Most of us already know if it makes more sense to fly or drive home for the holidays. So we aren’t going to spend time comparing the two. But we are going to give you holiday travel tips to help you save money when you head home for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Spending less on travel means you can budget more for the fun stuff you want to do when you reach your destination. And who doesn’t want that?
Here are six holiday travel tips to help you get the most bang for your buck this year:
1. Take advantage of apps.
Gone are the days of sorting through individual hotel or airport websites. Now, aggregator apps can do most of the work for you. Find your lodging through Hipmunk, which searches hundreds of major travel sites. Figure out your fuel cost with Gasbuddy’s trip calculator. And find the best airline deals and best times to fly and buy with Hopper.
2. Ship your presents.
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Gifts take up space—lots of space. So instead of paying annoying baggage fees or renting a ginormous vehicle to hold all your stuff, plan ahead and take advantage of free shipping deals to send the presents to your destination. The more free shipping you can snag, the less you need to pack in your suitcase or cram in your car.
3. Use gift cards and points.
Cardpool and Raise are great sites for finding discounted gift cards with leftover cash on them. Buy several and use them to pay for your flight, hotel, rental car or a few restaurant meals while you’re on the road. Or if you belong to loyalty programs and have some hotel points or airline miles saved up, you could travel for even cheaper!
4. Pack snacks.
There’s nothing like a long road trip to give you the munchies. But if you’re filling up on snacks at every gas station or pit-stop, you’re quickly going to run low on travel funds. Instead of buying chips, drinks and candy at convenience store prices, pack your own snacks before you hit the road. You can eat healthier—and for pennies on the dollar—if you bring your own food along for the ride.
5. Buy flights early.
Start looking at flights as soon as you decide you’re going to fly home for the holidays. Purchasing your flight several weeks (or even months) in advance will help you save major cash. And if you can, try to book flights on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. These are usually the least expensive days to fly, while Friday and Sunday are the most expensive.
6. Be flexible.
It’s a well-known workaround to fly or drive on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day. This not only reduces stress, but it also means cheaper flights and fewer gas-depleting traffic jams! If you’d rather not spend your holiday traveling, check sites like Adioso.com to search a wide range of dates to find the lowest fares. And if you know the specific hotel chain you want to stay at, go the company’s website and do a “my dates are flexible” search. You may decide to travel after the holidays to save even more on getting there.
Protect your valuable time and money this year by implementing these six budget-friendly holiday travel tips. Just remember to make a budget for your fun! That means planning for all your travel—gas money, hotel stays, restaurants and flights—before the holidays arrive. When you do, you’ll enjoy a smoother departure and a much-needed vacation!