Are you trying to save money on holiday travel? All the gift-giving and steeply-priced plane tickets certainly aren’t easy on the wallet, and if you haven’t been proactive in booking flights far ahead of time, you may feel doomed to spend more than you’re comfortable with. Particularly when the average cost of holiday flights in 2021 are expected to be 10% higher than last year.
But worry not - we have some super-practical tips for saving money on holiday travel that’ll let you spend the extra cash on presents and experiences with friends and family.
Summary: How To Save Money On Holiday Travel
Use apps to find the best price.
Fly on off-peak days.
Save on airport parking.
Try alternatives to flying.
Travel with a carry-on only.
Use apps to find the best price
In the past, finding the most affordable flight meant searching every travel website for the best deals. But today, there are some awesome flight-finder apps that will do most of the work for you. These are two of our favorites:
Hopper shows you a calendar breakdown with expected flight prices. You can track prices on the day that you want to travel, and Hopper will send you a notification if the price drops or is expected to increase. Hopper also lets you lock in a flight price for up to one week before you buy.
If you don’t need to fly non-stop, Skiplagged finds flights that go through cities which aren’t your final destination. Because multi-stop flights can be cheaper, Skiplagged finds the loopholes in airline pricing algorithms.
Both apps are totally free and are available on iOS and Android.
Fly on off-peak days
Plane tickets are undoubtedly one of everyone’s largest holiday expenses. Even though the Knack team is made up of frequent flyers, we don’t always take the initiative to book ahead of time (and sometimes end up paying for it).
But even if you haven’t booked your holiday flights yet, you can save money by flying on off-peak dates - which often means the holidays themselves. If you have the flexibility to do so, flights on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day are some of the most affordable. In fact, flying on Christmas day can save an average of $76 on each ticket, and the empty airports will make your trips a whole lot less chaotic.
The busiest, and consequently most expensive, days to fly this year for Thanksgiving are Monday 11/15 and Sunday 11/21, according to Priceline. For Christmas and New Years, Kayak predicts Wednesday 12/22 and Tuesday 12/28. And if you’re a remote worker, consider making your trip a bit longer or shorter so that your flights never fall on peak travel days.
Working remotely? Get advice on work-life balance here.
Save on airport parking
Airport parking is an often-overlooked cost, and it can be significant, depending on where you live. For instance, parking lots at Los Angeles International Airport can go for up to $50 per day - a hefty chunk of change that you could spend elsewhere.
In many cases, taking a taxi or rideshare service can be far cheaper than paying for airport parking, as can public transportation. Major cities usually have bus or train routes that go directly to their airport, and they’re worth a try if you’ve never used them before.
If you have to drive to the airport, find out if you’re able to rent out your car while you’re away with Avail. Avail is a car-sharing service at select airports that’ll rent your car out while you travel. Not only do you not have to pay for airport parking, but you can actually earn a little money.
Try alternatives to flying
Flying isn’t always the best way to get around, especially if you’re traveling less than 300 miles. Driving can be a good option during the holidays; you can leave whenever you want, and you’re able to carry all your presents with you. If you want to know whether the cost of driving or the cost of flying is lower, you can plug your vehicle and driving distance into GasBuddy to compare fuel costs.
Amtrak also has some good deals, and is a fun alternative to flying. Although trains aren’t quite as fast as airplanes, they’re also less sensitive to the weather and therefore, you’re less likely to experience a travel delay. Look for Amtrak promotions here, and keep in mind that students can save 15% on tickets.
Travel with a carry on only
Checked bag fees can go as high as $75 per ticket. But even when they’re not that high, having to check a bag twice for roundtrip flights can really add up - which is why it’s really awesome to be able to travel with just a carry-on.
The Large Knack Pack makes for a fantastic carry on bag for longer trips. At 46 liters when expanded, it has room for all of your bulky winter clothes, but it also complies with the carry-on allowance of most airlines. Plus, it has multiple compartments that let you pack organized and remain organized during your trip. And unexpanded, the Large Knack will fit under the seats on most airlines. Want some help? Check out this article to learn about how to pack a backpack for travel.
If you're traveling with gifts, you probably can’t fit them all into a carry on bag, and you probably wouldn’t want to. Wrapped gifts that go through TSA checkpoints are subject to inspection, and you may have to re-wrap them.
And since checking luggage can get so expensive, you should consider shipping your gifts instead. Take advantage of free shipping (most brands offer free shipping over a certain dollar amount) and have your packages sent for free to a UPS access point in the city of your final destination.
What's the best size backpack for your travels? Find out here.
How do you save money on holiday travel? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.