The holiday season isn't just about shopping and gifts; a great deal of travel also takes place during this time of year. Unfortunately, holiday travel can get expensive fast--faster than the wrapping paper flies off those gifts. These 8 tips will help you keep your travel spending under control.
One of the best things you can do to save money on holiday travel is to plan ahead. The earlier you book your travel, from airfare to hotels, the easier it is to find good deals. Plus, booking earlier can save you money.
In general, your best prices on airfare come when you book three weeks before the plane leaves for domestic flights. For international flights, consider booking about 30 days in advance.
While there are last-minute deals that can save you money, you can't assume that things will always work--especially during the holidays when there is more travel happening. In fact, many experts point out that you should book travel between one month and three months out for high-traffic holidays. Plan ahead, so you have more opportunities to find the best deals, and so that you know what you will be doing.
Whenever you travel by air, some days are cheaper than others. Travel on Tuesdays and Wednesdays often costs less than travel on Fridays and Sundays.
During the holidays, though, it's not just about a specific day of the week. You also need to consider the days surrounding the holiday. Days immediately before and after a holiday can be expensive.
One of the best ways to save is to actually plan your air travel on the day of the holiday. If you can adjust your plans so that you travel on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day, you might be able to find an even better deal.
Red-eye flights and overnight flights often cost less than those at more convenient times. Other alternatives include sleeper trains, as well as overnight ferries. Depending on where you are going, and the options for getting there, overnight travel can help you avoid a night in the hotel, as well as save you money on travel to your destination.
Mass transit is much cheaper than taking a taxi. If you keep your packing small, you can take public transportation and save quite a bit. Many cities have free options, as well as low-cost options, including some with passes that allow unlimited travel.
Many cities have low-cost shuttles that run between the airport and other destinations. Your hotel might even offer a shuttle service. If you don't have a friend or relative picking you up (the cheapest option), consider using the public options.
You've already piled up reward points. It's a great time to use them to save money on holiday travel. Redeem your reward points for travel, and you can save on airfare, hotel, and rental car costs.
Find out if you receive extra value for choosing a gift card instead of getting travel or cash back directly. In some cases, you can redeem a cash back reward for 10% or 20% more than the face value on a gift card. This can apply to travel gift cards and restaurant gift cards as well.
Before you decide to redeem your rewards, though, double check any restrictions and black out dates.
If you are flying, consider alternative airports. Traveling to a smaller airport in the same metro area is often cheaper. Similarly, if you're traveling to an out-the-way place with fewer flights, consider flying into a nearby major destination instead to save on airfare. For example, when my family travels to visit my husband's parents, flying into a major city like Boston or New York City costs a great deal less than flying into the closest airport.
Figure out how much it would cost to travel from the alternate airport to your destination. In many cases, the savings from the air travel will still outweigh those other costs.
Travel aggregation sites can help you compare prices on all your travel, from airfare to train tickets to hotel stays. Some sites can even help you compare prices on cruises. Travel aggregators like Orbitz.com, Priceline.com, Expedia.com, and Travelocity.com can help you create packages as well. Another option is to use a site like Kayak.com that scours the deals from various travel sites so you can easily compare what's available.
When you are ready to travel, sign up for fare alerts. If the cost drops, particularly for airfare, there are websites and smartphone apps that can let you know. Websites can provide you with regular updates on a route, as well as information on fare sales. Fare alert site FareCompare provides a smartphone app that can send alerts right to you, wherever you are. When you have a little time, you can wait for prices to drop. Just don't wait too long, or you could end up paying more.