Whether going by air, land, or sea, the cost of traveling adds up quickly, and ticket prices can skyrocket around popular travel dates. Aiming to go home for Christmas or visiting friends for NYE can turn into an expensive experience if you want to pack two bags and fly into a major airport.
If you're struggling with how to make a trip happen without going bankrupt, you're in luck. We've assembled some helpful travel tips for folks who are filled with the spirit of travel but lack disposable income.
The holiday season is packed to the rafters with travelers, which often means competing with hundreds of other people hoping to book a similar flight or bus to your destination city. One of the best ways to save some money when you're living on a budget is to keep your travel dates open.
If you can travel by December 21, for instance, you'll likely pay less for a flight than those who fly on the more popular 23rd or 24th. If your schedule permits, you may even want to postpone your holiday trip until early January. Your travel will be much cheaper, and your gifts won't go bad (assuming you're not handing out fresh fruit this year).
If you're flying to a major city, bear in mind that the main airport may also be the most expensive. For example, going to Washington, D.C. by way of Reagan National Airport is often cheaper than going directly to Dulles International Airport.
Most travel websites allow you to search for nearby airports, making it painless to expand your search to other airports in the area. You can often take a train or other public transportation into the city from these alternative airports.
Once upon a time, you could pack a suitcase full of goodies and carry only a handbag–or less–onto the plane. These days, nearly all airlines charge for checked baggage. Assuming your travel is round trip, you may save yourself a pretty penny by packing only a carry-on.
Rolling up shirts into the corners of your bag, wearing your largest jacket on the plane, and limiting yourself to two pairs of shoes all help you avoid the need for a checked bag on travel day.
If you use a credit card, get one that offers travel points for dollars spent. You are often awarded a large number of points just for signing up, and they can quite literally pay off big time. While certain days around the holiday season are blacked out for travel on points, others are permitted.
If there was ever a good way to spend your frequent flyer or credit card points, it's getting home for the holidays. In fact, while you may be responsible for some fees, you can often fly during the holidays for less than $100 when cashing in travel points.
Before you book anything travel-related online, be it a flight or hotel stay, consider picking up the phone. If you're a long-standing customer of a certain hotel, ask to speak to the manager. Quote a price you've paid in the past, and ask if they can match it.
Likewise, an airline representative may be able to search for a better fare or give you a heads-up about a discount you didn't even realize you qualified for. One of the secrets to living on a budget is not being afraid to ask for a reduced fare or rate. You may just end up talking to a company representative with a heart of gold who gives you an awesome deal.
Holiday travel is notoriously expensive. While you can't entirely get around this fact every year, there are ways to keep your holiday travel costs down. Not sure you can afford to travel at all? Keep your eyes peeled for last-minute fare deals. If an airline can't get rid of seats on a flight, you may be able to afford the marked-down price that appears a day or two before take off.
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