When it comes to holiday travel, airlines know that travelers are like putty in their hands. After all, nobody wants to arrive at their family’s home the day after a major holiday. So when everybody needs to be somewhere on a specific day, airlines know they can raise the cost of flights and travelers will have little choice but to pay the price. Toss in the other costs of travel (such as food, gas, and so on), and it can all add up to a not-so-pretty penny.
So is it all doom and gloom for our wallets this upcoming holiday season?
Fortunately, no. Armed with a few clear-cut strategies, you can enjoy going home for the holidays without completely breaking the bank. Here are some of the best ways to save on holiday travel this year.
1. Know When to Book Your Flight
Arguably the biggest cost of holiday travel is airfare. In fact, we’ve found that flight prices rise by more than 18 percent around Thanksgiving and more than 20 percent around Christmas (depending on the market in which you live).
At Hipmunk, we analyzed our historical data to determine the right time to book your holiday flight. Overall, we found that the best time to book your Thanksgiving flight is the week of October 3, while the best time to book a flight home for Christmas is the week of November 7.
That being said, these timelines vary a bit depending on where you live. Check out our market-level price savings chart to determine the optimal time for you to book a holiday flight in your market and to learn exactly how much you can save in different regions. And don’t forget to set a fare alert so you can jump on deals as they arise.
2. Select an Indirect Flight
We know: nobody dreams of spending any more time in airports than they have to. But opting for a flight with a connection or two (as opposed to a nonstop flight) can allow you to save some serious dough. And if your layover happens to be at one of these airports, you just might find that long layover actually becomes fun. Tip: Organize your flights in an app like Tripit, which can help you stay organized and on-track.
3. Pack Light
By packing light, you can save on hefty checked baggage fees. You’ll also spare yourself the potential headache (and financial cost) of arriving at your destination only to discover that your bag has been lost or something has been stolen from your luggage. Plus, you’ll save time that would otherwise be spent waiting in line to check the bag and then hanging around at baggage claim until it arrives. Ideally, aim to pack everything in a carry-on. We promise, it’s possible!
4. Leave The Car at Home
Parking your car at the airport for days (or weeks) at a time can add up to hundreds of dollars in parking fees. Keep this cash in your pocket by taking a taxi to the airport (provided you live close by) or—better yet—enlisting a friend to give you a lift. Just remember to return the favor next time they go out of town.
5. Stay in Budget Hotels During Stopovers
If you’re only going to be in a hotel for one night before heading onward to your final destination, there may not be much sense in booking at a luxury resort. Instead, seek out budget hotels that allow you to get some shut-eye without turning into a major expense. Cheap hotels can be found in every city in the world, from Denver to Beijing and everywhere in between. Here at Hipmunk, we’re committed to helping you find them.
6. Book a Hotel with a Kitchenette
Food is another major cost of travel. Once you reach your destination, consider cutting down on this expense by staying in a hotel room with a kitchenette. This way, you can save some dough by cooking in your room instead of eating out. On a related note, try to pack as much of your own food as possible so you aren’t spending money on overpriced airport or airline food.
By applying these strategies, you’ll be able to get home for the holidays without worrying about starting the New Year in debt.