With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays quickly approaching, many people will schedule time to travel somewhere in the US to spend time with their loved ones. Elements out of life's control like airport flight delays or a 5 hour interstate traffic jam still won't dissuade millions of travelers from venturing far from home for the holidays. AAA reported more than 94 million people in the U.S. traveled over 50 miles from home during the 2013 holiday season. This year's travel volume is likely to be no different.
Cost usually plays the biggest role in deciding where to travel and how to get there. Once the destination is determined, here are some tips for how to save money on travel expenses:
Airfare tends to be more expensive the closer a ticket is purchased to the travel date. To find the cheapest fares, compare online rates of air carriers directly on their websites and with third party discount sites like Travelocity.com or Priceline.com. Flexibility in travel dates or flying mid-week can also reduce the cost of a ticket.
Travel hacking and credit card churning are fast becoming ways to pay less for travel. Signing up for a credit card to take advantage of travel rewards or a five figure air miles bonus is an excellent way to cut travel costs. For those who fly regularly, by choosing the same carrier when possible, it will earn them frequent flyer miles that can be redeemed for free flights more quickly than spreading their travel across multiple airlines.
Take A Road Trip
Airline travel can still be a budget buster so the next likely option is to travel by car. When driving one's own vehicle, simply factor in the cost of gas and it can save hundreds of dollars compared to flying. Traveling by car allows for unexpected sightseeing stops along the way and more comfortable seating compared to what an airline's economy class seats offer.
Renting a car is always a reliable option, especially if driving for several hundred miles each way. Common strategies to save on car rental costs include selecting a fuel economy size car and using a credit card to waive additional insurance requirements, once the credit card issuer covers those costs. Another economical choice may be to use a bus or train service such as Greyhound or Amtrak if driving is not a possibility.
Where to Stay
Sometimes it's convenient to stay with family or friends if they are located in a destination city. Many who travel first opt to rent a hotel room. As with most things, going online to do comparison shopping is key to saving money in this area. Leverage a credit card that offers a discount on specific hotels and use any free night stays earned from a preferred hotel chain based on prior hotel visits. Booking with a third party company as opposed to directly dealing with hotel will result in different cancellation and refund policies so read the fine print before confirming the purchase.
If privacy is still a must but if more space is needed, one has special requirements or will be traveling with a pet, then consider a vacation rental. There are several vacation rental networks available online that can provide a location that meets one's criteria and budget.
Traveling during the holidays can be a recipe for financial stress if not planned for properly. By investing a little time to research options and sticking to a budget, Americans can save significantly on their travel costs. The only to-do left on the travel list would be to focus on enjoying the best of what the holiday season brings.