The holidays are coming up fast. First there’s wedding season, three-day weekends, then suddenly you’re booking last-minute plane tickets to Thanksgiving dinner and buying gifts for December. Before you know it, your travel budget is stretched to the limit.
But there’s still time to save money on airfare, cars and hotels. Here are some tips to make the most of your holiday travel budget.
1. Consider ridesharing. If you only have to travel from your hotel a couple of times a day, it may not be worth the expense to rent a car. Find out if a ride-booking service like Lyft or Uber is available at your destination and compare costs.
2. Strategize your stay. At fall weddings, you may end up in a block of hotel rooms booked by the newlyweds, which can limit the opportunity to save money, so try looking for ways to cut costs on other trips. If you’re traveling to be with your family for the holidays and need your own space, check out options such as Airbnb and HomeAway.
3. Travel light. Some airline travel cards include a free checked bag. If you must pay by the bag, go with a compact suitcase or backpack. Not only will bringing less save money, you’ll also spend less time at baggage claim.
4. Use travel credit cards strategically. You probably have a travel credit card if you travel frequently. And while it may be tempting to use those points for holiday travel, it may be better to accumulate points instead of spending them. Compare prices for flights at traditional travel sites like Pricelineor Orbitz, or try newer options such as Skiplagged and Skyscanner. Check the exchange rate for your points to see if you’re getting the same or better value compared with buying a ticket. Don’t use the points just because you have them. Instead, save points for off-season travel, when points or miles will stretch further. If you belong to an airline’s rewards program, check out The Smart Shopper’s guide to making the most of your airline perks.