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How to Save Money While Traveling for the Holidays

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Holiday travel can be a joyful and exciting experience, but it can also be stressful and costly. whether you’re traveling by plane or car this season, there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure you get the best deal on flights, gas, and accommodations so you can avoid overspending.

FLIGHTS

Planning is essential. This means booking your flights and accommodations as far in advance as possible. The earlier you book, the more likely you will find good deals. Additionally, consider traveling during off-peak times, such as a few days before or after a holiday. This can help you save money on flights and accommodations, and it will likely mean that you’ll have fewer crowds to deal with.

That said, if you’re not much of a planner, you may be able to take advantage of last-minute deals if you’re flexible with your travel dates. Many hotels and airlines offer discounted rates for rooms and flights that haven’t been booked yet, so if you’re able to be spontaneous, you could save a lot of money. Just be sure to research and compare prices before committing to one airline or hotel!

Regarding flights, it’s also a good idea to be flexible with your dates and destinations. Consider using a flight search engine, such as Kayak or Google Flights, to compare prices and find the best deals. Skyscanner and Hopper are two excellent iOS and Android apps that work similarly to narrow down the cheapest flights. You can also set up alerts for when prices drop, so you’ll know when it’s a good time to book.

Another way to save money on flights is to be strategic about how you book. For example, avoid booking round-trip tickets, which can often be more expensive than one-way tickets. Instead, consider booking separate one-way tickets for each leg of your trip. You can even split your outbound and inbound flights between different airlines! This can sometimes be more affordable and give you more flexibility if your plans change.

If you’re flying internationally, looking for flights with layovers or stopovers can save you money. These can sometimes be more affordable than nonstop flights and allow you to explore another city on your way to your destination. For example, if you’re flying from New York to Paris, you might look for a flight with a layover in London. This would allow you to visit two cities for the price of one. Famously, Icelandair allows you to specify a one to seven-day stopover in Iceland at no additional cost.

When I travel, I like to avoid checking a bag if possible. Not only can it be costly, but it can also be a hassle. Instead, try to pack everything you need into one carry-on bag. If you’re worried about not having enough room for gifts, consider giving gift cards or wait until you arrive to do your shopping. This will help you save space in your luggage and make your trip more enjoyable. I often travel in a pair of clothes on their last legs and then throw them out to make room for souvenirs and gifts from family and friends.

 

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ACCOMMODATIONS

There are also several ways to save money on accommodations. One option is to consider alternative accommodations, such as vacation rentals or home-sharing services. These can often be more affordable than traditional hotels and offer a more unique and local experience.

Vacation rentals, such as those offered on websites like Airbnb or VRBO, can be an excellent option for holiday travel. These services connect travelers with locals willing to open their homes to guests. This can be a great way to save money on accommodations and it can also be a unique and memorable experience. Just be sure to research and read reviews before you book to ensure you’re staying with a reputable host. Rentals like these can come equipped with all the amenities you need, such as a kitchen, laundry facilities, and sometimes even a pool or hot tub. This can be especially useful if you’re traveling with a large group or with children, as it can help you save money on meals and entertainment.

Another way to save money on accommodations is to look for deals and discounts. Many hotels and vacation rentals offer special rates for holiday travel, so check their websites or call to ask about any deals they may offer. You can also use a site like Groupon or Travelocity to find discounts.

Sometimes the best deals are found not online but by calling the hotel you’d like to visit. Direct booking this way can sometimes offer a good or better rate. Don’t call the hotel’s general number, though; do some sleuthing and find the location’s local number. It never hurts to tell them you found a deal online and are wondering if they can match it or do better!

GENERAL TRAVEL

Try carpooling with friends or family when traveling by car for the holidays! This reduces the cost of gas or electricity and allows multiple drivers to take turns behind the wheel, reducing the need for long breaks and allowing for a more efficient travel time. Additionally, carpooling can reduce the carbon footprint of your holiday travel.

Use credit card rewards and loyalty programs to save on travel expenses. Many credit cards offer rewards for travel expenses, so it’s worth checking to see if you can earn points or miles for your holiday travel. Also, loyalty programs for airlines, hotels, and car rental companies can offer discounts and perks, so it’s worth signing up for these programs to save money on your trip. If the trip you’re going on is starting to look expensive, it may be worth paying that high yearly fee for a credit card since you may eat the cost in the perks on one trip alone! Check out The Points Guy for great advice on travel credit rewards cards.

Finally, it’s essential to be prepared for any unexpected expenses that may come up during your trip. This means setting a budget, sticking to it, and bringing extra cash or a credit card for emergencies. I like to include travel in my holiday budget as it keeps things simple and allows me to track changes yearly!

Overall, holiday travel can be a fun and exciting experience, but it’s important to plan ahead and avoid costly mistakes. By booking early, being flexible with your dates and destinations, and looking for deals and discounts, you can save money and have a stress-free holiday trip.

 

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Oliver Ames Headshot

About Oliver Ames

Oliver is VSECU's social media strategist and spends most of his day engaging with members through our Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram profiles. He has a background in science education, non-profit fundraising, business communication, media production, and membership-based organizations. When not at work, Oliver spends much of his time with his wife and son at their home in Montpelier.
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