6 ways to travel cheaply during the busy season

The holidays are filled with excitement and celebration, but getting to the party can be an expensive headache. After all, December is a notoriously expensive month for travel – from flights to trains to busses, prices creep up quickly and steadily before your eyes. Luckily, there are ways to not only afford the journey to visit family, friends or sandy beaches, but also avoid a good deal of the hassle that comes with holiday travel.

 

Plan Far Ahead

The early bird gets the worm, and when the holidays roll around, “early” takes on a whole new meaning. If you’re planning on year-end travel, it’s always a good idea to finalize and book your flights, hotels and transportation two or three months in advance for a good fare. Once you’re within a month your departure date, you’ll notice prices shoot up dramatically.

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Go (Very) Last Minute

If early booking is no longer an option, you’re best bet for savings is with a last-minute deal. Unfortunately, holidays are both hectic and regimented – not many families have the option to pick and choose where and when to travel over the holiday season. If it’s coming down to the wire and you haven’t got your plans sorted out, get strategic with your route and consider shifting your departure date to mid-week, or post-frenzy (December 21st is typically the busiest travel day of the season for airports). Alternatively, you can save oodles of money by travelling on the holiday itself!

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Be Tactful With Transportation

There are a few ways to shrink your transportation costs: you can fly on cheaper days, connect your destinations with a single train pass, make use of public transportation instead of taxis, and travel overnight to avoid the most sought-after seats. In fact, overnight trains, airplanes and ferries are not only cheaper than daytime trips, they’ll also save you one night’s accommodation – a double win for the budget-conscious.

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Get Better At Booking

When it comes to booking flights, work with sites or booking agents that provide fare guarantees, to ensure you get the best price (or are reimbursed if it turns out you didn’t). You can save even more on flight costs if you opt for a connecting flight instead of a direct one, as long as you leave a little extra time between each leg of the trip in case of bad weather. Finally, consider flying into an alternative airport: in some cases, there’s a smaller airport that has cheaper flights, and although it can be a bit out of the way, that’s nothing a (very affordable) bus or shuttle can’t take care of.

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Take Advantage Of Rewards

Coupons, deals and discounts are everywhere, and while you may find fewer over the holidays, you can still take advantage of rebates in the busy season. Look into using the credit card rewards that you’ve racked up over the year, and ask if you can get extra value if you choose a gift card over cash back. If you want to see a particular city while you’re away, head to the tourist office to ask about a city card that will grant you access to all sorts of great sites at a fraction of the price.

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Eat Smart

Dining out is a lovely way to experience a new culture or celebrate with friends and family, but it’s also one of the best ways to break the bank. If you’re going to be away from your own kitchen for a while, think about how you can get around expensive takeout, and pricey (yet mediocre) bites in transportation hubs. Make meals out of a variety of easy-to-keep and easy-to-transport food: nuts, fruit, bread, crackers, cheese slices, and other one-bite whole foods will fit the bill. And if you have access to kitchen facilities on your holiday, you can pop into grocery stores as often as you like to pick up ingredients.

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The easiest way to go over budget is to not have one worked out in the first place. Many travelers tell themselves that they’ll keep tabs on their spending, but if you really want to relieve worry and stay in control, allocate all of your travel funds on paper (or electronically), and check in often to update. It’s a little bit of effort that will go an awfully long way to keeping those credit card bills down after the holidays are over.