Low fuel costs and an improving economy are expected to make 2016 a strong year for holiday travel, which is great news if you own a hotel, gas station or airline. But it can mean crowds and added headaches if you’re booking a reservation, waiting in line for gas or trying to get through airport security.
Planning ahead and looking for deals early are guiding principles for Christmas travel. If you’re flying, start scouring travel websites immediately. If you’re driving, think about when you plan to leave for your destination and when you want to drive back. Consider using traffic apps to avoid major congestion on your way.
Booking flights early for Christmas can means substantial savings on costly holiday airline tickets, but don’t hesitate since the discounts diminish rapidly after Thanksgiving.
Shop Travel Sites for Flight Deals
Consider setting up travel site fare alerts today and jump in if you see a great deal — sometimes they only last a few minutes. Though some of the best holiday airfare bargains were available in October, there’s still time to snag a discount.
Another hint: Try different combinations of departure and return dates. One day on either end of your trip can make a big difference in what you’ll pay for a ticket. Flying from December 22 to 25 can make a big difference in ticket price. If you’re eager to see the relatives but willing to forgo the actual holiday get-together, you can save a lot of money.
The key here is flexibility. The more willing you are to work around the peak travel days, the more affordable your trip will be.
You might consider paying a little more for nonstop flights. The airports during the holiday season are extremely busy, and flying direct reduces the chance that you’ll be delayed while switching flights at a hub airport.
Be Flexible with Holiday Travel
Supply and demand rules in the travel business and this year that could mean high hotel room rates. Popular hotels will fill quickly. Consider hotels that cater to business travelers. Business trips drop off around the holidays, so vacancy rates at these hotels might be higher than at hotels that target families. Also, consider non-traditional lodging. Scout Airbnb and other sites that offer short-term rentals in residential properties.
If you’re planning to use the holidays for vacation rather than a family reunion, you might want to consider where the crowds might be. Las Vegas, New York, Cancun and Orlando top of the list of favorite Christmas season destinations. Expedia.com has a list of where people travel most. Though a lot of travelers will likely put pressure on airfares to the select destinations, it doesn’t mean the hotel rooms will all be taken. All four of the top destinations have huge numbers of rooms, but getting the best rates can require aggressive shopping.
What else can you do to save money on the holidays?
Consider packing lighter to avoid baggage fees. If you are going for a few days and can fit everything you need in a carry-on bag, that might be the way to go. If you must check a bag, try doing it online before leaving for the airport, as some airlines offer a discount for those who do this. And skip the extras like Wi-Fi on the airplane. If you’re airborne for a couple hours, try reading a book instead of browsing the web. You can use the money for something else when you land.
Also, if you can, buy gifts for the family after you land. It is far less expensive than paying extra to check bags containing only gifts that could be purchased anywhere. Or buy gifts online and have them shipped to your destination.
Finally, don’t book flights and hotel rooms without drafting a holiday budget. Be realistic about holiday expenses and tread lightly on your credit cards.
Joey Johnston has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist with the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times. He has won a dozen national writing awards and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Sports Illustrated and People Magazine. He started writing for InCharge Debt Solutions in 2016.
- Elliott, C. (2016, November 12) 2016 Holiday Travel Guide: When to Drive, How to Book and Where To Save. Retrieved from: http://elliott.org/the-navigator/2016-holiday-travel-guide-drive-book-save/
- Marissa (2016, November 8) 5 Money-Saving Holiday Travel Tips + AIG Travel Holiday Twitter Party. Retrieved from: http://thepennywisemama.com/2016/11/5-money-saving-holiday-travel-tips.html
- Sablich, J. (2016, October 18) 5 Tips for Saving on Holiday Air Travel. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/23/travel/5-tips-for-saving-on-holiday-air-travel.html
- Firpo-Cappiello, R. (ND) Money-Saving Holiday Travel Tips. Retrieved from: http://www.budgettravel.com/blog/money-saving-holiday-travel-tips,46844/