Make the most of holiday travel by saving time and money. These top tips will help you stretch your travel dollar.
Plan twice, book once. Airlines now charge $150 or more if you change your ticket after it has been booked, and many hotels charge “no show” fees of $50 or even the entire first night’s room rate if you change or cancel within 24 hours of your reservation. Double-checking the details before booking can help you avoid these potential added charges.
Sign up for fare alerts. We all know that airline fares change daily and that some of the best fares are not advertised. Sign up with a fare-tracking website such as Airfare Watchdog to get an alert when there’s a special fare.
Pack light. Minimize checked baggage fees by packing and checking less. For longer trips, the cost of dry cleaning may be cheaper than checking extra luggage. Look into overnight delivery and luggage forwarding services.
Check your paperwork. Make sure your passport is current and that you have any necessary visas. Expired or missing paperwork can delay your trip and cost expensive charges for expedited applications. A good rule of thumb is to renew your passport six months before it expires.
Be flexible to find savings. Search alternate airports. For example, fares to Chicago’s Midway may be cheaper than O’Hare, Idaho Falls may be cheaper than Jackson Hole, and Gulfport may be cheaper than New Orleans. You’ll have to do the calculations to see if you are still saving money with the extra taxi or shuttle charges.
Stay together, save together. If you are arriving on different flights than friends or family, plan to arrive around the same time and meet inside the airport. That’s what we did recently for a family ski trip to Colorado, when my daughter’s family coming from the West Coast met me, coming from the East Coast, at the rental car counter. Sharing the trip to the hotel saved the cost of multiple taxis or shuttle services.
Big-ticket items can mean big savings. If you are planning a complex international or multi-city U.S. itinerary, use a travel agent. You’ll save time, stress and money, because a travel professional is better equipped to find the best airfare deals to ensure you get the lowest fare, with or without a land package.
Ask for price guarantees. Many airlines and hotels offer you a lower rate if the price for your trip drops after you’ve booked it. Just ask.
Stretch your stay to stretch your dollar. Some airlines are bringing back “minimum stay requirements,” so you can save money by postponing your return trip from a Friday until a Sunday or Monday. Or, take the overnight red-eye flight home — that’s usually the least expensive flight of the day for an airline.
Take the bump. If you are bumped to another flight, be sure to get a free voucher, and try to travel in the so-called “off-season” or “shoulder season” for lower travel costs.
Insure the trip. Buy travel insurance for your winter holiday to protect you if you have to cancel a trip, miss your flight connection or arrive but your luggage doesn’t.