The holidays are a time where we gather with our loved ones, give thanks for what we have, and spend a lot of money. There's no sugar coating it – the holiday season is one of the most expensive times of the year. According to a recent study, 33% of Americans will spend $1,000 or more on gifts. And that's just the cost of presents. Let's not forget food, decorations, and travel.
According to Skyscanner, the average price of a round-trip ticket during Christmas was $910 in 2017. How can you make sure you can still travel to see your family and not go bankrupt at the same time? The answer is actually easier than you think. Here are five simple ways to save when traveling during the holidays:
It should come as no surprise that waiting until the last minute to book your flight is going to increase the price of your tickets exponentially. Skyscanner says that the best time to book a Christmas flight is between October 8 and November 19. When it comes to Thanksgiving, you should start thinking about tickets starting the last week of August.
But even if you are late purchasing your tickets, you can still save by being selective with what days you travel on. Consider traveling on days when others aren't. The day before and after the actual holidays are historically some of the busiest days to travel, and consequently, some of the most expensive. One of the best days to travel? The actual holiday itself. If you book a flight on Thanksgiving or Christmas, you're likely to see better deals. It may not be ideal, but the savings and shorter lines may be worth it.
The best thing you can do when booking your flight is to be flexible. Leaving on a different day, or even from a different airport can save you big time. Google Flights allows you to compare prices for different variables (time, date, airport) to find the best deal for your family.
If you're like most travelers, you probably don't give a second thought to bringing a checked bag. But you could save a lot by flying carry-on only. Many airlines charge between $50 to $100 per checked bag. If you are flying with a family of four, each with their own bag, that's an extra $200 to $400 each way. Many airlines allow travelers to bring one carry-on and one personal item.
If a carry-on just doesn't have enough room, shop around for the best deals when it comes to baggage fees. Different airlines charge different fees. Southwest, for example, allows travelers to check two bags for free. But it's not just about how many bags you have, but also what you have in them. Most airlines will charge if you exceed a given weight limit for your bag. These fees are often more than the original baggage fee. So make sure you know your airline's weight limit and pack accordingly.
Consider Shipping Your Gifts
There are many reasons why it's not the best idea to travel with your gifts. For starters, there's a chance the airline will lose your bags. Nothing puts a damper on your holidays like finding out all your gifts are missing. Replacing these gifts is not an expense you want to incur. But if your gifts do make it from point A to point B, it's going to cost you. That's because you're going to end up paying extra baggage fees for the additional suitcases you'll need to hold the packages in.
The better option is to ship your gifts ahead of time. When it comes to shipping, there are two options. Option one is to wrap all your gifts and send them in one large box. When you get to your destination, all you have to do is open the box and put your gifts under the tree. However, we'd suggest option two. Option two is to have your boxes shipped directly from the store to your destination. Upon arrival, you will have to wrap your gifts. However, this option is much cheaper. Many stores offer free shipping during the holidays and if you have Amazon Prime, all qualifying purchases will ship free. When it's time to make the return trip, consider making a stop at the post office to send back your gifts. Alternatively, ask your family to ship your presents directly to your house or consider gift cards instead.
Look Into a Travel Rewards Card
Travel rewards cards are a great option for frequent flyers. Most major airlines have their own card that allows you to earn points towards travel each time you make a purchase. Look for cards that offer bonus points when you open the card. Consider using this card when it comes to making your holiday purchases. You'd be surprised how much these points add up and how much you will save when you go to book your next flight.
It is important to pay off the balance right away, however. These cards sometimes come with high interest rates, meaning any savings you found on your flights will be wiped away with interest charges if you keep a balance.
Opt Out of Flying
How do you really save money on holiday travel? Skip the airport. Obviously, if you are traveling from California to New York, driving probably isn't the best option. However, if your family gathering is only a state or two away, making the drive may be worth it. Another option? Take the train. In many cases (but not all) taking the train is much cheaper than flying. It may take a little longer to get there, but you could see savings up to 50%.