With the holiday season fast approaching and your to-do list growing by the day, the last thing you want is added stress about how you are going to afford your holiday travel. The holiday season can be the most expensive time of the year to travel, and if you aren’t familiar with how to navigate the minefield of expenses it can be a daunting task to undertake at an already stressful time of the year.
Well, stress not because I am here to help. In this article, I am going to pass along to you some tips and tricks on how to make holiday travel less stressful, and more affordable. If you follow the tips in this guide, you should reduce the amount of stress that travel brings you this holiday season and hopefully reduce the size of your travel related bills as well. That way you can focus on what is really important this holiday season.
Also, if you haven’t done so already, please check out my article on the Top Ways to Save Money When Traveling at any time, which I have linked below. I have included some great tips and general rules that you can follow to help make all of your travel more affordable.
|Tips For Making Travel More Affordable|
Book Your Flights Either Really Early or Last Minute
If you are going to need to fly this holiday season, you are going to want to make sure you book your flights early. Flights during the holiday season can be expensive, but airlines do have fare sales and there are some good deals to be had. However, if you wait too long to book, you will miss those deals. A great tool that I like to use to monitor airfare and determine when the best time to buy is the Hopper App or Hopper.com.
The Hopper App allows you to enter flight details and then the app will do an analysis of all prior fare trends for that flight and let you know when the best dates to fly would be and when the best time to book your tickets would be. It will continue to watch flights and send you updates should any fare sales occur for your desired flight. This can be extremely helpful because it does the work of monitoring flight fare for you, which frees you up to concentrate on more important things this holiday season. I suggest setting it up early so that you can take advantage of any great fares that should pop up.
That said if you aren’t able to book your airfare early, and airline prices have become too expensive for you to afford, your best bet is to probably wait until the last minute to look for any last minute fare deals. Sometimes if an airline isn’t able to fully book a flight they will have a fare sale and offer discounted fares for those flights. This is far less likely to occur during the busy holiday travel season though so I wouldn’t suggest banking on finding a great fare last minute. It is much better to start looking for fares really early.
Be Flexible With Flight Times
If you want to save money on airfare over the holiday season, the best way to do that is to be flexible. There are good airfare deals to be had during the holidays, but those deals may not exactly line up with the travel plans you have in mind. You may need to fly out a little bit earlier than you anticipated, a little bit later than you anticipated, or return early or later than you were initially planning to. This may seem like an inconvenience, but the cost savings can be substantial if you are flexible. Ultimately, you will need to weigh the cost savings versus the cost of changing your intended plans and do what is right for you.
Include Nearby Airports in Your Search
In addition to being flexible about when you travel, another way to increase your chances of finding a great fare deal is to be flexible about which airports you fly into and out of. Sometimes you will find a much better fare flying out of a nearby airport than you would if you flew out of the closest airport to you. Yes, it can be a little inconvenient to have to drive further to get to the airport, but if the cost savings are right it may be worth it.
For instance, I live in Milwaukee, but I always look at the fares for flying out of Chicago when I do my travel searches as well. It takes me a good hour and a half, without traffic, to get to Chicago O’Hare Airport, but if I can save enough money on airfare to warrant spending the extra money on gas and parking, it is worth it. I would suggest that you broaden your search to include more airports. This doesn’t mean you have to fly out of one of those airports further away from you, but at least you will have the option should you find a really good airfare deal.
Another tip that I can give you for finding cheaper flights is to look at booking departing and returning flights for mid-week instead of at the beginning or the ending of the week. The beginning of the week and the end of the week are typically the busiest travel days for airlines, so they can afford to charge more for flights at the beginning and end of the week. You will typically see some fairly substantial price differences if you look to book flights during the middle of the week instead.
For instance, I just did a search on Orbitz for flights from Milwaukee to Los Angeles for a one week stay this holiday season. Please note how much I would save if I visited from Wednesday to Wednesday instead of Friday to Friday. The price savings are substantial enough that I could save a lot of money by being just a little bit flexible with my travel schedule.
|Friday – 12/21||Friday – 12/28||$561.60|
|Thursday – 12/20||Thursday – 12/27||$449.32|
|Wednesday – 12/19||Wednesday – 12/26||$371.60|
Look at Alternative Modes of Transportation
Another avenue that shouldn’t be ignored when you are looking to travel over the holidays is alternative modes of transportation. Depending on where you are traveling, there may be cheaper alternatives for getting there. This could include taking a bus, taking a train, or even renting a car and driving to your destination.
