Everyone knows holiday travel can be a huge hassle: the overpriced tickets, overcrowded airports, stress of buying presents (AND having to stuff them all in your suitcase), and having to pretend you are happy and well-rested to visit family after a delayed flight with 3 layovers.
But, tis the season, right? Every year we do this to ourselves, and every year we say we’ll do it differently next year. Well, THIS IS THE YEAR. No more unnecessary stress or spending. No more rushing around and feeling obligated to splurge. This year is different.
This guide will help you decide what is worth spending extra (inflated) money on for the holidays, how to save money on holiday flights, and how to generally be more relaxed and happy this holiday season.
If you are a savvy, budget traveler who loves to save money (I mean who doesn’t), here are some other resources you might like, that can help save you hundreds:
- Dollar store travel hacks
- Hotel booking tips
- Budget travel hacks
- Budget hotel tips
- How to grow your travel savings
- Common travel money scams
Yea. We’ve got you when it comes to saving money! We didn’t travel through our college years and our early 20s because we had a trust fund.
Side note: I won’t be discussing credit card or travel reward cards because well, let’s just say credit cards are bad for us!
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
How to Find Cheap Flights for Holiday Travel
The golden question, am I right? I won’t sit here and tell you I have all the answers when it comes to finding cheap flights, especially during the holidays. This time of year, flights are inflated to the max, so it definitely can be a challenge to find a good deal.
When I say “deal” here, I mean a “deal” given the time of year. A $300 flight might not be a deal in the middle of August, but it might be a STEAL the week of Christmas. You feel me?
I know many people say you can find deals directly through airlines, but (aside from Frontier) I have literally NEVER found cheaper flights directly versus using 3rd party sites. You do you, though.
In my penny-pinching flight search guide, I talk about a method that we use, which has worked for us in finding the cheapest flights.
It includes establishing the price baseline, determining options for dates/airports, then continually checking websites for price changes. You can read more details in that article!
How to Travel with Christmas Presents
Alright Santa, let’s talk about where to stuff all these presents while you are on a flight or taking a road trip. Road trips will be the easiest option here since you can just throw everything in the trunk or backseat. However, flying on an airplane could prove to be a bit more tricky.
When purchasing presents this year, knowing that you will be flying, think SMALL. The smaller the gift, the better. Clothes are a perfect option, and you can just put them in your suitcase!
Then, buy some boxes and wrapping paper once you get to your destination, and you’ll be all set (or just throw them in a gift bag like the grinch you are).
OR, put all your gifts in a suitcase that you will check. Just make sure there are no breakables in here since you know how flight crews like to throw your stuff around. Depending on what you have in there, it might be an option for you to simply mail your presents to your destination ahead of time. See what is most cost-effective!
Or, everyone gets gift cards this year. I mean, who doesn’t love a gift card?!
Hotel Tips for Holiday Travel
After your flights cost you a million dollars, now you have to worry about where you will sleep. Just like flights, hotel costs are inflated around the holidays too.
We always use Hotwire to book our hotels, and the prices do. not. compete with booking directly. We’re talking a 4-star hotel for under $100 a night!
If you are traveling with a group of family members, consider all staying at the same hotel- you might be able to get a group rate or discount! Plus, you can all carpool with each other, since you all leave and come back to the same place (savings on transportation!)
If hotel costs are just completely breaking the budget, maybe ask a family member if you can stay with them! No, it is not ideal. I get that. But, it might only be for a night or two, and you can handle that!
OR, have all family members pitch in on a cute AirBnB! This way, no one family member’s house will be the center of the party, and it will feel like a mini-vacation for everyone!
Saving Money on Food during the Holidays
Ah, the holiday season. Where we all gain 10 pounds and cover it up with a chunky sweater. The best time of the year!
With all this food comes a budget, however. It can feel easy to splurge on another appetizer, or some more Christmas cookies, or a fancy bottle of wine. By all means, you should do this. Indulge, enjoy, and appreciate your loved ones.
However, for those of us who want to save a little bit (let’s face it, this is all of us), there are some things we can do. For example, instead of going out to each for Christmas dinner, suggest everyone making a dish and bringing it to dinner.
Or, everyone brings a bottle of wine to Christmas Eve dinner. This way, you won’t be stuck regretfully debating that you should pay the bill (even though you know you can’t afford it).
Plus, it is the holidays. Stay home and cook with your family! Spend time together trying new recipes (and failing) or picking up a “make your own 6 pack” from the store and make your own beer sampler.
There is no shame in letting your family know you are on a tight budget and would rather eat at home!
Transportation Costs during the Holidays
Lastly, let’s talk about transportation costs during holiday travel. If you are flying from out of town, now you’ll need to rent a car. Or do you…
If you are flying all the way across the country to visit your family for the holidays, then can at least help you out with transportation. Ask them if they can pick you up or take you to the airport. This will save tons of money on airport parking too!
Stay in a hotel near their house so that you can hitch a ride with them (without them needing to go way out of their way to pick you up). Carpooling is best for the environment anyway, so it is a win-win!
You might end up needing to Uber once or twice during your trip, but it will still be cheaper than renting a car (and getting a flat tire in the middle of London half a mile from your hotel…Not that I know anything about this….)
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