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The Best Ways to Keep Holiday Travel Costs Down This Year

Sometimes, the holiday season is all about spending time with family and friends. Sometimes, it’s about getting away from it all. Either way, someone usually has to travel. Expenses can easily skyrocket if you wait too long to plan, and going to see relatives won’t be as much fun if you blow your whole gift budget on last-minute travel tickets.

Flights

If you’re flying for Thanksgiving, buy your tickets now. If you’re flying for Christmas, buy no later than Thanksgiving. Get on your favorite discount travel site and see what’s still out there. The sooner you book, the less you’ll pay. Even if you’ve had success before when it comes to last-minute deals, those don’t usually pop up during the holidays.

If your traditions allow for some flexibility, consider flying on the actual holiday. Most people prefer to fly the few days before and after, leaving day-of seats easier to snag and at a lower price. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve are actually the cheapest days to fly during this time of year. If a longer trip is on the agenda, you can usually find better fares on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Fridays and Saturdays yield the highest ticket prices. 

Parking

Don’t shell out money to park at the airport. These fees are usually higher around holiday season, so now is the time to call in a favor or two and get dropped off. You can also search for coupon codes and catch a ride with a car service like Uber or Lyft. Regardless, make sure to get there early – airports see the most travelers during the holiday rush, so lines will be long.

Packing

Traveling light during the holidays makes everything simpler. That doesn’t mean you have to get everyone gift cards, but you might want to shop with transportation in mind. The last thing you want to do is pay an airline to check bulky gifts as extra baggage. If your presents are on the larger side, ship them beforehand. If you’re bringing gifts along, don’t wrap them in advance. TSA won’t have much appreciation for your fancy ribbon treatment (more tips from TSA here).

Even if you’re driving, it’s a good idea to ship bigger or more delicate presents ahead of time, especially if you’re taking a smaller car. If there’s no need to take the family SUV across state lines, go ahead and take your most fuel-efficient vehicle. Check online to avoid construction zones, and don’t begin your journey by trying to leave town during rush hour.

We stay put for the holidays, but have already booked a spring break trip to Virginia Beach. We plan early, so we book refundable hotel rooms and have a credit card for the airline we use most often. This lets us allow for changes in our flight and gets us some extra features, like a free checked bag. We also take advantage of the travel insurance available on some sites. This gives us peace of mind – after saving for months, if we can’t go on our trip at least our money is not lost.  

These might seem like a lot of contingencies to account for, but planning is worth it. The better strategy you have in place to get to your celebration efficiently, the more you’ll be able to focus on having fun and making memories. 


Kat's Money Corner is posted in the Kansas City Star every week. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, follow us on Twitter @CommunityAmerCU. 

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