Planning to travel during the holidays? So is everyone else. With a few simple adjustments to your budget, itinerary and expectations, it’s possible to ease the stress of the most traveled time of the year. Parentology spoke with Nathan Grant, a credit industry analyst with Credit Card Insider to get the inside scoop on travel tips that won’t break the bank, or your holiday spirit.
Budget for Fun
When preparing for your trip, make a list of all the things you’ll have to budget for: travel, gas, food, hotel, flights, etc. Being prepared means you’re less likely to have surprise expenses along the way.
There’s an app for that
Everydollar.com advises looking for flights as soon as you decide to travel for the holidays. Buying well in advance can add up to serious savings.
According to Grant, apps such as Kayak, Hopper or Hotels.com can help you find savings on flights, travel time and hotel costs. Some of these apps also use an algorithm to let you know when prices have dropped on a particular service.
Co-branded Credit Cards
If you frequent a specific hotel chain or favor a particular airline, Grant recommends looking into a hotel or airline-specific co-branded credit card. “Some of the best co-branded cards have benefits and rewards that can save you money and provide free upgrades for your holiday travels and beyond.”
Grant suggests looking into a specific travel credit card’s rewards offerings for options around the holidays. For example, “Chase’s travel portal is powered by Expedia, and you don’t have to be an expert in frequent flyer programs to use it,” he says. “Just log in and explore your options without worrying about availability, and book your travel. You can use a combination of cash and points while earning miles through whichever airline you wind up booking through.”
Grant cautions people do their due diligence when it comes to when these opportunities might be applicable. “There may be blackout dates or other exclusions that can prevent you from getting the rewards you plan on getting,” he warns. “Review your credit card’s terms ahead of time to make sure you don’t get caught in a situation where you can’t get the rewards you were expecting.”
Try Discounted Gift Cards
Some people opt to sell unused gift cards online, which can mean discounts on just about everything that can be purchased with a gift card, including hotels and airfare. Discounted gift cards can be purchased online at sites such as Raise, Gift Card Spread and Card Flip.
If you can be flexible with your travel dates, there are opportunities to save big bucks. For example, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are statistically the least expensive days to fly, while Friday and Sunday are the most expensive, according to everydollar.com. If you fly out the Friday before Christmas, be prepared to pay on average 20% more in flight costs.
Grant says booking your trip on the dates surrounding the holidays can save money. “This also applies when you’re planning to use travel rewards points or miles with a travel credit card.”
Eliminate fees for checked baggage by packing what you need in your carry-on. Planning to shop while on vacation? Have your purchases shipped to you via USPS or through a courier service to lighten your load on the way home.
Travel can be one of the biggest expenses during the holidays, but with careful planning and simple budgeting, it doesn’t have to cause the most stress.