You’ve picked out the gifts. You’ve decorated the house. You’ve selected a tree. Now, you have to figure out how to pay for those pricey visits to friends and family this holiday season. With gas prices sky-high and flights that aren’t much better, it’s difficult to find ways to travel on a budget no matter how much traveling broadens your horizons. However, by implementing the seven tips below, you can definitely save hundreds of dollars during the upcoming holiday months and even enjoy yourself in the process.

Stay With Family

It seems like a simple way to save money, but sometimes staying with family is more complicated than it seems. First, you don’t want to infringe on anyone’s privacy and secondly, there might be other relatives vying for the same space. To avoid the confusion and any awkward moments, be sure to talk to your family members way ahead of time to see how long they would be comfortable with you staying. Offer to make them a nice meal or take them out to dinner. Trust me, they will greatly appreciate the gesture and you will still save a significant amount of money since a meal out costs much less than 5 nights in a hotel room.

Do Research On Airline Fees

If you are traveling by plane, be sure to do your research ahead of time. It seems that many airlines change their policies on how much free luggage you are allowed at the drop of a hat. These fees can sometimes be so high, you could have upgraded to first class for less! Avoiding these fees often means less luggage, which means you might have to ship gifts ahead of time. This tip will also help you to keep stress levels down in the airport since won’t be getting any unexpected financial “surprises.”

Bum A Ride

Taking a taxi to the airport or leaving your car parked there for a few days are both expensive ventures. Instead, ask a friend to drop you off and pick you up at the airport. You can always return the favor to them the next time they take their family to the beach or go on a business trip. It’s an easy way to save a few hundred dollars. Plus, you know your car is safely at home and won’t get bumped in the tight airport parking lot!

Research Alternative Methods of Travel

Depending on where you live, it can be much less expensive and much more fun to travel by train. Your kids will love it, and you can enjoy the scenery as you go. Of course, this won’t work for everyone but it’s always worth it to research it and find out. If you’re a stickler for time management when you travel and making the most of the journey, this might actually work out the best for you. You’ll have built in quality time with your family and won’t waste precious hours waiting in long security lines at the airport.

Plan Your Meals

When most of us travel, we should expect the inevitable delays. Weather problems, technical difficulties on planes, and traffic jams are all common occurrences during the holiday months. So, keeping that in mind, it would be best to always pack a snack like popcorn or pretzels to keep with you at all times. This way, you won’t be tempted to run to the nearest fast food restaurant or convenience store to spend money needlessly, which keeps your wallet and your body healthy all at the same time.

Be Flexible

Many of the best holiday travel deals come when you are flexible with your schedule. This may include taking red eye flights or having long layovers. This also might include staying in a two or three star hotel instead of a four or five star one, especially if you are just staying one night. Many people find that traveling on the actual holiday, like Christmas Day, gives them much cheaper tickets than flying the day before or after. So, definitely keep your schedule open, and you’ll reap the rewards. A good free tool to use to search prices is Google’s matrix airfare search (Note: You can’t buy tickets using this tool but it will find the prices and availability and give you the codes that booking agents need to buy the ticket for you)

Use Social Media

Many people think that the only way to get a good deal on hotels or travel is to plan ahead and use travel websites for the best rates. This works well most of the time, but remember that the holidays are often plagued with extra expenses. Be sure to tweet your hotel or Facebook them ahead of time to let them know you are excited about coming. You never know when they’ll comp you a free breakfast or upgrade your room for being involved and spreading the word about their company.

I know that many other people also have great tips on saving big bucks on holiday travel, so please leave all of your best suggestions in the comment section below.

Featured photo credit:  Pretty young woman hitchhiking along a road via Shutterstock

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