5 Holiday Travel Tips to Save Money
If you're determined to travel for the holidays, set reasonable expectations as travel during this time can be expensive. But with a little extra planning, you can work on spending less. Use these five holiday travel tips to save more and have a larger budget for presents and pumpkin pie (which you can now travel on a plane with).
1. Travel on the Holiday
Travelers who aren't concerned about arriving before the holidays stand to save the most. According to research from Expedia , for the cheapest departing flight around Thanksgiving, fly on Thanksgiving Day; with an early flight, you can usually make it to dinner on time. For Christmas, flying on the 24th is usually your cheapest option. Keep in mind that for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, flying the Saturday before the holiday is often the most expensive.
When choosing a return flight, consider when you have to return to work, how much vacation time you want to use, and the daily cost of accommodations. Sites like Kayak let you search your preferred travel date, plus or minus three days. You can also search the cheapest dates to fly across an entire month, based on how many days you want to spend at your destination.
2. Book at the Right Time
You can also spend less if you're careful not to book your airfare too late — or too soon. According to Expedia data, the best time to book airfare is two weeks to a month ahead of your trip. In 2018, those who booked too soon for Christmas — at least 91 days out — paid about 15 percent more than the average traveler. Those who booked less than one week before Thanksgiving and those who booked 91 or more days out paid more than 20 percent above average.
You might've heard that airfare is more affordable if you book on certain days of the week, but CheapAir has dispelled this myth once and for all. The average low fare doesn't vary by more than $1.
3. Look at Nearby Airports
How much you save also depends on how willing you are to crunch some numbers. Check nearby airports at your starting point and your destination to see what combinations save you the most. Factor in costs like gas, parking, and a rental car or ride-share service, if necessary.
If you can cut out a connection by traveling to a nearby airport, it might be worth it. Connecting flights can be a hassle and with unpredictable weather around most of the country during the holidays, a canceled flight or delay could cause you to miss a connecting flight.
Also, look into travel insurance to cover any nonrefundable costs or additional costs you may incur from delays, such as accommodations and meals.
4. Book a Rental or a Package
Avoid sleeping on a relative's couch or cramming your entire family into one room. Rooms and homes, like those on Airbnb or VRBO, are often cheaper than hotels and usually come with perks, like a kitchen, that can help you save on food costs.
If you need to book a hotel, consider booking a vacation package that bundles your flight and accommodations. Expedia says travelers who book packages save an average of up to $600 compared to those who book flights and hotels separately.
5. Reimagine the Holidays
According to FareCompare, it's cheaper to travel during specific times of the year, but the holidays are not one of those times. Consider vacationing or celebrating the holidays with family and friends during one of the biggest travel deal zones, like the first two weeks of December or the week after New Year's. You can also find airfare and hotel deals if you're willing to leave the country for Thanksgiving.
Following these travel tips can help you maximize your hard-earned vacation dollars and put your savings toward something else — like reaching your financial goals.