Obviously, the time of travel is going to be a factor. For instance, if you are traveling from Milwaukee to Los Angeles, the price for flights is going to have to be pretty high for you to consider taking a bus, a train, or driving instead. However, there may be an occasion where flight prices really are high enough to make you seriously consider it.
On the other hand, if you are traveling from Milwaukee to Kansas City, you can save a considerable amount of money by taking an Amtrak train instead of flying. As you can see in the table below, this fare may be worth the extra travel time because of the savings you would have versus flying. Again though, these are the factors that you need to weigh when making a decision.
$80.00 (each way)
|Train||11hrs||$80.00 (each way)|
Ship Your Presents
If you need to bring presents with you when you travel this holiday season, another great way to save some money is to have those presents shipped to your destination. Not only is carrying presents with you an inconvenience (especially if you have to worry about fragile gifts), but it can also be a drain on your pocketbook.’ Depending on how many gifts you have, you might need an extra suitcase or two to transport them with you.
Instead of flying or riding the train or bus with those gifts (or even driving with them for that matter), it may make more sense to have them shipped to your destination. Not only will this undoubtedly be less stressful for you, but depending on the gifts that you are shipping it may even save you a few bucks in the process.
An even better approach would be to have the gifts shipped to your destination when you purchase them. As long as you have someone who can receive the packages and sign for any gifts that will require a signature at delivery, you won’t have to pay to have the gifts shipped twice. All that will be left to do is wrap the presents as soon as you arrive. This can be a HUGE cost saver and a big stress reliever!
Bum a Ride or Take Advantage of Ride Sharing
Instead of taking a cab or an Uber\Lyft to the airport, train station, or bus station when you travel, it can be a big cost saver if you can find someone to drop you off and pick you up from the airport. The same applies to your destination. If you are looking to save some money, it can be a huge cost saver if someone can be available to pick you up and drop you off.
If you are planning on staying at a hotel at your destination, I would look for a hotel that offers free shuttle transportation to and from the airport. This is a great way to save on transportation costs whenever you travel, but especially during the holiday season. Keep in mind, because the holiday season is such a busy travel season, I would ask the hotel if you need to schedule an airport pickup and drop-off in advance of your visit.
Stay With Family or Friends
Outside of flight and transportation costs, one of the biggest expenses when traveling is the cost of accommodations. A great way to offset this expense is to stay with family or friends. Depending on your situation, this may not be an option for you. However, if it is an option I would recommend that you look into it because it can be a huge cost saver. Even if it means sleeping on a couch or the floor in a sleeping bag, if you need to save money you will get the biggest cost savings by staying with loved ones.
When you are traveling, the cost of food and drinks can really add up and become a considerable expense. This expense takes away from what you are able to afford to spend on other travel expenses that you might not be able to get around. A great way to minimize the expense of food and drinks while traveling is to pack a lot of snacks. The less expensive airport food and fast food that you eat while traveling the more you will be able to afford to spend on that flight or hotel you need to book.’ It’s probably healthier for you too!
Celebrate Before or After the Holidays
The last tip I have for you on how to save money on holiday travel is undoubtedly the most unorthodox way to save, but in certain situations, it can also deliver the most cost savings of all the tips on my list. Instead of celebrating the holidays over the holiday season, you might want to consider moving your holiday celebration up a few weeks into early December or celebrate in January after the new year.
I understand that this isn’t the ideal solution to solve holiday budget problems, but it can produce some significant cost savings. For instance, if you are looking for airfare over the holidays and weren’t able to book your flights early enough, the cost of airfare can become quite costly. However, if you move your celebrations up a few weeks, even though you will be traveling sooner the cost of flights can still be cheaper than over the holidays. If you move your celebration back to January, the cost savings may be even more.
Again, every situation is different, and ultimately you will need to decide what is best for you and your family. Whatever you decide to do to save on holiday travel this holiday season, I hope you are successful and that you and your family have a very happy, safe, and healthy holiday and new year!