The winter holiday season is the busiest travel time of the year, and due to holiday schedules, travelers often have little flexibility in their dates. The entire travel industry is well aware of this, and prices near the holidays rise for every form of transportation and lodging. One way to sidestep the seasonal cost surge and protect your budget is to plan early. Arranging and paying for holiday travel expenses now is a great way to take advantage of some of the year’s lowest prices. Here are a few expert tips for making your holiday trip easy on your wallet.
Think Like a Travel Agent
The insider information that travel agents used to share with clients is now available online to anyone with an Internet connection. Google Flights, SkyScanner and Hopper are three of the favorite data-crunching sites, offering reliable predictions about when airfares will be lowest. Often late August and early September are the cheapest times to buy air travel, but the price of fuel can also affect airline ticket costs.
Reserve Lodgings in Advance
Unless you’re planning to stay in Grandma’s sewing room, it’s not too early to think about your holiday lodgings. Hotels offer discounts on holiday lodging when you reserve several months in advance, and it’s always a good idea to speak directly with hotel personnel. Often managers can arrange a special price or upgrade for you if you deal with them in person rather than through a discounter because they won’t be paying a third-party fee. Once you have your reservations, you should keep an eye on prices; if you see room rates drop lower than what you paid, you can always call the hotel and ask to have your reservations changed to match the new, lower rates.
Rent an Apartment and Save on Restaurants
While you’ll probably spend a lot of holiday time with family members in somebody’s kitchen, it’s likely that you’ll benefit from some time to yourself as well. Many hotels offer at least basic kitchen options, allowing you to save significant amounts of time and money by not heading for a restaurant every time you get hungry. VRBO reservations for whole homes or apartments are a great way to enjoy affordable home-like lodgings, and the best ones get reserved well in advance.
By arranging travel plans ahead of time, you’ll feel less rushed during those busy days just before the holidays. With the money you save on travel, you can buy an extra-generous gift or add to your savings account to start the new year on strong financial footing.