progress, far in advance, and need to change it to coincide with the baby's arrival or for any other reason, Southwest will not charge the $50-$100 change fee typical of many airlines.
Instead, they will take the value of your fare and apply it to another fare within a year of the original purchase date. The only caveat is that if there is no fare sale that applies to your new dates of travel then your new fare may be higher than your original fare. But at least you're not socked with a $100 fee.