Friday, December 3, 2010
Completely aside from the nightmare you’ll face with lines at the airport and over-booked, delayed, or cancelled flights, there is always the problem of securing your tickets without having to auction off your limbs just to pay for it. There’s no doubt that holiday travel can get very expensive, especially if you don’t book tickets early or you have to fly on days when flights are in high demand (like any day within two weeks of the holiday). However, there are a few ways that you can cut back on your expenditures and still make it home for the holidays.
Flexible dates and flights. Allowing for flexible dates may net you a better price, as will opting to stay through a weekend. And you’ll almost always save money if you’re willing to book a red-eye and fly through the night (bonus: sleep through your flight and have a whole extra day with the family that would otherwise have been wasted on travel!).
Split the cost. If you find that you’re always the one traveling to meet up with relatives rather than the other way around, consider asking if they’d either be willing to come to you this year or if perhaps they wouldn’t mind splitting the cost of travel since it constantly seems to fall on your shoulders.
Use your miles. If you have airline miles through your credit card, what are you waiting for? Purchase your ticket on your credit card and use your miles to pay for it (or even just a portion of it). There’s no better use for miles that are languishing than to spend them (rather than cash that could be better allocated for presents) on your holiday travel.
Bundle up. This is not in reference to piling on the winter clothes, but rather booking multiple items together. If you’re going to need a hotel and/or rental car, most websites can offer you a better deal for booking them together. So log on to your favorite discount travel site and start searching to see what kind of deals you can get on different combinations.
Join the club. Many airlines, hotels, and car rental agencies have clubs that you can sign up for (often for free, but even those with annual fees will often waive them if you travel enough). You can get coupons, earn miles for free or discounted services, secure guaranteed reservations and upgrades, and even skip the line at check-in. All of these bonuses could come in handy during the busy holiday travel season.
Skip the airlines altogether. Of course, the best way to save is to travel by land. Driving will almost certainly be less expensive than flying, even with gas prices pretty high. If you can drive in shifts to keep from stopping at hotels overnight, you stand to cut your costs even more. You may have to offset any savings against additional days off work to make a long drive, but likely you will still end up saving a lot, especially if you wait until the last minute to make your travel plans. And for those with an adventurous spirit, taking trains could also be a less expensive option that doesn’t require hours in a cramped car.
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