The holiday season is officially upon us and the joys of booking flights, hotels and excursions are on the horizon. Your wallet may be anxiously anticipating the hemorrhage of cashflow that inevitably happens around this time year, but that doesn’t mean you should, too. Paying a premium for travel is typically expected during the holidays, but there are still plenty of ways to cut back your expenditures and save the big bucks on your next trip. Remember, always do your own research, don’t be afraid to speak up, and keep in mind that some savings may not seem like a lot, but collectively, all these little things will add up over time.
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”
Don’t wait to book your flights
This sounds obvious but the truth is, during some months, ticket prices can actually decrease as the date of departure draws near if there are still available seats to fill. Unfortunately the same does not apply in busier travel months, the holidays being at the top of that list. It is recommended to book your travel arrangements as early as possible, ideally a minimum of 4 weeks prior to travel.
Fly on the day of the holiday
For those that have family like mine, we don’t always celebrate holidays on the actual day, depending on how all of our schedules pan out. That may seem like a major faux pas but it works for us and the cherry on top just so happens to be that we can occasionally make travel arrangements for the day of the holiday, saving us quite a bit of money in the meantime. It pays to be flexible.
Book hotels with free wifi
Wifi charges can certainly add up, especially if you plan to be on an extended hiatus. Rates can fluctuate between $5-35 per day in some hotels so if you rely on an internet connection to stay in touch or catch up on work, book a room where they offer a free connection.
Don’t double tip
It’s just what they want you to do – overlook the inconspicuous 18% service fee that many restaurants are including in the bill without being very upfront about it. Many people, while full, content and possibly a little buzzed, tend to skim right over that part when reviewing the charges on a bill, unknowingly causing them to leave an additional 15-20% tip on top of what was already included in the tab. Even more so, when traveling internationally, read up on customary tipping. Some countries do not expect tips whatsoever (the service fee is already included in the price), so find out ahead of time to save you from any awkward encounters.
Plan your own excursions
Instead of using tour companies, research the events or places you wish to visit and plan them out yourself. On the contrary, sometimes tour companies can actually save you money by including all transportation, meals and entry fees. Do your homework!
Get a travel pass
Most cities offer travel passes in some way, shape or form. Unlimited daily passes for metro stations, buses, mono-rails and trolley’s are just some of the modes of transport that usually provide these kinds of deals. If you plan on doing a lot of sight-seeing or want the freedom to roam about effortlessly, this will save you time, money and possibly a headache.
Opt for alternative methods of transportation
Planes are the popular choice for getting from point A to B when driving isn’t realistic, but what about other options? Flying can become pricey during the holidays, however, many cities have been amping up their public transit for those looking to travel cheaper and more efficiently. Subways, trains, buses, or even sites like Carpool World offer some great alternatives that should save you a few pretty pennies. Hey, every dollar counts when you’ve got an incurable case of the travel bug.
Ship and carry on
Every time I’m standing in a long check-in line at the airport, I always ask myself why I didn’t just ship my stuff ahead of time. Many factors would have to play out for this scenario to work successfully but indeed, it is possible to do it and save money. First, you’ll want to consider how long and how far you’re going. Shipping prices vary by weight and distance so you may want to consider packing up a test box with all you will need during your trip and shopping around for the best quote. Shipping obviously works best if you are going to be visiting a residence or if it can be arranged to be delivered directly to an accommodating hotel. One thing to consider is the possible hassle of shipping your belongings back once your trip is over, but nothing a little bit of pre-planning can’t alleviate. Even the best airlines can charge inflated baggage costs and overage fees, so make sure to look over those details before making a decision so you can compare accuratley.
*Also, consider shipping gifts as well, or better yet, just buy gift cards instead!
Avoid airport ATM’s and currency exchange
We can’t always prevent this from happening, but as you might have guessed, ATM’s and currency exchange kiosks at the airport carry steep service charges and usually do not have the best exchange rates. Try to change some money ahead of your travel date, at least enough to get you out of the airport and for any other incidentals while arriving in the new city.
Don’t leave your vehicle in a paid parking lot
Driving to the airport may feel more convenient, but chances are, unless you live extremely far from your local airport, getting dropped off by a friend, taking a shuttle or using a ride share service will likely be more cost effective, considering you’ll be out of town for more than just a day or two. Uber and Lyft are great examples of easy-to-use ride sharing apps that cost much less than traditional taxis (and smell better, too). Be sure to look out for coupon codes or first-time user free rides!
Be a snack packer!
Packing your own snacks for a flight takes a little bit of forethought but when the hunger pangs start, you’ll be happily munching on your goody bag instead of paying $20 for a dry sandwich and a bottle of water. Bringing my own snacks have also held me over on long international flights when the food selection was less than appetizing. Granola/protein bars, dried fruit, dark chocolate nibs, assorted veggies with hummus (they make to-go sizes now), fresh fruit with tougher, protective skins (like oranges, bananas & apples), individual size cheese bites and nuts/seeds all make for deliciously satisfying, nutritious goodies.
*Bring a water bottle or thermos in your carry-on to avoid paying premium prices on beverages by filling up at water fountains or when the refreshment cart comes by during the flight. I never travel without my own teabags and thermos.
Bundle and save
If you know you’re going to be requiring transportation, accommodations and/or a rental vehicle, try booking all as a package deal to receive discounts.
Beware of data & roaming charges
Long gone are the days of worrying about overage charges or international fees as a proud member of the T-Mobile family. They are one of the only cell providers out there (in the U.S.) that provide unlimited data and free international roaming to many of the major cities around the world. Phone calls only cost about $0.20/min but there’s really no need to incur that charge when you can simply use your free, unlimited data to make calls via WhatsApp, Skype or Google.
Age is more than just a number
For those 65 and older or students with proof of school I.D., you can boast your age with pride, in return for free or discounted admissions to many attractions, community events, and so on.
Off days and times
As we acknowledged earlier, traveling on a national holiday can save you some dinero, but so can certain days of the week or time of departure. A general rule of thumb when searching for the least expensive time to travel throughout the week are to look for red-eye (overnight) flights leaving on Tuesdays and Wednesday’s.
Use your reward points
If you got ’em, use ’em! Don’t forget to book all your travel through your most lucrative reward cards to plump up your ‘points piggy bank’, as well.
Ask for upgrades
The squeaky wheel gets the grease! If you don’t ask for it, you don’t get it. Don’t be shy to ask for upgrades on flights, car rentals, and hotel stays. Chances are, if they’re available, you’ll get bumped up, you just need to ask.
Fly into alternative airports
When you’re flying into bigger cities, many times they will have multiple local airports to choose from. Prices can vary greatly, even though they may only be a few miles apart. Checking off the ‘add nearby airports’ box when researching flights will show you all the available alternative options.
Just say ‘No’ to the minibar
Tempting as it may be, giving in to the mini bar is a sure way to hike up your bill for something that would otherwise only cost you a few bucks at a convenience store. Stock up with plenty of water and goodies before you turn in for the night.
Choose an accommodation where breakfast is included
Typically, dining in the hotel or ordering room service can be quite pricey. I once stayed in a hotel in Barcelona that offered a 24 hour free snack bar to guests. Everything from finger sandwiches, chips, fruit and an assortment of fresh juices, coffees and teas were conveniently placed near the lobby for our enjoyment. Although this is more rare, it does happen once and a while. At the very least, a nice way to save while away is to pick a place that includes complimentary breakfast in the room rate, plus you can grab some extra fruit for a midday snack, on the house.