5 Ways to Make Holiday Travel Frugal and Painless

By Chonce

| Photographs By michaeljung

The holiday season is naturally a busy time filled with lots of planning, shopping, celebrating and events. This can be an even more hectic time of year if you are planning to travel.

Sure, you’ll be rewarded with awesome views of a new city, a beach getaway from the cold weather, or a mini-reunion with out-of-state family, but it will take a lot to get to that point. You’ll possibly deal with busy airports, hidden travel fees, or long and pricey road trips.

So how can you make holiday travel frugal and painless this year? Here are a few strategies to help you save money and avoid frustration when traveling for the holidays.

1. Start planning for holiday travel early

Organizing your travel plans can require a lot of time and energy. It’s best to start planning as early as possible when you know you’ll be doing some holiday travel. Depending on where you’re traveling to, flights and hotel reservations may be filling up fast.

Pre-holiday deals may be available for you to take advantage of. But, if you wait too long, you’ll miss your window of opportunity.

You also want to allow enough time to shop around and use different comparison sites. If you jump on the first offer you see just because you’re running out of time, you may never know if you could have saved more money with an alternative.

2. Be flexible

Being somewhat flexible with your travel plans can allow you to stress less should anything go wrong. Some people recommend scheduling holiday trips on the day of, but planning a flight or 10-hour drive on Thanksgiving Day sounds like it could be pretty hectic if anything disrupts the schedule.

Instead of taking such a huge risk, be flexible with your travel plans and take off a day or two early in case there is a change of plans. That way, you’ll lower your chances of being able to miss out on the holiday fun you planned. Plus, you can take advantage of last-minute deals and cash vouchers from airlines if a flight gets delayed or rescheduled.

3. Utilize your credit card rewards

Credit card rewards will come in handy when you’re trying to save money on holiday travel. If you’re planning a vacation, you can use rewards points to cover a significant amount of the cost of your flight or hotel, so long as you plan well in advance.

For example, if you want to take a cruise for Christmas, you may want to consider using a rewards credit card that will allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for cruises. 

Last year, I applied for a credit card and earned the 50,000-point signup bonus. I used the points to score $500 off a cruise for my husband and me, which practically paid for the all-inclusive cruise. All we had to pay for was flights and transfers, so the rewards freed our budget up quite a bit.

If you are a rewards credit card holder, you may also have access to cozy airport lounges and other special benefits. Relaxing in a quiet airport lounge with snacks and free WiFi while you wait on your flight can make your holiday travel less overwhelming.

Don’t forget about cash back rewards as well. Check your cash back cards to see if you have a balance that could be put toward your travel costs.

Even if it only covers snacks while you’re on the road, the extra cash will come in handy and lower your travel costs.

4. Consider simple, clutter-free gifts

If you’re going to be bringing gifts, try to choose clutter-free items that are easy to travel with and won’t take up too much space. Sure, a gift card is easy to carry and a common option, but it doesn’t have to be your only choice.

Items like socks, T-shirts, mini-gift sets, notebooks, and jewelry are all easy to travel with and can fit into a suitcase with no problem. You can also take your basic gift-card idea further. Choose to purchase memberships, classes, coupons, or other experiences as a Christmas gift instead.

One thing you might not want to travel with are fragile electronics, coffee mugs and dishware, or tools and similar items that could be seen as a security risk at the airport.

You can always consider getting gifts when you arrive at your destination, as well, if time allows. But it may just make more sense to do all your shopping ahead of time so you relax and enjoy loved ones.

5. Lower your standards for accommodations

Lodging will likely be more expensive during the holiday season because hotels expect a surge in bookings. To help offset costs, you can opt to lower your standards slightly for accommodations during holiday travel.

This means that if you usually stay at four- or five-star properties, consider a three-star property or an Airbnb to save money. If you’re going to see family, it’s always a good idea to see if there’s extra room for you to stay at their place. Even if it’s just for a night or two, this will save you money.

If you’re traveling with family, book accommodations that will provide enough space for everyone. Then you can split the costs. It may be way cheaper to book an eight-person villa or resort instead of separate hotel rooms for everyone. Plus, it’ll be more luxurious!

Summary

Holiday travel can be pretty stressful if you don’t get organized, plan in advance, and implement specific strategies to save you time and money. That said, the holiday season can be just as hectic if you’re staying home and hosting traveling family members or friends.

It’s important to have a clear plan and set a budget. Then get creative when it comes to cutting costs and keeping calm. Don’t let the rush of the holidays drown out your peace or opportunity to celebrate and make memories with loved ones.


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Tags - Holidays, Travel

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