For many families, the holidays are a time for tradition and returning to familiar places to spend time with loved ones. But there is always room for new traditions to be made, as long as you are with the people you really care about.
A destination Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, or Kwanza might be a little out of the norm, but travel can really bring families together in new and exciting ways. This is a great time of year to take a ski trip, a beach vacation, a theme park adventure, or an arts & culture experience. Unfortunately, travel around the holidays can be really expensive and discourage you from taking that dream trip. Hotels and airlines are notorious for increasing prices during peak times of year when travel is a priority for many people.
But don’t despair; there are some tried-and-true budget-friendly ways to see the world and celebrate the season at the same time. Here are some tips to help you afford a fun getaway this holiday season despite seasonal price hikes.
Start Planning Early
Although last-minute deals are always rumored to be looming in the distance, it’s in your wallet’s best interest to start planning your holiday trip as soon as possible. Even before you commit to dates and a destination, start getting familiar with the standard rates on various days of the week and months of the year. Consider signing up for email alerts on travel websites like AirfareWatchDog and Yapta to cut down the amount of time you spend looking for deals. If you detest lots of spam in your inbox, sign up for a new account that’s dedicated solely to travel so that you can look at the alerts when you want and not feel bombarded with emails.
Be Open-Minded about Destinations
When traveling on a budget, it’s a good idea to not get your heart set on one, and only one, destination that you want to go to. Set up those email alerts for your top two or three holiday getaway destinations and stay open-minded about where life and travel takes you. Besides, there are probably so many amazing places still on your bucket list to check off! Sometimes fate leads us to the places we were most meant to see, so let the best deal influence your decision and feel great about your financial commitment.
Travel on Off-Days
The day before a big holiday and the day after a big holiday are typically the busiest and most expensive dates to travel. If you and your group can be a little flexible with your celebration, consider flying on the actual holiday or surrounding dates for a better deal and more options. For example, to celebrate Christmas, consider flying on December 25th or between December 27th and 29th.
Research into Possible Discounts
Simply being in certain life situations, jobs, or positions can entitle you to travel discounts that really add up. Military travel discounts exist for service men and women and their families, and senior discounts can be found for retires on fixed budgets. Other groups of people who can find travel discounts with just a few online searches include teachers, students, travel agents, nurses, bloggers, and government employees.
Grocery Shop Instead of Eating Out
While true foodies travel by letting their taste buds and stomachs be their guides, budget travelers need to be more frugal with dining out. If you’re taking a holiday road trip, stock up on non-perishable foods like soup, beans, and oatmeal to eat for cheap meals. You can plan to pick up fresh produce at a local market when you reach your destination. If you’re flying to your holiday spot, search for grocery stores near your hotel and choose a hotel that has a refrigerator, microwave, and maybe even a stove. You can save a lot of money by eating two meals like this and splurging on one restaurant meal per day. You’ll also really appreciate that one special daily meal and make it really worth your while. Just don’t forget some utensils and a can opener!
Consider Alternative Accommodations
Hotels might be the first things that come to mind for accommodations when you travel, but there are lots of other places to stay when you’re trying to afford a holiday trip. AirBnB, Home Exchange, and HomeLink International offer some alternatives if you’d rather stay in the comfort of a home or can list your own home to temporarily swap. House sitting and in-home pet sitting are also viable (and potentially really fun!) options through companies like Trusted Housesitters. Some local YMCAs actually offer family camps that are affordable and provide great opportunities to connect with other travels. And of course, hostels and campgrounds are always a favorite budget-friendly option, but they’re definitely found in some places more than others.
Be Your Own Travel Guide
Hiring a guide might be the easiest, most convenient, and most compromise way to see a new place, but it’s often not the most budget-friendly approach. In the age of information and the internet, it’s not all that difficult to do your own travel research…as long as you have the time to dedicate to it. Look for detailed write-ups from experienced travel and photography bloggers to get the inside scoop about what’s worth seeing at your holiday destination and what you could probably skip.
Map Out Your Itinerary
Travelers spend a lot of time and money trying to find their way around and backtracking after getting lost when they aren’t prepared with a map or GPS device. This is even more important if your travel route requires navigating new places via public transportation. If you’re directionally-impaired, download maps on your phone in advance or print out maps and directions just to be safe.
Search for Local Coupons and Deals
The savings don’t need to end when you reach your destination! The same websites and apps you use at home to find things to do on the cheap can often be used in other places while on-the-go. Scope out deals sites like Groupon and LivingSocial in your destination and buy discounted coupons for activities and eateries that you would have wanted to try anyway. These kinds of sites are also great resources for inspiration if you need some travel planning ideas. Pick up free local newspapers for ideas too!
Use Rewards Credit Cards
If you’re like most people, you’re going to use credit cards for your travel and other purchases whether you’re getting any perks from their usage or not. But if you can get something out of your spending habits, why not? Ask your credit card company if it offers cash-back rewards, miles, or travel points that you can accumulate over time. It’s easy to learn about rewards credit cards and the deals they offer with a little online research and pick one that sounds best for your needs.