25 Tips to Make Holiday Travel More Affordable This Year

A flight delay can not only put a damper on your holiday travel plans but change your attitude for the worse. The good news is that some airlines are more dependable than others. Recent data collected by air travel intelligence company OAG from June 2017 through May 2018 reveals which carriers you'd be wise to trust your time and money to this winter. According to OAG, "on-time is defined as arrivals that take place strictly less than 15 minutes after scheduled arrival time, including cancellations."
Stop wondering what you have left to do before you leave or worrying you’ll forget something you need. Make a list in advance of what you need to buy, what you need to pack and what final arrangements you need to make before your big trip. It’s a simple task that’ll put your mind at ease when you’re scrambling around those last few days.
Slide 1 of 26: Due to gift exchanges and other end-of-year festivities, the holidays have become an expensive part of the year. Still, traveling over the holidays can make your year-end budget balloon even further due to higher prices caused by more demand. These tips can help you save on holiday travel in 2018.
Slide 2 of 26: If your dates are flexible enough that you can travel when you want, consider traveling right before major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas—or even right after. Waiting a few days after each holiday can mean paying significantly less for flights and hotels. For example, travel to celebrate Christmas with your family on December 28th instead of the 23rd.
Slide 3 of 26: Another way to save big on holiday travel is by avoiding airfare altogether. Choose a holiday travel destination that you can drive to and all you’ll have to pay for is gas and maybe a rental car. The savings you can glean from this strategy can be astronomical.
Slide 4 of 26: Sometimes vacation or travel package deals that include both airfare and your hotel offer better value than paying for each component of your trip separately. Check out websites like Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, and CheapCaribbean.com for vacation packages that can help you save big on your holiday dream getaway, or just ask your local travel agent!
Slide 5 of 26: If you’re not picky about where you travel this holiday season, you can also let the deals guide the way. Check out websites like TheFlightDeal.com and SecretFlying.com to find airfare deals around the globe, then book when you find a sweet fare you can get excited about.
Slide 6 of 26: Airline credit cards can help you earn airline miles good for free flights and seat upgrades. Some airline credit cards even offer statement credits or free checked bags that can help you save even more. If you sign up for the right card now, you could have enough miles for a free flight sometime over the holidays provided you also find award availability.
Slide 7 of 26: Like airline credit cards, co-branded hotel credit cards make it easy to earn points good for free hotel stays, room upgrades and other valuable perks. If you start earning hotel points now, you could have enough points for a free stay over the holidays or right after.
Slide 8 of 26: Also note that some travel credit cards let you earn points which you can redeem for any type of travel you want. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard is a good example since it lets you earn 2x points for each dollar you spend and redeem them for travel at a rate of one cent per point.
Slide 9 of 26: You can also save a bundle by planning your holiday travels to destinations where you know someone already. Plan a stay with a friend, a family member, or an old work colleague and you can avoid the exorbitant cost of holiday hotel rates.
Slide 10 of 26: If you’re willing to gamble with your holiday travel plans, you can also wait to look for last-minute deals on hotel stays, flights, and travel packages. Booking last minute works best if you’re flexible on exactly where you travel and when.
Slide 11 of 26: Trustedhousesitters.com connects homeowners with individuals willing to watch their home and pets in exchange for free lodging. Sign up for the website to create a profile and you could be watching homes in destinations like France or Australia over the holidays.
Slide 12 of 26: You can also get a good deal on airfare if you’re willing to fly on the actual holidays themselves. If you’re willing to endure the airport on a holiday, make sure to check flight prices to destinations you want to visit on Thanksgiving and Christmas before you book.
Slide 13 of 26: Also make sure to check prices at more than one airport any time you book airfare around the holidays. While prices depend on a wide range of factors, you may be able to save hundreds of dollars if you’re willing to drive a few hours to an airport further from home.
Slide 14 of 26: “Hidden city ticketing” is when you book a flight with a layover but plan to get off the plane in your layover city instead of completing your itinerary. This strategy can help you save money on airfare if a hidden city ticket is cheaper, but you have to book one-ways and you can’t check a bag.
Slide 15 of 26: Checked baggage on an airplane can cost $25 or more, leading to $100 in addition charges one-way for the average family of four. Make sure to pack lightly so you don’t have to check a bag or book with an airline that doesn’t charge checked baggage fees.
Slide 16 of 26: No matter whether you’re booking hotels, flights, or vacation packages, it’s crucial to take the time to compare prices across several vendors online. You can even use a price aggregator service like Kayak.com to compare prices from several discount travel websites in one place.
Slide 17 of 26: Airport food is notoriously expensive and not always very good or healthy. Make sure to pack your own meals and snacks in your carry-on luggage or book bag so you aren’t stuck paying more than you should for a disappointing meal.
Slide 18 of 26: If you’re booking a resort in a popular travel destination, also keep your eye out for compulsory resort fees. Skip properties with resort fees altogether if possible. At the very least, you should check for these fees so you can plan for them and avoid unwanted surprises.
Slide 19 of 26: A last-minute cruise can also be a good holiday travel option if you’re flexible with travel dates and your itinerary. VacationstoGo.com and its 90-day ticker connects travelers with unfilled cruise cabins at up to 80% off, so make sure to check it out.
Slide 20 of 26: If you’re young and traveling alone or with friends, also consider a hostel instead of a hotel. Hostels may require you to share a sleeping room and a bathroom, but they can be a lot of fun and make it easy to meet other like-minded travelers during your journey.
Slide 21 of 26: If you’re renting a car, make sure to check if your travel credit card offers primary rental coverage you can use in place of the pricey coverage offered by the agency. The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers some of the best primary auto rental coverage in the business and cardholders get it for free.
Slide 22 of 26: Getting your heart set on a specific destination or set of dates is the best way to ensure you pay more for holiday travel than you should. Try being flexible with where you go and how long you stay and you’ll find a better selection of options and deals.
Slide 23 of 26: If you’re traveling alone and you're flexible with your sleeping situation, you can also create a profile on couchsurfing.com. This website connects you with individuals willing to host you on their couch for free or for an extremely discounted rate.
Slide 24 of 26: If you want to get away from town but don’t want to pay for airfare, also make sure to check bus routes in your area. Buses offer a cheap way to get to another city within a day’s drive and you can often book them at the last minute.
Slide 25 of 26: Swapping homes can also help you avoid pricey hotels if you live in a place people want to visit and manage to find someone to swap with. Websites like HomeExchange.com and LoveHomeSwap.com make it easy to connect with people who might be looking for a similar deal over the holidays and beyond.
Slide 26 of 26: Finally, make sure you’re not paying foreign transaction fees on holiday purchases you make when traveling abroad this year. These fees, which are usually in the 3% to 5% range, can be avoided easily if you sign up for a travel credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees and use it during your trip.

