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George Hobica and watchdogExpectant Granny needs last-minute fareQ: My daughter is giving birth to our first grandchild soon, and I would like to be with her when she delivers.

It's hard to predict exactly what day that will be and I'd like to buy as cheap an airfare as possible, which usually means an advance purchase fare 14 or 21 days ahead.

But if I buy a fare and change the date, some airlines are changing up to $150 as a penalty.

How can I get there a day or two ahead of the delivery and still not book far in advance?â€"M.W., Boston, MAA: Other than buying an expensive fully refundable fare, there are a few options you could explore.

One is booking at the last minute using Priceline's "name your own price" fares.

You can often save 50 percent or more off of normal prices this way.

The only downside is that you won't know your exact flight times or airline until after you've booked.And if Southwest serves the route, you might consider flying them since they'll let you change your travel date without penalty, although you'll have to pay the difference if the fare has gone up.

Also, should you be over 65 they have senior fares that are fully refundable and often can be booked at the last minute.

See Southwest Senior FaresA third option is to use frequent flyer miles, if you have them, for your last minute trip, although most airlines now charge a close-in booking fee, and you run the risk of seats not being available. Cashing in miles for an expensive last minute fare is a wise way to use them.Fly all segments — or else Q: I am flying to Cancun via Mexico City.

If on the way back I drive to Mexico City and catch the flight back home, will Mexicana cancel my flight from Mexico City if I don't show up for the Cancun to Mexico City leg?â€"W.Y, Ontario, CAA: We get this question so often that sometimes I think we should run the answer every week.

Airlines require that you fly each segment of a multi-segment itinerary.

If you don't, they cancel all remaining segments.Some airlines don't even like it if you buy a one-way flight from, say, Newark to San Francisco via Chicago and get off in Chicago without continuing on to San Francisco (a ploy some people use if, for example, the fare from Newark to San Francisco is cheaper than from Newark to Chicago, which isn't as outlandish as it sounds).

So don't mess with the airlines on this.Readers who have questions about air travel can send them to [email protected]

Questions will be answered in the column and not individually.Learn more at Airfarewatchdog.comTags:, bargains, cheap airfares, deals, flights, last-minute This entry was posted on Thursday, July 16th, 2009 at 10:33 am and is filed under Travel.

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