If you’re planning on visiting with family this year, it’s likely more expensive than a simple trip over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house. Instead, you’ll have to shell out for airfare, hotel stays, a rental car, and find enough money for gifts and all the holiday trimmings.
Thankfully, there are many different ways to save money while traveling this holiday season.
We pulled together 10 top tips to help you stretch your budget further so you can enjoy what you love to do with your family.
1. Be flexible on your travel dates
If you’re trying to save money, it pays to be flexible on travel dates. The most expensive day to travel around the holidays is the Friday before Christmas. Because it’s such a high-demand date, you’ll pay 20 percent more for your airfare, on average.
If you’re flexible with your travel dates, you could save a significant amount of money. Fly on a Monday instead of Friday, or opt for an early morning flight to save on airline tickets.
2. Use fare-tracking apps
It can be difficult to find out what the best price is for airfare and hotels. You may think you’re getting a good deal, only to find out the price decreased after you booked.
That’s where apps like Hopper can help. Hopper monitors ticket and hotel prices for you, and uses its algorithms to determine whether or not it’s a fair price. Hopper will notify you when a price is likely to increase or decrease, so you can improve your chances of getting a great price.
3. Redeem cash back rewards
If you’re not using a cash back rewards credit card for your holiday spending, you’re essentially throwing money away. A good rewards credit card will help you earn money for the spending you’d do anyway. Whether you’re buying gifts for your children or shopping for the best deal on a flight to see your parents, you can earn cash back you can redeem for gift cards, cash, or statement credits.
Looking for a new credit card? Check out our favorite cash back credit cards of 2018.
4. Use discounted gift cards
If you’re looking for a way to make your money work harder for you, consider buying discounted gift cards. Each year, millions of gift cards go unused, gathering dust in a drawer. Some people opt to sell them to recoup some of the card’s value. That can mean big discounts on everything from hotels to even airfare.
For example, right now you can snatch up a $100 Marriott gift card for just $90 on Card Flip, a 10 percent discount. You can use that card to book your next hotel stay and give yourself an instant 10 percent off. You can buy discounted gift cards on sites like Raise.com, Gift Card Spread, and Card Flip.
5. Get refunds while traveling
During the holiday season, prices on favorite items can drop dramatically. When you buy an item, it’s not uncommon for the price to drop just a few days later. You could monitor prices yourself and go to the store to ask for a price adjustment, but who has the time? When traveling for the holidays, the last thing you want to do is worry about is juggling receipts.
That’s where Paribus comes in. Paribus is an app that syncs with your email. It monitors your account for order confirmations, and watches the prices on the items you bought for you. If the price drops on an item you bought, Paribus will immediately reach out to the retailer for a price adjustment on your behalf, and will refund you the difference. Over the course of the holiday season, price adjustments could add up to hundreds in savings.
6. Travel light
Baggage fees can send your air travel costs through the roof. Instead of forking over hundreds to check luggage, travel light, with just a carry-on or one checked bag, if you must. That might sound impossible when traveling for the holidays, but it can be significantly cheaper to ship gifts and decor via the post office or UPS than it is to bring it with you on a plane,
7. Check deals on train rides
While air travel is the obvious choice when you need to get somewhere, airline tickets can be prohibitively expensive. In some cases, traveling via train could be much cheaper. And, when you factor in how much time you spend at the airport to get through security, traveling via train may even save you some time.
For example, you can get a train ticket from Boston to New York via WanderU for just $69. If you opted to fly, instead, you’d pay $174. Opting for the train would save you over $100.
8. Skip airport parking
Airport parking can skyrocket around the holidays, as million of travelers take to the skies. You can save money by skipping airport parking altogether and instead opting for a car pool or rideshare service like Uber or Lyft. Paying for a ride will likely be cheaper than parking your own car, plus you won’t have to wait for the airport shuttle.
9. Use Rover for pets
Boarding your pet at a commercial kennel can easily cost $40 a night (or more!). And, traveling with your pet on a plane can add hundreds to your airfare cost. Instead, look into boarding your pet with Rover.com, a service that connects pet owners with reputable pet sitters. You could get quality care in your own home for less than you’d pay a kennel.
10. Look for activity discounts
Once you get to your destination, dealing with the prices of holiday activities can be overwhelming. But you shouldn’t be paying full price for anything, as there are ways to save money on every activity you can think of doing.
For example, you can use Liftopia to get discounted ski passes, and Groupon to get deals on holiday tours and activities; you can even score a discounts on gifts with Groupon.