7 Ways to Save on Holiday Travel7 Ways to Save on Holiday Travel

Everyone, it seems, travels for the holidays. Look at any airport or train station congested with those who are going home for the holidays and it can discourage even the most intrepid traveler. Even worse can be the pinch on your wallet when you want to spend your money on gifts for the family and friends. Never fear. Here are even savvy ways you can save on holiday travel.

1. Travel on the actual holiday.

Think about traveling when no one else wants to. On the evening before, and on the holiday itself, most people want to already be at their destination. If you don’t mind missing out on the preparations or if you like to make a grand entrance, think about flying on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day. The same goes for New Year’s. I have flown on a holiday and had all three seats to myself to stretch out in. Check out sites like SkyScanner or even Google for the dates that you want to go – it’s amazing how different the prices can range! These sites show alternate dates and routes as well, which can save time when you’re booking a trip.

2. Ship your luggage ahead of time.

If you travel with a lot of luggage at holiday time, consider shipping your extra bags instead of taking them with you. Some airlines charge up to one hundred dollars for an extra bag, while the United States Postal Service. UPS, FedEx, DHL and others have cheaper prices. These may want you to box the suitcase. You can even ship it by Greyhound or Continental Trailways bus and pick it up at the bus station when you arrive.

3. Don’t park at the airport.

Don’t drive your car to the airport because airport parking prices go up at the holidays. If you don’t have friends or family willing to take you, call a shuttle service or even a taxi. It will be less expensive than paying for parking. There are websites that will estimate your taxi fare to any local destination, so you can compare online. If you travel light, you could even take local public transportation like a crosstown bus or subway.

4. Go for a cruise instead.

Rethink your celebration. From autumn through the end of the year is the slow season for cruising. Prices are low enough that you and the whole extended family could book a cruise together. This is ideal, because there are activities and entertainment for all ages. You don’t have to worry about the kids wandering off – you’ll catch up at dinner or at bedtime. Each person can choose their sport or just lounge around the pool or spa. If you are all willing and ready, there are last-minute cruising specials. You could escape the winter blahs in the Caribbean or off the shores of Mexico or Hawaii. 

5. Book through a travel agent.

Buying plane tickets early is a good way to save, but if you did not plan ahead, you might still be able to save. Buy a bundled trip through a travel agent. These include air fare, hotel and often, guided tours. Because travel agencies reserve blocks of tickets early they can pass along some of the savings to you. As with ships and planes, it’s better to have a full tour bus even with some tickets discounted, than to have a bus half-empty with everyone paying the full amount.

6. Consider driving instead of flying.

With the cost of gasoline at new lows, it could be more economical to drive, especially if you are traveling with three people or more. Don’t forget to think about how long it will take and who will drive. If you have only one driver, allow plenty of time to rest along the way. One advantage is that you can take lots of luggage this way. Bring along healthy snacks to make it a rolling feast. Think about adding a book on CD to enjoy together. (Check out our post on road trip tips!)

If you have time or your trip is short, you might also consider taking a train. Riding the train with Grandpa is one of my best childhood memories. Kids can move around more than on a plane, which helps release some of that young energy.

7. Get to the airport early.

If you are flying, be sure to get to the airport early. Be prepared to see it more full of people than ever. The security lines will take longer, checking your bags will take longer, everything will take longer. If you miss your plane, all your planning and economizing will go down the tubes. Be prepared to wait with lots of snacks, reading material and a blanket or shawl. The weather could ground you and a thousand strangers will become your companions in hardship if it snows, so don’t forget to pack your sense of humor and patience. Travel is an adventure, especially at the holidays.

What’s your top holiday travel tip? Share your advice in the comments!

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