How to Save Money on Holiday Travel

If you spend all your money on holiday travel, you won’t have anything left to spend on gifts! And while your very presence should be gift enough … here are some tips, just to be safe.

We can’t all be Santa. As we all know, only one person can be Santa, and the way you become Santa is by having Santa fall off of your roof.

This means only one person has Santa’s magical sleigh that can travel anywhere instantly, which also means that the rest of us have to manage our holiday travel through other means.

But holiday travel can be incredibly expensive. Since so many people are trying to travel at the same time, demand is very, very high—so prices are high, too!

So how can you save on holiday travel? We spoke to the experts to find out! (Unfortunately, Santa did not return our request for comment.)


Book early and often (or just early).

As the old proverb says, the best time to book your flight is twenty years ago, and the second-best time to book your flight is today. But that proverb is not actually true! Who knows what routes will be covered by what airline in two decades, or if your cousin will even still live in New Jersey.

But booking as many months as possible—or even over a year out—from when you’re trying to travel? That’s going to make a big difference.

“Book way in advance,” urged Julie Kucko, a travel agent with Viking Travel. “We have clients already booking 2020. You won’t be able to book the air yet, but a lot of cruise lines and resorts often have bigger booking windows.

“Need that condo or family suite? Book now for next year. The ‘prime real estate’, like the lodges in National Parks, require booking at least a year out.”

Stretch first.

If there’s one tip that kept coming up, it was to approach your holiday travel like you’d approach yoga or limbo contests: by being flexible. Did they say it like that? No, not exactly.

For example, here’s what Hans Desjarlais (@ismaelyws), founder and creator of FlightList, says: “Be flexible. Try to book flights a few days before and after the holidays so as to avoid price surges and long queues.

“Avoid major airports. Fly through smaller, regional airports. Instead of flying from JFK in New York City, try Albany instead. Tickets are often much cheaper.

“Only fly with carry-on luggage. If you’re just traveling for a few days, keep it light. Most airlines allow one carry-on bag and one personal item (purse, briefcase, laptop bag) per passenger fee-free.”

Kucko had similar advice: “If you can be flexible, a good agent might be able to find you a better deal. Agencies work with preferred vendors and wholesalers. Sometimes they can find you an impossible room if their vendors may have ‘blocked space’.

“The best way to save is to be willing to travel at off times, make connections etc. Early December is the perfect season to visit the beaches in the Caribbean, for it’s between Thanksgiving and Christmas. You miss the crowds yet save money.”

Get on the bus, Gus (or whatever your name is).

With a few exceptions, air travel is going to be the more expensive option. While ground travel is going to lead to a lengthier trip, it’s often the more affordable choice and you don’t have to take off your shoes. In fact, the other people on the bus or train would probably rather you didn’t.

“Bus fares are just a fraction of the cost of plane tickets and you can travel to multiple destinations for well under $30, even when you book at the last minute,” explained Staffo Dobrev, budget travel expert at bus and train travel booking platform Wanderu (@GoWanderu).

“Also, bus stations are usually located in the heart of the city, saving you a ton of money on taxi or transit to and from airports.”

Dobrev also pointed us towards some holiday travel strategies they had compiled.

Airplanes and cars come with their own pros and cons—but have you considered splitting the difference?

“If you are flying and one way is much less expensive than the other, consider splitting your trip between flying and driving,” suggested Paul Moyer, owner and author of SavingFreak.com (@SavingFreak).

“Many rental car companies are looking to balance their fleet and will offer steep discounts for someone willing to drive a long distance one way, saving them the cost of moving the vehicle.”

Living it up at the Hotel Hiltonfornia.

If you’re visiting family and you can stay them, then that’s going to be the cheapest option. But if you are going to be staying at a hotel, consider looking into which hotels have many locations and loyalty programs. One such hotel chain that fits that description is Hilton.

And here’s what an insider from Hilton Honors (@HiltonHonors) told us about their loyalty program:

“The Hilton Honors loyalty program allows travelers to cash in Points for VIP experiences, save on stays by combining points with family members, and take advantage of generous perks that get better the more they stay at Hilton properties.

