We Travel Every Thanksgiving for Next to Nothing — Here’s How

Find out how to make your holiday travel affordable.

Every year, my husband and I travel to Iowa to visit his family over Thanksgiving. We don’t have to pay for flights since it’s only a three-hour drive from the Minneapolis area. Still, holiday traveling can be expensive. Fortunately, we’ve found ways to keep our costs down. Keep reading for ways we save money on holiday vacations.

Read More: Real People Share Their 28 Best Money-Saving Travel Tips

Not Staying in a Hotel

Everyone likes to have privacy, so staying in a hotel when we travel would be ideal. But to save money, we stay with my husband’s grandma instead. She loves the company and we’re able to spend extra time with her, which is important to us because we only see her a few times per year. It’s a win-win.

If you have the opportunity to stay with loved ones, without causing them an inconvenience, consider this option. It can be a huge money saver.

Packing Snacks

I snack frequently, but I don’t want to spend a bunch of money on snacks or fast food during the drive. To avoid this, we pack a lot of snacks for the trip and bring along a cooler filled with water and sandwiches if we’re going to be driving around lunch time. Once we get to Iowa, my husband’s grandma spoils us with a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, and there are plenty of leftovers for our next few meals. There’s no need to waste money on fast food or unhealthy snacks while we’re out of town.

If you don’t have a cooler or space for one in your car, consider snacks that don’t need to be refrigerated. Trail mix, jerky, dried fruit and granola bars are all good options. This same rule applies if you plan to fly. You can’t bring water through security, but you can bring snacks for a long-haul flight and avoid paying for overpriced airport food (just one of the sneaky ways the airport tricks you into spending more money) or meals on the plane.

Speaking of Flights: 10 Best and Worst Deal Sites for Holiday Flight Savings

Free Entertainment

The drive to Iowa is extremely boring (miles and miles of cornfields), so we try to find free ways to keep ourselves entertained. We love to listen to podcasts, which don’t cost a thing. I used to buy books and magazines for the drive, but the cost added up quickly.

Consider listening to music or podcasts, playing travel games such as Twenty Questions or using a free audiobook app like Overdrive.

Consider These: 15 Money Podcasts That Are Perfect for Your Commute

Bringing Our Pug

We could board our pug at a pet hotel when we travel, but this would be expensive. We bring him with us to Iowa, even though it’s a bit of a hassle (he doesn’t particularly like long car rides and can get a bit antsy). But we’d miss him too much if we left him at home anyway.

We’re fortunate to have the option of bringing our pug since my husband’s grandma loves dogs. If we did stay in a hotel, instead of staying with her, we could stay in a pet-friendly hotel. My parents often bring their Chihuahua with them when they travel, and they’ve been surprised to find that there are many affordable pet-friendly hotels.

Weigh your options if you have a furry friend. Staying in a pet-friendly hotel or better yet, with animal-loving relatives, can be cheaper than boarding or finding a pet sitter.

More on Holiday Travel: The Most and Least Affordable Places to Spend Your Holiday Vacation

One Last Thought

The holiday season is an expensive time of year, and traveling only makes the season more costly. We make our road trips to Iowa affordable by staying with relatives, packing snacks, finding free entertainment and bringing our pug along instead of paying for a pet sitter.

Thanksgiving isn’t about spending a bunch of money anyway. It’s about spending quality time with our loved ones and being thankful for what we have.

Read More: 50 Easy Ways to Save for Your Next Big Vacation

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