The advent of the Internet changed the way people booked travel, Frommer said. Consumers who used to rely on travel agents - who pushed booking in advance - became comfortable buying plane tickets and reserving hotels on the Internet and making those purchases much closer to their departure date.

Fearing that airplane seats and hotel rooms would go empty, hotels and airlines offered discounts for spur-of-the-moment getaways.

Last-minute travel became an industry, spawning online travel agencies like site59.com and last-minute.com, while Travelocity, Orbitz and Expedia added last-minute components to their Web sites.

Then, about 2003, hotels and airlines adjusted to the public's new travel habits and learned to manage their inventory better, Frommer said, and those last-minute super deals became less common.

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