It's not news that travel can be very costly, no matter what time of year it is. When you add up the price of gas, plane tickets, hotels, car rental, and baggage charges, it always ends up costing more than you might think.
If you plan to travel during the holidays, the first thing to note is that this can be an expensive and busy time of year. In 2018 alone, Americans spent $1.8 billion on airfare just around the holiday period. And in 2019, a report by Airlines for America revealed an estimated 47 million people were expected to fly on U.S. airlines during the peak holiday season. For these reasons, it's best to plan and book your travels early on to get the best savings.
With 2020 being an especially challenging year for many financially, it's now more important than ever to save on your travel costs, find great travel deals, and get tips for traveling on a set budget.
How to find the best travel deals
Use discount travel websites
Researching the best websites for saving on travel brings up sites like LastMinute, TravelZoo, and Travelocity, all of which are great resources for budget and last-minute travel deals.
While it's not just a travel website, a site like Groupon does offer plenty of travel savings as well. Just be sure to read the fine print because many offers are nonrefundable.
Collect air miles
If you have a credit card with air mile rewards, it could be time to tap into those. Frequent flyers can build up points or air miles and exchange them for free or discounted flights or accommodations. In some cases, non-travel rewards credit card points can also be exchanged for air miles. If you already have a rewards credit card, it could be worth looking into.
Look out for Black Friday deals
Some of the best travel deal websites, like LastMinute, will run a Black Friday promotion to help you score the best travel bargains. It is worth keeping an eye out on several websites to see what kinds of promotions they're offering. For the latest news on travel discounts and deals, signing up to email newsletters can help.
Book at the right time
Picking the right month to book plane tickets could also help you save some money. According to Skyscanner, the cheapest month to book domestic flights is October, with flights costing 4% less than average. The same goes for international flights, which are, on average, 3% cheaper in October.
How to travel on a budget
The overall cost of a trip typically ends up costing more than just the plane ticket alone. Other costs to factor into your budget include food, hotels, taxi fares, car rental fees, gas, and more. Here are a few tips for saving money while on the road.
Use a prepaid card to stay on budget
One way to reduce your spending while traveling is to use a prepaid card, like Netspend's Prepaid Card. These are handy because you can load up your total budget for the trip on your card and not spend more than you budgeted for.
Check foreign currency rules on your cards
If you are traveling abroad for the holidays, you will need to check the foreign currency rules on your credit or debit cards. Some will charge high fees for withdrawing money in a foreign currency, so this is worth checking first. You may prefer to use a different card if your current account is not suitable, or a travel credit card.
Consider a gas credit card
For those planning long road trips this holiday season, a gas credit card can be useful. These cards work as reward credit cards whenever you fill-up. Some cards will let you build up points, which you can spend on other things, but some will offer you cash back at U.S. gas stations to save on your fuel costs.
Holiday travel in 2020
Traveling in 2020 has been a very different experience for most due to COVID-19. With restrictions, cancellations, and safety measures from the CDC in place, the way we travel has changed for the foreseeable future.
The primary consideration is still safety. Travel is generally not recommended unless necessary. If it is essential to travel during the holidays, a road trip is preferable over public transport to limit contact with others. However, where that's not possible, safety measures such as wearing a mask and using hand sanitizer are simple measures to stay safe if you need to take a flight.
With many restrictions still in place, you will also need to follow guidance on which countries or states you are permitted to visit before you book anything.
The bottom line
Traveling in 2020 doesn't have to be overly pricey. While this year has certainly been different, there is often demand at the end of the year to travel as people go home for the holidays. With some careful research on the best travel deals websites, it is possible to save on your travel costs.