If you’re planning to travel for the holidays, you’re not alone. To make the experience a little less stressful on your wallet, you’ll want to plan in advance to make sure you’re not wasting money.
With the expansion of vaccines and boosters, many more Americans are expected to travel this holiday season. Anywhere from 52%, according to a survey from PWC.com, to 67%, according to the 2021 Holiday Travel Survey, plan to be on the move.
Be Flexible on Flight Days
Traveling during the holidays often limits your choices on when you can travel — after all, you can’t miss seeing your nephew Johnny in the school winter musical, right?
But make use of any flexibility you do have for travel days. Search travel sites such as Expedia.com and Kayak.com, which allow users to select several possible travel dates. That allows you to search for cheaper flights.
Closely tied to the first tip, avoid traveling on the weekends if you can. Roads are busier, and the flights are almost always more expensive.
This year, Christmas is on a Saturday and New Year’s Eve is on Friday. So it’s not likely that you’d be choosing to travel on those days, but don’t plan to fly home the day after Christmas or Jan. 2, unless you’re willing to spend.
Pre-Book Your Airport Parking (or Take Mass Transit)
This might surprise you, but you’re not the only one who wants to park at the airport. The parking lots will fill up quickly, and you don’t want to be driving around, looking for a spot on the day of your flight.
So make a reservation now to guarantee your spot, or consider taking mass transit, such as a bus, light rail or subway.
Plan Ahead on Food for Your Flight
Once again, the tip is to plan ahead — unless you like paying premium prices for airport restaurants or food on the plane.
Brown-bagging it is the way to go for the thrifty-minded. Bring your own food and you have more control and more dough, too. The only caution is to make sure you don’t bring something that would violate TSA rules like a big jar (more than 3 1/2 ounces) of strawberry jam.
Be Smart About Your Rental Car
The rental car market isn’t as insane as it was in 2020, when travel started to rebound but rental companies were low on inventory.
However, you can still be budget-conscious and come out on top. Pick the smallest possible rental car category you can, and plan to pick it up early, Budget Travel reports.
Those smaller cars are usually cheaper, but Budget Travel also reports that earlier in the day, fewer cars have been returned, so the companies’ inventory could be low. So if the agency is out of the cheapest cars, it is obligated to give you a larger car for the same price!
Think Outside the Box for Lodging
You could stay at a fancy hotel with room service, but if you’re traveling for the holidays, how much time are you planning to spend at the hotel, anyway?
Think differently about where you could stay: options include with friends or family or a rental home, which is often cheaper than a hotel. Plus that leads to our next tip….
Plan Ahead for Your Food Where You Stay
A little foresight will help you save money when it comes to eating on your trip, too. If you’re staying at a rental home or hotel with a kitchenette, stop at the local grocery to stock up on breakfast items and snacks.
If you are eating out a lot, consider making lunch your main meal. Lunch specials are often better than dinner bargains.
Look For Coupons and Discounts Now
This falls under the category of “simple hack,” but type “free activities near (my destination)” into your favorite online search engine, and you’ll find plenty of low-cost to free options for entertainment and more.
If you have specific activities in mind already, check out their websites to see if they offer coupons or discounts. Or they might require reservations, and you’ll want to know that now. Book as much as you can ahead of time.
There’s an App for That
Chances are that if you have a destination in mind, there’s a smartphone app that can help you.
For example, if you’re visiting New York City, several apps can help you navigate the subway system, parking and ferries. Even better, there’s one that provides a guide to public restrooms! Check them all out at tekrevol.com.
Be sure to search for apps for your destination.
If you’re driving for the holidays, a few small moves will help you save big, especially when it comes to gas prices:
Stick to the speed limit: Sure, you feel like a fuddy-duddy, but every 5 mph over 50 that you drive is similar to paying an additional 24 cents in gas, Fueleconomy.gov reports.
Check out plenty of other tips from Fueleconomy.gov.
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