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4 Ways to Save Money on Holiday Travel

Excited woman riding luggage cart in airport with man pushing her.

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The holidays are pretty much here. And whether you think that’s a good thing or not, it probably means you’re gearing up for some travel.

A good 84% of Americans plan to travel for at least some holidays this year, says the New York Post. And if you play your cards right, you can save money during your trips. Here’s how.

1. Pack lightly

Gone are the days of being able to check a bag on a domestic flight at no cost. Most airlines charge a fee for a checked bag — each way. On Delta, for example, you’ll be looking at paying $30 each time you need to check a single bag (and it’s $40 for a second bag).

On the other hand, if you keep your packing to a minimum, you might manage to avoid having to check a bag. That means not only avoiding a fee, but potentially sparing yourself the hassle of having to wait at baggage claim after your flight — or track down lost luggage.

If you’re going to stay with family, ask what items you can avoid packing. You may be able to borrow a pair of pajamas from your dad or grab some layers from your mom to stay warm outside and avoid having to pack your own bulky sweaters.

2. Be flexible with your dates

Traveling right before or after Christmas will generally mean paying a premium to board a plane. But if you’re flexible with your plans, and you’re getting free lodging at your destination, then spacing out your flights could result in savings.

Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday this year, while Christmas Day is on a Monday. So many people will no doubt seek to travel the Friday before and the Tuesday after. If your job is remote, you can try flying out the Wednesday or Thursday before and coming back a few days after Christmas to lower your costs.

Even if your job isn’t remote and you have to show up to an office, let’s say you live and work in New York but your parents are in Chicago. Perhaps your company has a branch there. So if your employer will let you work from a different office for a few days, it might give you more flexibility with your flights. Plus, it’s a good way to meet more of your colleagues in person.

3. Leave yourself plenty of time to get to the airport

During the holidays, getting to the airport could be an even more harrowing experience than usual. And if you wait until the last minute to depart for your local airport and summon a ride, you may end up spending extra because at that point, you don’t have time to shop around and compare prices.

A better bet? Schedule your ride in advance and leave yourself plenty of time. Apps like Uber and Lyft will let you set up a ride ahead of time so you don’t have to scramble.

4. Book your itinerary with a credit card that comes with built-in insurance

Many credit cards offer some amount of insurance when you book travel plans. Read your cards’ fine print carefully so you know which one to use.

Let’s say your flight home is delayed and your airline won’t comp you a hotel room for the night. Your insurance through your travel credit card might cover its cost so you don’t have to yourself (this assumes you need a hotel room and can’t stay with family, but for many people, that may be the case).

Holiday travel can be costly — but that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to save. These tips could result in less spending when spending the holiday with the people you love — or the people you’re forced to spend time with, like it or not.

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