(UNDATED) – Traveling during the holidays can be stressful and costly – especially when you’re hitting the skies and road with tens of millions of other Americans.
According to a recent Nerdwallet study, of the 114 million Americans (45 percent) who plan to spend money on holiday travel this year (defined as flights and/or hotels in the survey) 32 percent anticipate they’ll charge their credit cards an average of $1,105 for 2019 holiday travel expenses for a total of close to $90 billion across the nation.
To help consumers book the most wallet-friendly trips this winter, here are some tips from Rebecca Gramuglia, Travel and Personal Finance Expert at TopCashback.com:
- Compare prices. This may seem like a no-brainer, but comparing prices of flights can definitely help save you a few bucks on your holiday travel. Use an app like Hopper to get notified on price drops on flights and get insight on when is the best time to travel/book.
- Use your membership reward points. Knock a zero or two off of your total bill by cashing in those reward points for flights, accommodations or upgrades. It pays to be loyal to your preferred airline and hotel, stack the rewards towards one specific brand to save the most money. Book as soon as you can, as it is the holiday season and many people will be trying the same strategy.
- Stack the savings. If you do find yourself needing to fly on a busy, more expensive travel day, then be sure to book your flights, hotels and more while using a cashback site like TopCashback.com. Earn cashback on qualifying purchases from popular online travel agents like Booking.com and Hotels.com as well as others to make your holiday travels a little easier on the wallet.
- Check alternate airports. Save money and your sanity by staying away from popular airports. You can often experience fewer delays and get cheaper deals, not just on fights but on rental cars and transfers as well.
- Plan ahead for parking. Reserve airport parking ahead of time to ensure a spot and save money through sites like Park ‘N Fly. Also, consider alternatives to driving yourself such as taking public transportation, booking a shuttle, calling a cab or rideshare, or having someone drop you off, to skip paying for parking at all.
- Travel on Christmas Day. Fly home on Christmas day to score great prices on flights and skip the crowds. Some airports may be the ghost town you wished for.
- Don’t pack gifts. Do not fly with gifts, ship them instead. Send gift cards or have Amazon deliver your gifts to avoid paying for any overweight baggage or damage.
- Choose the right time to travel. Typically, travelers will find special deals and steals for off-season trips. However, holiday travel is considered “peak season” which makes it difficult to find affordable flights and rooms. To avoid paying more than necessary, travel during less-popular times such as midweek, early mornings or late evenings to score a better deal.
- Book ahead of time online to save money. If you’re visiting family and need a rental car, don’t wait until the last minute to reserve a rental car. You’ll often find the best deals online, provided you book the car at least a full day before you intend to pick it up. If you find yourself racing the clock, still consider booking your car rental online. In-person bookings are treated as someone who desperately needs a vehicle so they aren’t offered competitive rates.
- Consider holiday packages. While holiday travel is notorious for being pricey, competitiveness is also at an all-time high during the winter season. This means most booking websites will bundle hotel and flight packages to compete with other travel sites. Take advantage of this competitiveness and score great deals on holiday travel.