Save Money on Holiday Travel in 2018

Due to gift exchanges and other end-of-year festivities, the holidays have become an expensive part of the year. Still, traveling over the holidays can make your year-end budget balloon even further due to higher prices caused by more demand. These tips can help you save on holiday travel in 2018.

Travel Right Before the Holidays – or Right After

If your dates are flexible enough that you can travel when you want, consider traveling right before major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas—or even right after. Waiting a few days after each holiday can mean paying significantly less for flights and hotels. For example, travel to celebrate Christmas with your family on December 28th instead of the 23rd.

Avoid Flying at All Costs

Another way to save big on holiday travel is by avoiding airfare altogether. Choose a holiday travel destination that you can drive to and all you’ll have to pay for is gas and maybe a rental car. The savings you can glean from this strategy can be astronomical.

Shop for Package Deals

Sometimes vacation or travel package deals that include both airfare and your hotel offer better value than paying for each component of your trip separately. Check out websites like Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, and CheapCaribbean.com for vacation packages that can help you save big on your holiday dream getaway, or just ask your local travel agent!

Let the Deals Guide Your Trip

If you’re not picky about where you travel this holiday season, you can also let the deals guide the way. Check out websites like TheFlightDeal.com and SecretFlying.com to find airfare deals around the globe, then book when you find a sweet fare you can get excited about.

Pick up an Airline Credit Card

Airline credit cards can help you earn airline miles good for free flights and seat upgrades. Some airline credit cards even offer statement credits or free checked bags that can help you save even more. If you sign up for the right card now, you could have enough miles for a free flight sometime over the holidays provided you also find award availability.

Earn Hotel Points

Like airline credit cards, co-branded hotel credit cards make it easy to earn points good for free hotel stays, room upgrades and other valuable perks. If you start earning hotel points now, you could have enough points for a free stay over the holidays or right after.

