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7 Tips That Will Save You Money On Holiday Travel

Last Updated on 12/5/2022

The holiday season can get expensive really quickly. From gifts, to holiday parties, to family travel, it can be easy to lose your holiday spirit as your bank account depletes. The good news is, there are plenty of ways that you can maintain your budget around the holidays, especially on travel–it just takes some careful planning. Here are 7-holiday travel tips that’ll help you save money this season:

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Do Your Research

Because the holidays can be a hectic time, lots of people are eager to just book their vacation travel and be done with it. If that’s your thing, we get it. But if you can hold on just a little bit before you book your airfare, you might land on an excellent travel deal. To start, head over to Google Flights. Plug in as many of your travel details as you can –locations, dates, number of passengers, and even preferred airlines. Check out the prices as they are right now. If they look affordable to you, go for it. If you think prices are a little high right now, set an alert for your search, and Google will email you updates as prices change. Next, sign up for some travel newsletters–gold mines for travel deals. Here are two of our favorites:

#1) The Flight Deal Daily Deals Letter: This newsletter sends you an email every single day with crazy deals to destinations all over the world, flying out from cities in the US. This might sound random, but we’ve been surprised at how often airfare deals come up that align with what we’re looking for. Even if you don’t end up landing on one of their deals during the holidays, they’re a great resource for travel in general.

#2 ) Airfarewatchdog New York City Fare Alert: Airfarewatchdog doesn’t just send you deals to random destinations at random times–their TripWatch feature lets you set alerts to and from certain destinations and sends you flight deals whenever they come up. Then, you can also sign up for several different newsletters, such as Airfarewatchdog Updates, Insider, and Special Offers.

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Flexibility is Key

One of the biggest reasons people end up spending so much money on holiday travel is because they’re searching for tickets for certain days, and those days only. When you don’t have any flexibility around travel dates, you can get stuck with expensive fares or less-than-desirable times and layovers. If you have some flexibility, on the other hand, this is the best tip that can save big bucks. 

Many airlines offer the opportunity to view a calendar with all of the lowest fare options on it, so you can select the most affordable days that fit into your schedule. If you want to see all of the airlines in one place, head back to Google Flights–they have the same feature that includes almost all major airlines except for Southwest.

If you’re looking for a place to stay during the holiday travel season, flexibility can also be a huge game-changer in that area. It might get a little tricky if you’re traveling with kids, but if you’re flying solo or with another adult, the HotelTonight app is a great resource for finding a last-minute deal on awesome hotels all over the country. HotelTonight lets you book in advance as well, so you don’t have to way until literally the last minute to know where you’ll be sleeping that night. If you’re not okay with very last-minute bookings, however, check out the One Night app, which only offers accommodations that are available the very night of your booking. It’s only available in major cities, but the deals are worth giving it a look if you’re in one of them.

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Create Your OWN Layover

This one requires a bit of extra work, but if you have the time, it could be well worth it for you this holiday travel season. Usually, when you go to book airfare, all you have to put in is your dates, starting location and destination, and whatever search engine you’re using will connect the dots from point A to point B. The problem with that is that the connections they make aren’t always the most cost-effective, which is usually because both flights will be on the same airline, so you’ll find the cheapest combination of airfare on that airline rather than the cheapest overall airfare package. So instead of opting for the pre-packaged offer, you can create your own itinerary by searching one-way flights to your layover airport and then another one-way to your final destination. Then, you can test out different layover airports to see what’s cheapest. Just make sure that you give yourself plenty of time between the first and second flights so you don’t miss the second one.

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Hop on the Polar Express

Sometimes, you have to look outside of your normal modes of transportation to find the best deals. For example, if you’re headed to a destination that you can reach by train, you might be able to find a travel deal that is much more affordable than airfare. Plus, like airlines, train companies also offer holiday travel deals. For example, Amtrak offers “Holiday Saver Fares” that will shave off 25% on their fares during the holiday season. You can also use Wanderu to find the best options for train and bus travel from any location via all of the different companies.

Pro-Tip: If you’re traveling with kids, train travel around the holidays can be magical–just make sure you come prepared with snacks and activities like you would on a flight. Read our blog post on traveling with kids for tips on making family travel vacations a success.

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Opt for Basic Economy Fares

If you do need to travel by air, make sure you look at Basic Economy options for each airline. Most of the time, these fares will be significantly cheaper. They do come with some important stipulations, but as long as you know about them and are prepared to travel within their limitations, Basic Economy airfare can spare you a ton of money. Just beware…if you end up not reading the rules and head to the airport with a bag that isn’t included in the fare, you might end up paying a fee that counterbalances the savings, so be sure you review the rules for your airline before you start packing.

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Book a Flight on the Actual Holiday

Another great way to get a cheap flight is to book on the actual holiday you’re traveling for. For example, if you celebrate Christmas, book your flight to or back from your destination on December 25th. For some, this is a great option –get some time in with your loved ones and then head back home to enjoy the post-holiday lull. For others, it might feel a little sad. If you’re one of those people, you can look for late evening departures, or extend your time on either end of the holiday trip to compensate.

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Try Alternatives to Hotels

If you’re headed to a destination in which you’ll need to reserve a hotel, you’ll probably find that hotels tend to hike up their prices during the holiday season. If you have some flexibility, check out the options we shared in tip 2. If you need to book your hotel accommodations in advance, we suggest stepping away from the hotel scene and opting to stay in a stranger’s home –through services like Airbnb and VRBO, of course. Through these services, you can reserve a private room or whole residence that the owner has listed on the site, and they’re often much more reasonably priced than hotels. Both Airbnb and VRBO offer places to stay all over the world, with varying levels of fanciness and different styles so you can select the option that best aligns with what you’re looking for. Some might even come with their own holiday decorations! Here are some things to keep in mind about travel insurance and Airbnb.

We hope these tips help you keep your holiday cheer this season! For even more holiday travel advice, check out our other blog post with five additional tips to relieve some stress.  If you have any others to share, we’re all ears –connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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