Oh no! You forgot to book your holiday travel months ago, and now you’re left choosing among uncomfortable flights and undesirable hotel rooms at unaffordable rates. Whether you need to get together with your family for Christmas or get as far away from them as possible after Thanksgiving, holiday travel is expensive. The good news is that even at the last minute, there are ways to find great deals. Read on for our tips to get home (or far away from home) for the holidays on a budget.
Be Flexible. One of the easiest ways to save money on travel, even around the holidays, is to be as flexible as you can about as many aspects of your trip as possible. Hotels and airlines want you to buy their unfilled rooms and seats so you may be able to get a good deal even if you waited until the last minute to book — but you might have to make a few compromises. Here are a few things to consider when you’re researching holiday travel plans:
Shift your dates. Certain days of the week (Sunday) are typically less expensive travel days than others (Friday), but that rule isn’t always applicable during the holidays. When searching for flights, select a few different date combinations that could work for you, and see which ones are the least expensive. For example, if you’re willing to fly to your destination on Christmas Eve (December 24th) or Christmas Day, (December 25th) instead of December 23rd, you could save a significant sum.
Split up your group. If you’re traveling with another person or an entire group of people, consider conducting airline searches for smaller groups or individual tickets instead of for your entire party. If you are willing to break your party up into couples or solo travelers, you could find cheaper tickets.
Try a new airport. Most travel search engines now give you the option to search for airports in a general area, rather than a specific airport. Major hubs are typically clogged with holiday travelers, but smaller airlines may be offering some good deals at their less-frequented destinations nearby. As long as you have transportation, it is definitely worth exploring this option.
Travel at an inconvenient time. No one likes red-eye or early morning flights that exacerbate jet lag and force you to wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning. It is for precisely this reason that these flights are often cheaper options, and this usually holds true during the holiday travel season as well.
Book your hotel directly. Hotels typically want to book all of their rooms as far in advance as possible. If a hotel still has a room available at the last minute, they are likely to give you a great rate, as opposed to taking the risk of leaving it unoccupied. Instead of booking your room through third-party sites, call the hotel directly and ask for a deal. In most cases, booking websites take a substantial cut of the hotel’s profit when you use them to book, so the hotel has every incentive to offer you a lower rate when you book directly; although the amount you pay is smaller, the hotel’s profit is bigger.
Set up travel alerts. Search for your destinations, favorite airports, and hotels, and set alerts to automatically remind you when there are great deals to be had on travel. Not only might this save you money on this year’s travel — it may also help you remember to book earlier next year.
Visit a cold destination. If you’re not looking for a tropical getaway and time on the beach, the holidays are actually not a bad time to travel. Those who vacation during the holidays prefer warm destinations; Orlando is the most popular holiday travel destination for Americans. If you’ve always wanted to visit Colorado or New England, the holidays could actually be a cost-effective time to go.
Holiday travel can be extremely stressful and costly, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little creativity and flexibility, you can travel for the holidays without breaking the bank. Leave a comment below with your best holiday travel tip!