This blog post was updated on November 1, 2022.
No matter what time of year it is, it’s never too early to start thinking about your holiday travel plans. And if you’ve already booked, you may think the costs of your holiday travel is behind you. But you might be in for a rude awakening. Here are a few easy ways to cut the additional costs when flying for the holidays.
Don’t Check a Bag
In case you live under a rock or haven’t flown for a while, you should know that airline fees have mounted. Most airlines now charge passengers to check a bag. A round trip baggage fee could amount to $50 to $100 a person, depending on how much you pack. Travelers looking to shave off the extra costs of holiday travel can easily avoid this charge by packing light and going carry-on only.
If you’re worried that overhead bins will fill up before you can get on the plane, you can ensure you’ll get your bag onboard by securing priority boarding with your airline. Of course, this usually comes with a cost, but it’s usually cheaper than checking a bag.
Catch a Ride To The Airport
While you may not want to inconvenience your friends and family around the holidays, this isn’t the time to be shy. During the busiest times of the year, like Thanksgiving weekend or the weeks around Christmas, airport parking is not only crowded but also very costly.
If you can, catch a ride to the airport with a friend or family member. It’s much more cost-effective to bribe someone with lunch than to pay outrageous rates for four days of airport parking, or to take taxis or ride shares to and from the airport. If you can’t find anyone to give you a ride, look up the most cost-effective public transit options.
Use Travel Rewards To Pay for Incidentals
Whether you need to buy a hostess gift to bring to dinner or you need a last-minute hotel room because Aunt Judy doesn’t have a place for you, the loose ends of holiday travel can really eat away at your wallet. In a pinch, the travel rewards and miles you’ve acquired might be of use to you to save on the little things. Remember that many frequent-flier credit card-loyalty programs will allow you to redeem points for gift cards or even cash.
Bring Your Own Entertainment
Remember that many airlines these days are now charging for incidentals that not too long ago came with the price of your plane ticket. This includes food and entertainment. And, sure, the stress and chaos of travel during the holidays are enough to make you want to start spending money on in-flight entertainment and food – even though what’s offered onboard can be mediocre and pricy. You’re better off loading up your tablet with TV shows and movies and stashing away snacks for the journey.
Be Flexible With Your Travel Dates
Traveling during the holidays can be tough, but only if you make it that way. If you increase your flexibility, then you can save you and your family money. One way to do this is to be flexible with your travel dates. This can be difficult if you have to schedule time off from work. However, if you plan early enough, you can sync up your travel with your time off. If you have more flexibility when it comes to vacation time, then look for travel on a bunch of different dates. Think about taking the kids out of school early and adding an extra day off to your holiday time.
Mix and Match Airlines
You don’t have to book cheap round-trip flights to your destination from just one carrier. Actually, you might be able to save money if you mix and match airlines for your trip. You can even mix airports as well. For instance, if your destination is New York City, then you can fly into Newark or into JFK. One caveat: if you’re renting a car, be sure that you’ll able to drop your vehicle off at another airport without paying an exorbitant fee.
Take an Overnight Flight
A red-eye flight is a good choice for several reasons. First, overnight flights are generally less expensive and quieter. Second, if you’re flying across the country, you can leave while it’s dark and land when the sun is up. As a result, you may not feel as jetlagged. You have to prepare for this type of flight if you have trouble sleeping on an airplane.
Consider bringing a travel pillow, eye mask, and earplugs to maximize your in-flight comfort. (We recommend the memory foam collars that fasten in front to keep your head from rolling. A bit pricey, but soooooo worth the money.)
Pack Your Own Meals and Snacks
In general, packing meals and snacks for a flight will save you a good deal of money. A few things to keep in mind, though: Don’t choose anything too spicy or salty. These foods leave you incredibly thirsty in an airplane cabin that lacks humidity. Avoid foods with pungent odors. Even if you’re used to the aroma, this can be jarring for your fellow travelers. And select foods that are high in protein and low in carbs. They can help with air sickness and jetlag.
Also, remember that you can’t bring water past the security checkpoint. So, don’t buy any bottles of water right before you get to the airport. You’ll be forced to throw it out. Bring an empty bottle instead and fill it at a water fountain once you’ve gone through security. It’s a cheaper way to stay hydrated than shelling out for a pricey bottle of water in one of the airport stores.
What other ways do you save on holiday travel? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!