Between planning how to get there and deciding what to pack, where to eat, and what to do, preparing for the holidays can overwhelm you and your wallet. However, by taking a little time to plan your holiday adventure, you can have all the joy and merriment you desire this season. Here are 9 tips for saving time and money on holiday travel so you can focus instead on decorating, gift buying and eating all the cookies!
Create a travel budget
One of the simplest ways to mitigate the financial and emotional stress of traveling during the holidays is to create a travel budget and stick to it. First, list everything you’ll need to spend money on for your holiday travel, including transportation, accommodation, food, activities, and any extras like taxis to and from the airport. Don’t forget to include baggage fees or snacks at the airport as well.
Next, look at your current financial situation. Can you afford to purchase all the items on your travel list right now, or do you need a little time to save? If you need time, create a savings plan. To reach your goal, simply set up a savings account that automatically receives a fixed deposit each month or with each paycheck. Also try cutting back on other expenditures and reallocating that cash for your travel fund. By putting the fund aside, you’ll only spend money on what you need.
Plan your travel in advance
If you haven’t booked your holiday travel yet, you should do that as soon as you finish reading this article. A late October TripAdvisorsurvey of over 2,000 U.S. travelers showed that of those flying to their destination, 81% had already booked their flights for Thanksgiving, and 69% had booked their flights for the December holidays. But early preparation wasn’t restricted to transportation: 76% of Thanksgiving travelers had already booked their accommodations, and 63% of December travelers had done the same. The survey also showed that the roadways will be busy during the holidays, because 52% of holiday travelers plan to drive their own cars to their destination. For tips on how to enjoy the journey, check out the advice on TripAdvisor’s Road Trips forum.
Follow a fare-tracker
There are a number of fare-tracking apps and websites available for travelers seeking great airfare deals. To ensure you’re getting the best deal possible, sign up for alerts with TripAdvisor or AirfareWatchdog. The websites will send the latest updates on deals for your preferred routes as well as tips for saving big on travel. Those who sign up for email alerts will also receive great deals right in their inbox.
Check airfare from secondary airports
When looking at flight options this holiday season, be sure to search for a few routes using secondary airports as well. For example, instead of flying in and out of Los Angeles International Airport, search for flight options at Long Beach or Bob Hope airports, which are both less than 30 miles from LAX. You may be able to score a cheaper flight by flying into or out of a less popular airport — and, as a bonus, avoid the holiday crowds too.
Overpacking can cause a twofold problem: It wastes your time on arrival and forces you to pay excess baggage fees. Instead of packing too much, create a holiday wardrobe. To start, choose clothing in the same color family. Neutrals tend to work best, as you can mix and match them to create multiple outfits. Then, think about your clothing in terms of layers: A few T-shirts, sweaters, matching jeans, slacks, a skirt, and a dress should be more than enough for a long weekend. By creating a look before you leave, you’ll save time by never having to plan an outfit, and you won’t have to pay extra to check your bag. Another advantage? Having only a carry-on will keep you from waiting at the pesky luggage carousel.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Perhaps the best way to save time and money is to ask your fellow travelers how they do it. Thankfully, you can connect with others on social media and by perusing the many forums across TripAdvisor. Travelers can find ongoing conversations about how to save space in luggage, where to eat quickly at airports around the world, get tips on experiences, and more. You can even pose specific questions to other TripAdvisor users to get tailor-made answers.
Check for hotel perks
If you’d rather stay in a hotel during your holiday travels, there are plenty of ways to save there too. Book using the fare tracker mentioned above but also seek out a hotel that offers a few money-saving perks, such as free airport transfers, continental breakfasts, in-room coffee services, and more. Some hotels will even allow visitors to book on points, so check in with your credit cards and the hotel before reserving.
Bring along your own snacks and an empty water bottle
Bringing a reusable water bottle on your travels (holiday or otherwise) is great for your wallet and the environment. You can save a few bucks at the airport, train station, or car ride by filling up with free water, and you won’t be contributing more plastic pollution to the world’s oceans and landfills. Double down by packing your own snacks in reusable containers.
Search for discounts
It’s not hard to find a discount on other holiday activities like movies, events, and restaurants, so long as you know where to look. Before heading out for the holidays, check for potential discounts across social media and on TripAdvisor. That way you can save your money for the important stuff, like a few more presents under the tree or next year’s holiday travel fund.