8 Tips to Save You Time and Money on Holiday Travel

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It's tricky traveling around the holidays, but there are ways to get a deal.

Not to nag, but you need to firm up your holiday travel plans now.

Every day you wait equals more money you’ll spend on airfare or other travel.

“Waiting until the last minute is a common mistake among holiday travelers, often times thinking that last-minute deals will save money. The airlines know this,” said travel expert Stefanie Michaels, who blogs as Adventure Girl. “On peak travel times, it¹s rare to find a last-minute deal. If you choose to try for last-minute fares, fly on the holiday to get anything left that may be discounted.”

Of course once you settle on transportation — whether it’s a flight, train or auto — it’s time to save money on your entire holiday trip. Consider these ideas for high-end holiday without breaking your budget:

1. Think creatively about air travel

Low oil prices and a strong dollar means you should consider flying an airline owned by a non-U.S. company (such as British Air). You’ll likely find many strong deals especially for flights on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, said longtime travel expert Britanny Carter, now with Zuma Ventures, which includes the travel site Flying Yak. “Sites like Kayak.com offer monthly views for flight prices so you can easily search the best deal,” she said.

2. Remember hotel options

Arrive at the airport a day early. “Getting to the airport can often be the most stressful aspect of traveling, but airport hotels make it easy to roll out of bed and go,” said Shawn McAteer, Hilton Hotels vice president for Global Brand Management. He also recommended taking advantage of options out of the terminal during long layovers. “Many airport hotels offer day rates, which are a great option for travelers with extended layovers looking to recharge and refresh for their holiday festivities.” Want an example? McAteer cited the Hilton Los Angeles Airport, where day rates start at $99 and give guests full access to hotel amenities from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

3. Remember your memberships

AAA, Costco and other companies offer a host of hotel and car rental bargains, said Clem Bason, CEO of goSeek.com and the former president of Hotwire.com. “AAA has just added new discounts on hotels that you can ‘unlock’ by putting your card number and ZIP code into their website,” said Bason. ” And Costco has long had amazing refundable rates on rental cars, often including an extra driver [allowed to use the car] for free.”

4. Splurge on a TSA Precheck membership

It’s just $85 and pays for itself by saving you precious time. “You don’t have to remove your shoes, light jacket or belt,” said Karen Hoxmeier Murphy, founder of MyBargainBuddy.com. “You also don’t have to take your liquids or laptop out for screening. The lines are often much shorter, and they move more quickly.”

5. Time your departure

Airport security lines can seem endless at times. “If you must travel Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving), leaving between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. is the worst time,” said Paul Hennessy, CEO of Vroom, an online direct car retailer. “Check Google Maps or Waze to find out how long the trip will take before you leave.” Another idea: Consider taking the first flight on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day rather than travel on the day before the holiday, said Hoxmeier. “It will be less crowded, and you’ll likely save some money on the fare,” she said, adding that if you travel for Thanksgiving, you’ll save money if you fly home Friday afternoon or wait until Monday.

6. Consider airport transportation options

“Many people will drive to the airport and park while they’re gone for the holidays,” said Bason who recommended instead using Uber or Lyft to get to the airport. “In my experience the prices are half of what a taxi would be and so the total cost will come in less than what you would pay to park. Plus you won’t have the stress of driving, parking and taking the shuttle from the lot to the airport.”

7. Upgrade your ride

“If you’ve been on the fence about getting a new car, you might as well upgrade before you pack the whole family up for a road trip,” said Hennessy. “If you’re traveling through a cold climate, make sure you have an all-wheel drive/4-wheel drive vehicle and if you have young kids, beat boredom with a family car featuring rear entertainment.” Can’t afford to do that? Think about renting a car that works for your trip, and you get to try before you buy!

8. Don’t hold up the line to board

Many airlines have digital boarding passes, which you can display on your mobile device,” said Hoxmeier Murphy. “A big time saver in most cases … unless you have limited cell signal or are having trouble locating it in your inbox.” Screenshot your boarding pass so you aren’t at the mercy of a Wi-Fi or cell signal, and don’t keep everyone waiting as you search through your inbox.

What’s your experience traveling during the holidays? Have you discovered ways to get a good deal? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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