Give a Flexible Travel Credit Card a Whirl

Also note that some travel credit cards let you earn points which you can redeem for any type of travel you want. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard is a good example since it lets you earn 2x points for each dollar you spend and redeem them for travel at a rate of one cent per point.

Stay With Family or Friends

You can also save a bundle by planning your holiday travels to destinations where you know someone already. Plan a stay with a friend, a family member, or an old work colleague and you can avoid the exorbitant cost of holiday hotel rates.

Book at the Last Minute

If you’re willing to gamble with your holiday travel plans, you can also wait to look for last-minute deals on hotel stays, flights, and travel packages. Booking last minute works best if you’re flexible on exactly where you travel and when.

Become a Housesitter

Trustedhousesitters.com connects homeowners with individuals willing to watch their home and pets in exchange for free lodging. Sign up for the website to create a profile and you could be watching homes in destinations like France or Australia over the holidays.

Fly on Actual Holidays

You can also get a good deal on airfare if you’re willing to fly on the actual holidays themselves. If you’re willing to endure the airport on a holiday, make sure to check flight prices to destinations you want to visit on Thanksgiving and Christmas before you book.

Consider Alternate Airports

Also make sure to check prices at more than one airport any time you book airfare around the holidays. While prices depend on a wide range of factors, you may be able to save hundreds of dollars if you’re willing to drive a few hours to an airport further from home.

Look for Hidden Cities

“Hidden city ticketing” is when you book a flight with a layover but plan to get off the plane in your layover city instead of completing your itinerary. This strategy can help you save money on airfare if a hidden city ticket is cheaper, but you have to book one-ways and you can’t check a bag.

Avoid Checked Bags

Checked baggage on an airplane can cost $25 or more, leading to $100 in addition charges one-way for the average family of four. Make sure to pack lightly so you don’t have to check a bag or book with an airline that doesn’t charge checked baggage fees.

Compare Pricing Online

No matter whether you’re booking hotels, flights, or vacation packages, it’s crucial to take the time to compare prices across several vendors online. You can even use a price aggregator service like Kayak.com to compare prices from several discount travel websites in one place.

Avoid Airport Food Like the Plague

Airport food is notoriously expensive and not always very good or healthy. Make sure to pack your own meals and snacks in your carry-on luggage or book bag so you aren’t stuck paying more than you should for a disappointing meal.

Watch out for Resort Fees

If you’re booking a resort in a popular travel destination, also keep your eye out for compulsory resort fees. Skip properties with resort fees altogether if possible. At the very least, you should check for these fees so you can plan for them and avoid unwanted surprises.

Book a Last-Minute Cruise

A last-minute cruise can also be a good holiday travel option if you’re flexible with travel dates and your itinerary. VacationstoGo.com and its 90-day ticker connects travelers with unfilled cruise cabins at up to 80% off, so make sure to check it out.

Stay in a Hostel

If you’re young and traveling alone or with friends, also consider a hostel instead of a hotel. Hostels may require you to share a sleeping room and a bathroom, but they can be a lot of fun and make it easy to meet other like-minded travelers during your journey.

Use Your Credit Card’s Auto Rental Coverage

If you’re renting a car, make sure to check if your travel credit card offers primary rental coverage you can use in place of the pricey coverage offered by the agency. The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers some of the best primary auto rental coverage in the business and cardholders get it for free.

Be Flexible With Dates and Destinations

Getting your heart set on a specific destination or set of dates is the best way to ensure you pay more for holiday travel than you should. Try being flexible with where you go and how long you stay and you’ll find a better selection of options and deals.

Go Couchsurfing

If you’re traveling alone and you’re flexible with your sleeping situation, you can also create a profile on couchsurfing.com. This website connects you with individuals willing to host you on their couch for free or for an extremely discounted rate.

Take the Bus

If you want to get away from town but don’t want to pay for airfare, also make sure to check bus routes in your area. Buses offer a cheap way to get to another city within a day’s drive and you can often book them at the last minute.

Swap Homes With Someone Else

Swapping homes can also help you avoid pricey hotels if you live in a place people want to visit and manage to find someone to swap with. Websites like HomeExchange.com and LoveHomeSwap.com make it easy to connect with people who might be looking for a similar deal over the holidays and beyond.

Avoid Foreign Transaction Fees

Finally, make sure you’re not paying foreign transaction fees on holiday purchases you make when traveling abroad this year. These fees, which are usually in the 3% to 5% range, can be avoided easily if you sign up for a travel credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees and use it during your trip.

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