Holiday travel isn't for the faint of heart. From long airport lines to full parking lots, the entire experience can be stressful. Factor in the (usually) higher cost of holiday travel, and you may be left wondering whether the experience was worth the price you paid.
We can't make the crowds go away – nearly everyone wants to share holidays with loved ones – but we can offer some tips for reducing the cost and stress of your holiday vacation.
Lower Your Travel Costs
Research, research, research. The old "time is money" cliché certainly applies to travel planning. If you book tickets online, remember to check airlines' websites as well as the big aggregators' sites. You may find a better airfare on your airline's own site. Remember to check travel price trends, too. Kayak offers a "chart view" that shows airfare trends by travel date. If you have a flexible schedule, this type of fare comparison can help you pick the least expensive time to travel. Checking multiple rental car websites and pickup locations is a good way to minimize car rental costs.
Think outside the box. Consider driving, taking the train or traveling by bus instead of flying. If you normally fly into a large city, consider some nearby regional airports. You might have to drive a little farther at the end of your flight, but you could end up saving money, too. Bus and rail passes might or might not save you money, too. Amtrak now offers U.S. residents the opportunity to buy rail passes. Amtrak also gives seniors a 15 percent discount. Greyhound's senior discount, available on most routes, is 5 percent. (Tip: If you buy a rail pass, book all of your travel segments as early as possible. Rail pass seats go quickly on Amtrak.)
Plan your route around low-cost lodging. It isn't always fun – or comfortable – to sleep on a different sofa bed every night, but staying with friends along the way can save you a lot of money. No friends with guest rooms? Use a travel guidebook, such as the Mobil Travel Guides, or travel website to find inexpensive places to stay en route. If you're retired military, don’t forget about military lodging chains, such as Navy Lodges and Air Force Inns.
Stay close to home to save money. You may not be able to take a two-week cruise this year, but there are plenty of things to see in your own area. Get a map and travel guidebook and draw a circle that encloses the distance you're able to travel. Then, look up museums, parks, restaurants and shopping districts in a few of the towns within your circle. You'll probably find that there are many places nearby that would make great weekend or daytrip destinations.