“Programs like Points Pooling provide members with more flexibility, more value, and more ways to use their Points, making holiday traveling with others a little bit easier. Hilton Honors members can combine their Points and book stays with up to 11 family members and friends.”

Candy cane bark.

So now you know what you’re going to do, but what about your pooch? If they can’t travel with you and you don’t have a friend to watch them, it’ll be costly to leave them at a doggy hotel. That’s where Rover (@RoverDotCom) comes in.

Here’s what the experts at Rover told us: “Rather than dropping beloved pets off at crowded kennels or burdening friends, folks are instead turning to dog-loving neighbors for assistance. Pet parents get a better, more personalized service at about half the price of traditional boarding businesses.

“The Rover platform provides a Rover Guarantee, 24/7 vet consultation, and a mobile app that lets dog walkers track and share information with pet parents – including when they arrived at the home, a GPS map of the dog’s walk, a personal message from the sitter, photos of the dog while in their care, and notes of any bathroom breaks along the way.”

Now go off and book your holiday travels! Because if you haven’t yet, you should really get on that ASAP!  Want some more tips for saving money? Check out these related posts from OppLoans:

What are your best tips for eating out on the cheap? We want to hear from you! You can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Contributors

Hans Desjarlais (@ismaelyws) is a young tech-entrepreneur & humanitarian with a passion for traveling. He’s currently the founder & creator of FlightList—a site which simplifies booking cheap, one-way flights for flexible travelers. At the young age of 17 he started his first business importing performance automotive engines from Japan and sold it 8 years later. In 2014 he became Chief Technology Officer at BAM! Radio Network, the largest all-education talk radio network in the world. Hans currently resides in Montreal, Canada but spends half the year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico to escape the cold winters.
Staffo Dobrev is the budget travel expert at bus and train travel booking platform Wanderu (@GoWanderu). Prior to joining Wanderu, Staffo spent five years working in the entertainment industry as a public relations specialist for various fashion and lifestyle brands, as well as a publicist for leading Hollywood talent and film projects. Having lived in some of the greatest cities in the world, Staffo has always had a soft spot for travel and adventures. Instead of hitting the usual tourist attractions, though, he prefers to make friends with local people and check out fun places and activities that are not in the travel books.
Yes, there really are travel consultants and travel agencies in existence today! Julie Kucko started out 30+ years ago and still enjoys consulting and creating those ‘dream trips’. Leisure travel is her specialty, although she has enjoyed working with group and incentive travel in the past. She enjoys the challenge of qualifying and listening to my clients and matching them with a trip that exceeds their expectations! A good consultant is resourceful, knowledgeable, and patient for a lot of time is spent ‘on hold’ on the telephone as well as attempting to keep up with the ever-changing travel rules. In May she moved to Viking Travel in Naperville, IL.  She’d love to help you with your travel plans. The world waits to be explored, are you ready?
Hilton Honors (@HiltonHonors) is the guest-centric loyalty program for the entire 15-brand Hilton portfolio, striving to make travel more valuable, more flexible and more personalized—for every type of traveler. With instant benefits and new means of earning and spending Points, Hilton Honors provides members with the tools needed to make the most of any trip.
Paul Moyer the owner and author of SavingFreak.com (@SavingFreak).
Rover (@RoverDotCom) is the world’s largest and most trusted network of five-star pet sitters and dog walkers. Rover connects dog owners with pet care whenever they need it. Millions of services have been booked on Rover, including pet sitting, dog walking, in-home dog boarding, and doggy day care.  As The Dog People™, Rover makes it easier for people to have dog love in their lives through the Rover Guarantee, 24/7 support, background checks, vet consultations, and GPS walk tracking.

Unlike a kennel, dogs get totally personalized care from bonafide dog people who each pet parent is able to choose for themselves. Sitters and dog walkers set their own rates, with dog boarding stays averaging $30-35 per night, making Rover an affordable and desirable alternative to a kennel.

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