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Save money on holiday traveling

By Naomi Mannino ·
Friday, December 16, 2011
Posted: 10 am ET

This year, saving money on travel has gotten even more complicated but still, AAA forecasts 91.9 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles away from home between Dec. 23, 2011 and Jan. 2, 2012, an increase over last year.  And, about 27 percent of the total U.S. population will hit the road by car, despite the rise in gas of 30 cents over last year, according to the Energy Information Administration. Will you be one of them?

Every time I see that car insurance commercial with the mayhem guy riding backwards in the console posing as the GPS saying, "Recalculating! Recalculating!" I am reminded to complete the arduous task of updating my GPS, otherwise that car driver is going to be me, trying to get somewhere fast during the holidays but ending up nowhere instead. I'm going to be proactive and replace the batteries in my toll transponder, too, before I get stuck like last year, stopping at every booth during a six-hour toll highway ride.

According to personal finance experts, you have to break out of the box and do things differently to save money, which may not always be comfortable. But, at least you're justified in complaining about it later. Here are some things I've read about to save money on travel this year:

1. Try off-airport parking.

Sounds like a win-win if it's cheaper than the airport parking, just as safe, the shuttle is free and runs often and you can book ahead online or by phone. Check  Park, Fly, Ride USA's website to see if there is a location near your airport or search for a local outfit that offers the same service.

2. Don't be picky about flight times.

Would you rather save money or fly when you want? Your choice.

3. Check for flights right on the holiday.

With Transportation Associates reporting that more than 87 percent of commercial airliners are flying at capacity, I checked Orbitz to see what's available. Surprise: I found several major airlines offering flights from Tampa International Airport to New York's LaGuardia Airport for just $278-$297 round trip all day long leaving on Christmas Day and returning on New Year's Day. That's almost the normal price.

4. Take advantage of Free Shipping Day on December 16.

The Free Shipping Day website lists over 2000 participating merchants who will ship by Christmas for free. This way you can order and ship gifts to your destination to avoid paying for checked luggage filled with gifts, which can cost $25 or more per bag.

5. Download the free, GPS-based AAA TripTik Mobile app.

Just tap and find the lowest price of gas, free trip directions and local hotels and attractions on your smartphone.

Have you tried any of these ways to save money on travel yet?

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