5 Holiday Travel Tips for Saving Money

The holidays may be the most wonderful time of the year, but they’re also one of the most expensive. On top of food, gifts and decorations, many of us have to travel to visit family and friends. All of those costs can quickly add up.

But traveling during the holidays doesn’t have to empty your wallet. Use these five holiday travel tips to save.

Search Airfares Early

Airlines change prices all the time. Find a price that fits your budget by searching early and often. That way, as soon as you see a price you like, you can book it. Sites like Kayak and Airfarewatchdog allow you to set alerts for your routes, letting you know when prices change. Remember to also search your route on multiple websites as different sites often have different prices.

You also might want to consider clearing the cookies on the browser you’re using. While it’s still unproven and largely considered a myth, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests airlines might be tracking your activity online and displaying higher seat prices when they think you’re ready to buy. You can easily check if this could be happening to you by double-checking prices on a different browser or clearing your cookies before and after you search.

Just don’t wait too long to book: According to Expedia flight data, travelers who book zero to six days before Thanksgiving pay more than 20 percent above the average ticket price. You can also try booking two one-way flights since sometimes one airline may have a low price for one direction and another airline may have the lowest price for the other. Compare flights with connections to nonstop flights, and don’t forget to look at nearby airports. For example, instead of flying to Boston, see if flights are cheaper to Providence.

Travel on Unconventional Days

Find the cheapest rates on flights by using a flexible travel search. Many sites allow you to see the lowest prices to travel during a given month or show you the price difference between your desired dates and leaving a few days before or after. Sometimes airfares are cheaper if you travel on the actual holiday.

The same goes for driving: Hitting the road on the day of a holiday may help you avoid the traffic and chaos that usually plagues the roads the day before. Traffic app Waze analyzed its data and found that for Thanksgiving, the busiest days to travel are the Wednesday before and the Sunday following the holiday.

Look Beyond Hotels

Airbnb and other vacation rental sites can help you save on accommodations, especially when you compare the prices to hotels. You can often find lower nightly rates, as well as properties that have kitchens, allowing you to save even more by cooking instead of dining out.

If you feel comfortable, you can swap or rent your house. Of course, depending where you live, finding a temporary tenant can take time. Sites like HomeExchange make it easy to meet other home swappers and provide an easy-to-use platform with a support team to help you with the process.

Redeem Rewards

Check your credit cards to see if any offer discounts on travel. Many rewards programs allow you to redeem your points for hotels, airfare, car rentals and more. If you’ve already booked your travel on a credit card, you can often use points for cash back, helping lower the cost of your monthly bill. You could also consider redeeming those points for restaurant gift cards that will help save on food costs.

Consider Alternative Transportation

Besides driving and flying, look into train or bus fares, or tally up the cost of gas for a road trip. For families, a road trip can save money compared to purchasing multiple airfares and depending on where you live, may also save you headaches from flight cancellations or delays.

If you have to rent a car at your destination, pick up your rental at a location other than the airport. You can save big if you forgo the convenience of the airport and walk, cab or take public transit to rental counters in town.

No matter where you’re traveling this holiday season, travel safely and remember that for every travel speed bump or hiccup, there’s a great story to retell around the dinner table for years to come.

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