Are you traveling for the holidays? We’re not this year. This year we simply decided that we would rather stay at home and have a quiet Christmas than deal with the hustle and bustle of traveling for the holidays. Not to mention the cost. This year we would rather save that money for future expenses than to spend it gallivanting around the country. For me, traveling home for the holidays means a 2,000 mile trip and several thousand dollars so I hope you can see that it isn’t that I don’t want to go home. I just can’t justify the money at the moment. If you’re traveling home for the holidays, you may be feeling the crunch of that cost too. Luckily, there are several frugal traveling tips that you can put into place that will help you save some cash.
When you’re first planning your trip, you need to ask yourself whether it is cheaper to drive. For our family, it’s actually cheaper to drive it than it is to fly. If we flew, we would have plane tickets for three people even after we my recent trip to NYC just for transportation costs. By the time it is all said and done, we actually save money by driving it even though driving takes longer. Your trip could be entirely different than mine though so the very first thing you should do when you’re planning a trip is to figure out which is cheaper to do for your family.
5 Frugal Traveling Tips for the Holidays
If you decide that flying is best, don’t just hop online and buy your plane tickets. Instead, make sure to do some research first. Gather prices from all airlines that you would consider flying on but don’t just stop at ticket prices. Be sure that you also check baggage fees, checked bag fees and more. A lower ticket price isn’t always the best deal when flying. For instance, when I was looking to buying my tickets for my recent trip to NYC in July, I could have gotten a much cheaper ticket with another airline than what I ended up paying to fly Southwest. However, when I looked at the cost of checked baggage and other baggage fees, the “cheaper” airline would have ended up being several hundred dollars more. So while I ended up paying more for the actual ticket cost, I saved in the long run by flying where I could check 2 bags for free. I almost always check Expedia when I’m researching prices. I’ve found that they are the most reliable when it comes to having up to date prices and I can usually get a quick breakdown of any other fees involved right on their site too. Once you’ve got the airline you will be flying narrowed down, you can start looking at ways to save.
Holiday flights differ from flights any other time of the year. Normally, you can book a little later to save money, but holiday flights are different. For this, you’ll want to book as early as you reasonably can to save. If you absolutely can’t book early for some reason, try not to buy your ticket within 14 days of the flight. Doing so can jump your cost considerably since you’re so late getting to the party.
The days of the week that you want to travel on can cost you more money than needed if you aren’t flexible. Traveling on a weekend will almost always cost you more money than traveling during the week so make sure that you can add some flexibility to your plans when you book your tickets. Another area that can save or cost you more is by purchasing only a non-stop flight or by refusing to fly early in the day or late in the evening. I don’t fly a lot but every single time that I have, I’ve flown out at ungodly times of the morning (3am, 5am, etc) to avoid paying several hundreds more.
If you’re driving, there are ways to save too so that you won’t go broke on the drive in. To start, download the Gas Buddy app to your phone. It will help you find the lowest gas prices as you’re making the drive and help you avoid paying higher prices. Another thing that you’ll want to do is have your car serviced before you leave on your trip. Make sure your tires are in good condition and aired up to the correct specifications, get an oil change if your car needs it, check the spark plugs and all of the fluids in the car. When you car runs better, it gets better gas mileage and can save you money on that part of the trip.
After you’ve worked on saving on your transportation costs, take a look at the cost of your accommodations. A lot of the time, you have the choice of renting a hotel room or staying with family. If you decide to stay with family, you’ll save big over the cost of a hotel. However, if like us, you choose a hotel (none of my family really has room for us without putting them out), you’ll need to find a good hotel deal. When I’m doing this, I first look at a website like Hotels.com. If I can find a good deal, I book through them to get it. If not, I check the hotel websites directly. Another thing that can save you on hotels is to make sure you join the hotel’s reward program if they have one. A lot of the time, you can earn free stays which might not help you this time, but will help you next time around.
Another way to save on the road is to use gift cards to pay for your food or gas. I like to use the free gift cards that I earn to pay for those things. If by chance there is a gift card that you need that you can’t earn from my favorite sites, Raise.com is another awesome place to get them. You’ll still have to pay for them but you’ll be able to buy them at a discounted rate saving you a little bit of money. I like to use Raise to buy Walmart cards throughout the year too. I save around $100 each year on groceries just by doing that.
Finally, if you’re planning on doing some local sightseeing and activities while you’ve traveling, make sure you save as much as you can there too. Picking up an Entertainment Book for the cities you will be visiting to get thousands of dollars in local coupons to save. When you’re done with your trip, you can leave the book with your family so that they can continue to save too! Another great way to save if you’ve visiting a larger city is to buy a CityPass. We buy them every time we visit a larger city and save BIG on different attractions since the CityPass gives you admission to several different attractions locally for one price.
Holiday traveling is already stressful enough, but using the tips above and the ones you already know of can help you make it a little less stress filled. The holidays are about your family, friends and love…why let stress ruin it?
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