How to Save Your Money (and Your Mind) When Shopping for Holiday Travel

After a dozen years in retail travel sales and operations, Jill Watkins has recently achieved certification as a Tour Director and currently leads private group tours in and around Portland, Oregon.

Ah, fall. The weather has surely turned and you know that the days of summer are a fond memory. Then it hits you—the holidays are coming up fast. Holidays mean holiday travel and travel means stress and already you can feel yourself hyperventilating with the very thought of dealing with holiday travel costs and the hassles of planning.

First, take a deep breath- panic is not going to help you here. While shopping for holiday travel may require some of your dedicated attention, there are proven effective methods to manage your costs and save yourself a headache. Remind yourself that you are taking an important first step by recognizing the need to start your plans and follow our expert tips:

When booking your travel plans:

1. Know your budget and how to maximize value. While you want to have a memorable holiday experience, know what costs you are comfortable with. Be realistic and realize that holidays are peak travel times, but also know that great deals can be found, especially if you can afford a few days of flexibility. Consider traveling on the holiday itself when loads are lighter and don't plan on Sunday evening return flights. Check alternate airports, and consider whether driving rather than flying might work for you.

2. Shop around online and keep your eyes open for discounts. It's not uncommon for a flight to list several hundred dollars higher on one website than another. Hotels may have specials if you have an extended stay and tourist attractions can often offer '2-for-1' style promotions. Coupons are a great tactic to save on travel costs and also free up funds for other uses. Another way to be the first to know about upcoming sales is to sign up for promotional newsletters with your favorite airlines and hotels.

3. Decide what is most important to you—flight schedules, airports, the destination itself. Be as flexible as you can, and once you are satisfied- book it quickly! You may wish to sleep on it and decide in the morning, but fares and availability can change in the drop of a hat. Make your plans as soon as you are sure about them- with a finite amount of seats on planes and rooms in hotels, late does not pay in the holiday game!


On your day of travel:

4. Expect crowds and be early. If your airline offers online check-in, do this ahead of time. Pack carefully and consider whether you can make do without checking luggage. Expect security lines to be longer than normal and prepare for the checkpoint while in line. Check with your airport for current TSA guidelines and pack your carry-on accordingly.

5. Have a plan for food on the go. The airlines won't feed you, and any delays can leave you hungry and grouchy. Pack energy snacks and bars in your carry-on, and purchase drinks from a newstand once you have cleared security. If you know your layover will not allow for a sit-down meal, have one packed up in a to-go box to eat on-board. Remember to hydrate yourself as well, as the dry air contributes to jet-lag.

6. Don't stress! You have shopped, planned, and prepared, and now your job is simply to enjoy your holiday, where ever you may be.


Want to be a guest blogger for SmarterTravel? Read up on our Guest Blogger Policy, and then send your story pitch to with the subject line "Guest blog submission." If we like your idea, we'll ask you to write the post!

Read comments or add your own insight!