7 Holiday Travel Tips To Save You Money
Are you one of the millions of Americans who will take to the open road or friendly skies to visit friends and family this holiday season?
If so, then one of the smartest things you can do before you leave is brush up on the various ways you can save money as your cruise-control your way through long stretches of interstate or pull your suitcase through the security line at the airport.
Making your holidays merry and bright has a lot to do with spending your cash wisely; recent studies indicate that money is the main stressor this time of year.
So, to save you from financial worry, we reached out to more than a dozen travel experts to mine the best advice for travelers just like you.
1. Clear Your Cookies When You Search Airline Fares
This piece of advice has been around for years but it’s still pertinent today, as airfare prices always seem to go up the more you check a fare in your web or mobile browser.
Take startup adviser and investor Brad Hines, for example. His most recent airline purchase – a trip to Nantucket—ended up being an adventure in wildly fluctuating prices.
“When purchasing my last airline ticket the price had seemingly jumped 40% from the last time I’d checked an hour before,” he said.
He was suspicious of the price hike, so he cleared his web browser’s cache and did the search again.
“The price went back down to the previous price and there were still the same amount of seats available,” Hines said.
For Chrome users, do your flight searches in Incognito mode; it automatically doesn’t store cookies.
2. Use Skyscanner for Price Alerts
Skyscanner has been hailed as one of the best tools to find cheap airfare and our sources agreed. Chantae Reden, travel writer at Chantae Was Here, says the site/app is one of the best ways to track price changes and know when you’re getting the best deal.
“If I have a trip coming up and am unsure if the flight price will change, I set up a price alert for the route and dates I want to travel,” she said. “Skyscanner will send a push notification whenever that flight price changes. This means you can catch a deal before any flight-hacking website can.”
Also, points out Doron Nadivi, an exec at hotel-booking site Pruvo, if you have flexibility on your departure airport you can set up an “everywhere” search that will tell you the fares to your destination from all airports in areas you designate.
3. Lunch Menus and the Bar Are Where You Find Value at High-End Restaurants
If you’re like me, you research the restaurants in the city you’re visiting for the holidays and salivate over Michelin-starred menus that are way out of your price range.
Don’t think that those prix fixe menus are your only option at a best-in-the-city type restaurant, said Krista Canfield McNish, founder of travel site FoodWaterShoes.
“High-end restaurants often have affordable lunch menus you can indulge in,” she said. “even the finest Michelin-starred spots may offer a seating in the afternoon that can be much more palpable on your wallet.”
The lunch menu is the only way to get good value at a great restaurant, though. Getting seating at the bar – a common offer when you don’t have a reservation – is an excellent way to enjoy incredible food at modest prices.
“While the number of appetizers, small bites and plates is often scaled down, so are the prices,” she said. “If you opt to nosh on a limited menu with the bartender, your tab is usually significantly lower than if you had a table reservation.”
4. The Best Chefs Aren’t Always at the Most Expensive Restaurants
Another sterling way to enjoy world-class food without making your wallet cry? Research kitchen staff.
The world’s best restaurants tend to produce amazing talent, talent that, at some point, leaves the famous kitchen to start their own. And when they do, particularly in the cities McNish will visit, she knows about it.
Take Copenhagen’s Noma, regarded by many as one of the top three restaurants in the world. Getting a table at the restaurant is difficult, but not nearly as difficult as coming up with the money to pay for it.
When McNish was headed to Copenhagen, she did some research on where various Noma kitchen staff have gone to other parts of the city to start their own restaurants.
“Snagging a coveted reservation at Noma is nearly impossible, but there are loads of chefs who have paid their dues in Noma’s kitchen and are now serving fabulous fare at other lesser known (and lower priced) establishments,” she said.
5. Black Friday and Cyber Monday Produce Big Travel Discounts
As we mentioned in our article on what you should and shouldn’t buy on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, travel is a definite yes.
Danielle Dougan, PR manager at travel booking site Student Universe, said they’re offering 16 discounts on the site’s top fares for students and youth. These discounts will run as high as $200. Student Universe, of course, isn’t’ the only travel booking site out there.
As for overall pricing, Dougan said holiday airfare prices drop around 20% from late October to about the second week of December; there’s still time to get a good deal!
6. Take Advantage of Free Walking Tours
While doing a private walking tour of a city affords you the intimacy of a small group, they often charge robust prices that can make the tours cost-prohibitive.
Thankfully, free walking tours are gaining notoriety in many of the world’s major cities and are a fantastic way to get a memorable experience on the cheap.
Bernard Sury, a marketing and communications rep at Guru Walk, said these tours typically end with the tour guide asking for donations; it’s sort of a pay-what-you-want scenario.
“The guide usually gives you tips on how to save money during your holiday by recommending local attractions, restaurants, etc.,” he said. “So, it’s a very good way to save while you travel.”
7. Be Flexible With Your Departure Times and Dates
This tip and clearing your cookies are two of the most timeless pieces of advice you’ll find when it comes to holiday travel.
If you’re willing to leave early in the morning or late at night, you’ll see some substantial differences in pricing. The same goes for rewards flights you book with miles or points; cheaper flights tend to be before 7 a.m. and after 9 p.m.
“The number one way to save money for any travel, but especially holiday travel, is to be flexible, said Natalie Tanner, a travel agent at The Educational Tourist. “If you are able to fly earlier or later in the day you’ll be able to choose the least expensive flights.”
Natalie gave us a few other airport-specific tips that will help you save money, too:
- Consider nearby airports that may have cheaper fares
- Get a friend to drop you off to save on parking
- Bring snacks and an empty water bottle to fill up after security
Her last few words for us were a fitting way to conclude our list of money-saving tips for holiday travel: “Travelling with your family during the holidays can give you memories that can last a lifetime and, with a little planning ahead, you can save money, too.”