With the busy holiday travel season fast approaching, many are already starting to get tense at the mere thought of shelling out cash for travel and having to hunker up close on a plane to a guy who snores and smells like garlic. While you may not be able to do much about the latter, you can at least diminish the cost of your travel expenses. Before you start packing your bags and booking flights, there are several tips to keep in mind that can help you save money on holiday travel this season.
Consider additional forms of transportation
When it comes to traveling long distances, many go right for the plane, but that may not be your best and cheapest option. Considering the current price of gas, traveling by car likely isn't a fantastic choice, but there's still train and bus travel. You won't have to freak out about maneuvering through traffic, you can sleep on board and ticket prices are usually much cheaper than going by plane.
Consider skipping the hotel
Saving money on holiday travel may mean skipping on the hotel and staying elsewhere. Check out a vacation home in the same city, which can often be much cheaper than a hotel stay and have many more comforts. It's also likely that the owners will be willing to negotiate on the price, especially if you're staying for more than a week. Other options include staying in a hostel or a bed & breakfast.
Make your dates and times flexible
One of the biggest ways to save money on holiday travel is to not be picky about when you're leaving or returning. Look for the "dates flexible" option whenever you're booking your tickets and you'll be able to pull up the cheapest options. Consider also taking a red-eye flight. You get to sleep overnight and wake up at your destination. How great is that?
House swapping is not an option everyone is comfortable with, but it is an excellent way to save money on holiday travel. Various websites, such as Homeexchange.com, allow users to swap out their homes in different locations. Many are vacation homes, but there are personal homes as well. This is an especially great option if you live in popular winter travel destinations, such as Miami Beach or New York City.
Ship your gifts ahead of time
One of the most annoying hassles of traveling during the holiday season is to have to lug all your gifts around with you. Skip the hassle and the extra cost of checking these gifts and ship them ahead of time instead. Last year, rather than order them to my home and ship them in one box to my holiday destination, I just had each gift I ordered sent to the location from the seller and I just wrapped them all when I arrived.
Don't leave your car while you're away
A big expense many don't think about when they're traveling during the holidays is the cost of leaving their car wherever they left from, such as in the airport parking lot. A better option is to take a cab or train to your drop-off point, or better yet, have a loved one bring you instead. If you really want to use your car, look for off-site (reputable) parking lots or garages. There are many that will allow you to leave your car for a low rate and will shuttle you to and from your drop-off point free of charge.
Book as early as possible
The best way to save money on holiday travel is to book as early as possible, specifically three months to six weeks before your departure date. Once it gets closer to the holidays, the prices can skyrocket. Just keep in mind that the cost of a ticket is usually more expensive during the holidays than at any time of the year, so you're still going to pay more than you normally would.
Leave from a different location
Instead of leaving from your nearest airport, do a price comparison for other airports in the area. If you could take a train or bus to the other location, drive or have a friend drop you off, you could save quite a bit of money. Sure it's a bit out of the way, but if you're saving almost a hundred dollars or more, it could absolutely be worth it.
Use your points, miles and rewards
If you've been racking up miles, rewards and points all year, now is your time to use them. Whether you put them right toward a plane ticket or you get a Visa gift card and apply it yourself toward the cost of your holiday travel, it's a great way to save a huge amount of money without making cutbacks.
Although holiday travel is expensive, it's a cost that many of us pay to be closer to our loved ones during the holiday season. It's worth it, but that doesn't mean we should go broke in the process. With some planning and effort, you could severely cut down on your travel expenses from last year and spend more time focusing on enjoying yourself with your loved ones.
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