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12 Tips You Need to Know NOW to Actually Save on Holiday Travel

Are you itching to get away? Me too! And with the holidays coming up in the next few months, now’s the time to get it together. Here’s a quick checklist with helpful hints to get you where you want to go, at the time you choose, without turning over your arm, first born, or both.

Make a plan NOW. Check your travel budget and call your travel agent or start surfing TripAdvisor! Decide what you absolutely MUST have to make the trip meet expectations, such as airfare if you plan to cross the country in a single day, and a hotel if not staying with family or friends. When booking airfare, the customary rule of thumb for “affordable” fares is to purchase them three weeks prior to departure. If you’re travelling during the holidays or peak travel times, one to three months in advance has proven ideal.

If you’re planning on travelling over the holidays, be prepared to buy your airfare now to save a few bucks down the road. Here are some quick tips to keep travel costs as low as possible.

  • Fly over night aka take a Red-Eye. You can win two ways when you take an overnight flight. 1) The fare is usually more affordable. 2) You don’t have to pay for a hotel room that evening. This can work out well for seasoned travelers who roll with the flow and value the money savings. Perhaps the savings afforded by taking a red-eye round trip can enable a rental car or public transportation.
  • Travel on off-peak days. I have found that traveling on a Tuesday or Wednesday can save me quite a bit of cash. If your schedule will permit it, preview the fares for the month you’re travelling. You can often save a couple hundred dollars simply by flying midweek.
  • Set alerts so you don’t miss your opportunity to save. Kayak.com is the site I use. It’s great for setting alerts for the fares you’re interested in.
  • Use your frequent flyer miles or reward points. Upgrade or fly for free if you’ve got the points.

What about food? Here’s a few tips on saving money while still enjoying some culinary adventures.

  • Plan to eat breakfast in. This is often easily handled if you choose a hotel with breakfast included. However, consider a room with a kitchenette. The cost of breakfast fixings you prepare yourself compared to dining out each morning, will save you a small bundle.
  • Pack lunches. This is another great way to save a bundle, especially if you can get a small fridge in your room. Keep snacks, water bottles, and lunch items in a backpack so you can easily take a break under a tree or on a park bench and enjoy your meal.
  • Look for deals in the city you’ll be visiting. Google ‘entertainment and dining deals in (your chosen city)’. You can also connect with the Chamber of Commerce and the Visitors’ Bureau. They often will offer coupons and make suggestions for the best and main attractions during the time period of your visit.
  • Look for hotels offering “club level” service. In the past, I’ve paid an extra $25 a day for “access,” but it’s never been a disappointment. The time it make the most sense was when we were staying in NYC. We literally ate 5-star food, in tapas-sized portions, for breakfast, lunch, and “happy hour.” Amazingly, it included beer, wine, and champagne. Then, we’d run around the City and eat dinner out later in the evening. We saved A TON of money by eating in the hotel and planning meals around the “club level” schedule.
  • Bring your food. Don’t laugh. In some countries, a simple breakfast can cost $25 a person. I’ll share about this in just a minute.

Once you’ve determined what type of accommodations you want and where, it’s time to make that reservation. Here’s a couple tips on saving some money on hotel accommodations.

  • Purchase hotel stays on Sunday evenings, and call the hotel of your choice directly. The corporate reservations line will seldom quote the discounts and package deals for the specific location you’re interested in. Do your best to work directly with the reservation desk of the property where you want to stay. Introduce yourself through their social media. Post on their Twitter and Facebook pages to see if there are any deals to be gotten there.
  • Loyalty programs with the hotels can offer great savings, too. Just make sure you give yourself time to sign up and take advantage of any offerings for new members. If you’re a seasoned traveler and already engaged with a loyalty program, you know what to do.
  • Consider bundling your airfare, hotel, and rental car. Online sites such as Priceline, Expedia, Travelocity, and the like.

In closing, I’d like to share a quick story about a trip my hubby and I took in the blink of an eye. It had been too long between vacays, and my hubby needed one desperately. I called my travel agent. The conversation went like this, “Terri, where can I go to unplug for at least a week, for two, including airfare & hotel? I need to leave in eight days and I have a total of $3000.” She paused for maybe 15 seconds and came back with, “Tahiti. Yes, that might work with your budget. I can get you there with hotel for $1000 each, but food will be tough.” She went on to explain that EVERYTHING is imported there except the black pearls and vanilla. She instructed us to bring our own dry foods and buy staples there. We chose to eat granola from home and yogurt and fruit bought there for breakfasts. We packed boiling pouch foods for lunch which we heated up in the tea kettle. Each night we ate dinner out to the tune of $100-$150 for the meal. She wasn’t kidding—it was expensive. But, it was so worth it. We had a ball, enjoyed the exotic islands and culture, and created memories we cherish today because we played the game. We made it an adventure.

You can too.
Now’s the time to get your plan in place. Don’t wait. Do it now!

Remember, it’s your money, your rules, your way!

Money Savvy Woman, Inc. © 2015