7 Ways To Save On Travel During The Holidays

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The other day, I told my husband that as soon as I make that last student loan payment, I’m purchasing a ticket somewhere as soon as cheaply possible. I love traveling, whether it’s a big city adventure, a cabin in the mountains, or road-tripping to a family reunion on a beach not as nice as the one I already live by (but truthfully, never doing that again).

The holidays are coming up and I know this is the time people start thinking about their travel plans, either to see family or get far, far away from them. When the holidays are vying for all the extra dollars in your budget, saving on travel is top priority. Whether you’re traveling to see family, or skipping out for a much-needed vacation, keep these tips in mind to save on travel to wherever you’re going. These tips can also be useful for holiday or summer travel, so save them for later and make frugality a habit in all your travels!

1. Book Airfare Through Sites Like Ebates

Did you know you can get cash back for booking travel and shopping on the sites you would’ve anyways? #FreeMoney! Expedia and Priceline offer up to 10% back on flights, hotels, etc. for booking through Ebates. If you’re buying any presents online (hi Cyber Monday), I’d definitely recommend clicking the site to see what you can get back.

2. Pack ~Light~

It’s 2016: you know that just about every airline charges a checked bag fee. Americans have probably spent enough on baggage fees to literally buy an airline. A $25 fee per bag — two ways — surely adds up!

So if you’re considering checking a bag, see if these hacks don’t cut down your travel mass: Ship gifts ahead of time if they can fit in a less-expensive, flat-rate box, or just send them directly there if you’re purchasing online. Pack dark pieces of clothing that can be worn with everything and don’t show dirt as well, and wear your bulkiest items on the plane (like boots and coats). And, bring as little of everything as possible.

3. Look Off The Beaten (Discount Airfare Website) Path

Southwest and Allegiant are famed for their discount airfare services. Southwest still lets you check two bags for free, and Allegiant flies to smaller airports that the big guys don’t. But seasoned travelers know you won’t find them on major sites like Travelocity or Priceline. Check multiple fare comparison sites, then compare those to Southwest and Allegiant. Remember, the cheapest days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. There are often major savings if you fly on Thanksgiving. And if you’re flying Allegiant, be sure to get there early; they don’t mess around with travelers who show up late.

4. Make It A One-Stop Shop

Also, if you were thinking a non-stop flight would help you save time and hassle, it’ll be at the expense of some dollars. Taking the route with stop(s) versus non-stop could save you around $100, or possibly even hundreds.

5. Airbnb

For those still not aware, Airbnb is an innovative concept that allows people to rent out a room, house, condo, etc. to other people. People love the privacy that you get as opposed to a hotel, and prices are usually very comparable to what you’ll find from the major chains. If your family is considering getting away this year, there are tons of options all over the world for big and small groups alike.

Airbnb does gift cards now, too. Hint hint, mom.

6. Ditch The Car Rental

With Uber and Lyft around, you can get to just about anywhere you need for less than renting a car (and no getting lost on unfamiliar roads while visiting your in-laws). But, if you really need a rental car, Enterprise has a $9.99 per day deal for weekends (that is valid on Christmas weekend!). It’s not good at airports, so factor in getting a ride or an Uber to the location to pick up the car when you’re comparing costs.

7. Pack A Lunch

Road tripping? Pack meals for the road, not just snacks you’ll mindlessly eat. Subs and wraps are hearty and will keep you from buying extra snacks when you stop for gas. Even better, you’ll avoid that gross road trip-belly feeling.

Whether you’re traveling near or far in the next few months, start saving now. Also, remember that sticking to your budget isn’t just for the days you’re at home. Prepare a separate trip budget that allows for a few pleasurable expenses, but keeps you from blowing it all in the first few days.

Jen writes about her and her husband’s journey to pay off $86,000 of debt in less than 2 years on her website, Saving with Spunk. Follow her on Twitter here!

Image via Unsplash

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  • Tara

    Conversely, remember that you can still check one bag free on international flights and do NOT go over the weight limit because there are overage charges. I remember thinking on a trip back from Europe, “Oh, if I’m a little overweight, no big deal, I’ll pay the fine.” The fine was like $50. Just don’t do it.

  • GBee

    I love ebates and I had no idea I could use it when purchasing flights. Thanks for the tip!

  • natmed

    be sure to read rules – for ebates, its *UP TO 10% off priceline, but usually booking airfare will only get you around $4 back or something. just be doubly sure – don’t go with one site thats more expensive than an other because you mistakenly think ebates will actually make it cheaper. just good to always double check

  • Lauren

    Personally, I don’t agree with #4. Yeah, most of the time adding a layover can save you money for only a little bit of hassle. But you’re inviting the possibility that your first leg gets delayed and you miss your connection and can’t get on another plane until two days later because everyone else who was on your late plane is also trying to get on the next flight out of Dallas. Or, what if you’re flying via a city that has the potential for a massive weather-related delay? (Theoretically could happen in any city, but like, you’re not going to have to worry about the snowpocalypse if you’re flying from LA to Mexico.) To me, unless the price difference is staggering, it’s worth it to fly direct. Websites like Airfarewatchdog let you set up email alerts for any route and they tell you whenever the price goes down!

  • 1. Be very careful with layovers on discount carriers like Allegiant, Spirit and Frontier in the US. If you miss your scheduled flight and it’s their fault, but they only service your final destination once every other day, you’re going to have to either pony up for a hotel in the meantime or buy a last-minute ticket on a different carrier. A standard US carrier will either reroute you or put you up in a hotel, though nowadays, they’ll only pay for your accommodation if the delay is clearly their fault and not an “act of God” scenario (e.g. the weather). Within the EU, however, you’re entitled to monetary compensation for longer delays.

    2. I know that the personal finance blogosphere tends to be vehemently anti-credit card, but that’s just ridiculous in this day and age, because nothing saves you more money on travel than a mileage card. It’s free travel money! I “buy” at least one international long-haul roundtrip ticket on miles every year (out of pocket cost: ~$65), and I still have loads of miles left over. I’m not extraordinary in this sense, nor do I overspend – anyone can do this by signing up for the right card at the right time based on their travel preferences, all it takes is a little research.

    3. As another commenter mentioned, it is patently false that layovers always mean savings. The pricing algorithm depends on a thousand different variables, and flying nonstop is often cheaper (source: I price travel for my company).

    4. Packing “light” can also bring about additional costs if you run out of something or need additional accoutrements at your destination. Pack smart instead.

    • I kind of disagree with #2 – look up travel hacking. Many personal finance blogs encourage this to help afford travel! It’s pretty cool how some people use these credit cards.

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