Holiday travel can be expensive… especially if you’re traveling with a family. But you don’t have to break the bank, blow up the family budget, and go into debt just to take a family trip during the holiday season.
There are a number of things you can do to save money and still enjoy a fantastic, fun-filled trip.
Here are a few of the biggest money-saving tips:
1. Plan Early
Whether you’re considering a trip upstate or across the country during the holiday season, planning as far in advance as possible will save you money. In fact, the farther in advance you plan, the more money you’ll generally save. There are usually very few, if any, “last minute” travel bargains available, so don’t count on them.
If you’re traveling by air or train, search the internet for the lowest airfares on discount travel sites including Travelocity, Orbitz, Cheap Tickets, and Priceline. This will show you the lowest fares and tell you what airlines are flying to your destination. Check the individual sites of these airlines, since many offer lower internet fares or unadvertised internet specials. If your travel plans require a hotel room and rental car, check the discount travel and airline sites for packages that include hotel and or car rental. Usually, these packages will offer you significant savings.
Families planning to travel by car need to plan well in advance too. Check with the AAA or other auto club to plan the quickest easiest route and avoid congestion and road construction delays. Ask about gas prices and what you can expect to pay per gallon during the holiday season at your final destination. The auto clubs also offer members discounts on hotels, visitor attractions, and sometimes restaurants too. These discounts can generally save you 20% or more.
2. Travel “Off-Peak” If You Can
Everybody wants to arrive at their destination by Christmas Eve. Travelers with the flexibility to arrive several days before Christmas Eve … or on Christmas day or the day after Christmas, can sometimes save a considerable amount of money on air and rail fares. If you’re traveling by car, you’ll also find less congestion on the road on these “off-peak” days.
3. Check Airline Baggage Fees Before You Book
Go online and check each airline’s luggage policy and fees before you book. This could save you anywhere from $50 to $300 per roundtrip ticket, depending on the airline, your destination, and the dates you travel.
Jet Blue, for example, is one of the few airlines, that still gives you the first checked bag free. Assuming the fares with another airline are the same, you could save $25 per ticket … that’s $200 savings for a family of four roundtrips.. by flying Jet Blue.
American Airlines has a very complicated baggage policy and fee structure that varies by date, destination, size of baggage, and type of baggage. If you’re considering flying American, be sure you completely understand how much extra it will cost you. Call and speak to an American representative if you have any questions … before you book!
4. Set A Pre-Set Spending Limit … Avoid Credit Cards
Establish a firm budget for your trip, with a little built-in “wiggle room” for unexpected expenses. Try paying all your expenses by debit card, travelers’ checks, or cash and avoid credit cards. This way there are no “surprises” when you return or credit card charges that help you begin the new year deeper in debt. Instead, try to find a payday loan store near your location or an online payday lender with the help of SolidCashHelp.com or similar websites. Payday loans can sometimes be a real life-saver.
5. Book Early and Fast
Always assume prices will only go up, so once you find the lowest fare or rate book it … or it will soon be gone and you’ll wind up paying more.
6. Pack Smart and Lightly for Airline Travel
Luggage fees and restrictions vary from airline to airline. Most airlines now charge for each piece of luggage checked and have restrictions as to the number, size, and weight of bags you check.
For domestic flights, you can generally expect to pay a minimum of $25 per bag for each bag weighing 50 pounds or less. Add an additional $50 to $100 per bag if the bag weighs over 50 pounds. These are one-way charges, so the costs are doubled for a round-trip itinerary.
Here are two simple tips for saving on airline luggage charges. The first is to pack lightly to keep each bag under 50 pounds to avoid overweight charges. The second is to “share suitcases” so you check a few pieces of luggage as possible. A husband and wife can share a suitcase and children’s clothing can be packed in their parent’s luggage. A couple traveling together could save a minimum of $50 roundtrip… and a family of four could easily save an additional $50 or more roundtrip simply packing smartly and sharing suitcases.
7. Ship Holiday Gifts In Advance To Save Money
Packing holiday gifts only adds to the weight of your luggage. Buy your Christmas gifts online through a site that offers free shipping and have them shipped to your destination in advance. This saves time, money, and aggravation too!
8. Weigh Your Luggage At Home
Weigh your bags at home just before you leave for the airport to keep from going over the weight limit and having to pay an additional $50 or $100 you didn’t expect when you check in … and the same amount on your return flight.
9. Bring Your Own Food and Save
Fast food doesn’t mean cheap food …on the road … and especially in airports where fast-food restaurants have higher prices and no $1 Value Menus. A burger, fries, soda, and dessert for a family of 4 can cost $25 to $40. Eating at a diner or chain restaurant can be even more expensive.
If you’re traveling by car, you can make sandwiches at home and take boxes of cookies, bags of snacks, and bottles of juice, soda, or water you can consume in the car or at rest stops. This can save a family of 4 making a total of 4 restaurant stops traveling two and from their destination well over $100 on food.
Families traveling by air can bring food on board to easily save $100 or more over high airport food prices. The only things you’ll have to buy at the airport once you clear security … or wait to have free onboard the aircraft … are any beverages because the TSA does not allow any bottled fluids … including water or soda through airport security.
10. BYO Beverages To Hotels
Bring liquor, wine, beer, and soda from home if you’re traveling by car and staying at a hotel. If you don’t feel like carrying it in the car or if there’s no room, buy your alcoholic beverages at a grocery or liquor store once you arrive. This can save two adults hundreds of dollars over having every drink at the hotel bar. Bringing your own bottled water, soda and snacks can save additional money too … especially if you’re staying with children.