No matter the year, holiday travel is notoriously stressful. There are tons of people, lots of expenses, and so many ways things can go wrong. But it doesn’t have to be this way—there are several ways to save time and money on holiday travel.
From your initial books and reservations, to the trip back home, a few holiday travel tips can help you relax a little bit this season. You may even have the capacity to deal with your uncle’s weird jokes at the Thanksgiving dinner table.
Avoid Busy Travel Days
If you have the flexibility (maybe your job is remote!), take advantage of the opportunity to avoid peak travel days.
When are peak holiday travel days exactly? It’s pretty easy to tell once you start comparing holiday car rental rentals or airfare. Essentially, think about when most people have holiday vacation days. For example, a lot of people have Thanksgiving and the Friday after off, so they tend to travel on Tuesday or Wednesday, and head back on Sunday to take advantage of the long weekend. That means those days are some of the busiest of the year. Which also means they’re the most expensive.
It may sound unconventional, but try traveling on the holiday itself, like Christmas morning or Thanksgiving night—whatever option gets you to your destination in time. Travel super early in the morning or catch the last flight out. These flights tend to be cheaper because they’re not the most convenient.
Or, take your vacation days during what are called “dead weeks.” The week after Thanksgiving and New Year’s are some of the best times to travel. Everyone is recovering from the holidays and you’ll find cheap rentals and transportation across the board.
Avoid Popular Destinations
If you’re going on a little vacation over the holidays, avoid super popular destinations. People tend to like to visit warmer, beach destinations during the holidays. But not only will these spots (and routes to them) be super congested, you’ll find it hard to book the best hotels and rental cars, and it will likely cost you way more money than you would pay at any other time of the year to go there.
Look for Deals
Check out holiday car rental deals or big hotel discounts in some of those less popular destinations. Because so many people travel to see family during the holidays, you may be able to find some screaming deals in those spots. Do your research before you book.
Buy Direct Flights
The more flights, the more opportunities for things to go wrong. And during busy travel seasons like the holidays, when weather conditions are precarious, there are often delays. Try and avoid multiple connections if you can. Nobody wants to get stuck in an airport on Christmas Eve.
Give Yourself Enough Time
Busy travel days mean more people. And more people means more traffic on the road and longer lines for well, everything. Give yourself more time than you normally would in case unexpected delays come up. That could also mean giving yourself an extra day or two to arrive at your destination, just in case there are issues. Your mom won’t be too happy if you’re late for Thanksgiving dinner.
Book in Advance
One of the best tips for holiday travel is to plan ahead. This goes for everything from plane tickets, to rental cars, to airport parking, and even hotels if you need them. There are a lot of people competing for the same seats and spots. Get ahead of the game and you’ll not only get more options and secure your place, you’ll also find better prices.
Have a Backup Plan
Last-minute changes and cancellations can be costly if you don’t have a backup plan. For example, if you’re in that holiday rental car and the major highway on your route is closed because of weather conditions, you’ll need a plan B. If you know the options ahead of time, you’ll save time and arrive at your destination without all the stress.
You may be tempted to load up on gifts for the family. And while it’s a nice sentiment, it’s not always that practical. Instead, order your gifts online and have them shipped directly to your destination. That way, you won’t have to load up a big checked bag, wait in line to check in (just go straight to security!), and pay the extra bag fee.
You also won’t have to worry about your gifts getting damaged during travel or losing your bag altogether. Crowded airports and tons of travelers mean your checked bags are also much more likely to get lost during the holiday season. Bring a carry-on and you can relax knowing your bag will always be with you.
Bring Your Own Food
Traveling is already expensive, so it’s good to try and save wherever you can. Restaurant food, and especially airport food, can be pricey. Instead of eating out on the road or snagging some mediocre airport food, pack your own meals and snacks. You’ll save money and you also won’t have to spend time stopping and searching for meals in a pinch.
No matter when you’re traveling, it’s important to stay organized. Keep all your travel docs (boarding passes, rental reservations, IDs etc.) in one place so you don’t waste time trying to find them. And make sure you have them all with you before you head out. Whether they’re on your phone or you need a physical copy, keep them together to ease the holiday travel stress.
Share With Avail
A great way to save extra money on holiday car rental is to share your car with Avail. You’ll avoid paying airport parking fees and even making money while you’re gone. It’s the easiest part of holiday travel.