Top 10 Cheap Holiday Travel Tips for Students
Holiday breaks are fast approaching for college students and I’m sure your parents want you to make it home for a visit. Spending time with family during the holiday season is very important and College Spot does not want you to miss out just because money may be tight. Here are 10 ways to make it home for the holidays on a tight budget.
10. Expect to Pay More
Maybe you have always considered yourself a lucky person, but even if you always get the close parking space and the one time you didn’t study the test was cancelled, you will still pay a lot for an airline ticket on the holidays. Just accept it, book your flight and enjoy your holiday break.
9. Hit the Road
Unless you are thousands of miles away from home, ground transportation is a reasonable and affordable alternative to flying. Gas prices have come down quite a bit and should continue to drop now that summer is over. You could also look for friends at school that may be from your area and carpool home in a group. Travelling by bus is another good option and there are even new “boutique” bus lines between popular cities that are trying to put an end to the negative stigma associated with bus travel. Last but not least are hassle-free trains. They are rarely delayed, don’t contend with traffic, and will allow you to kick back, flip on the iPod, and enjoy that beautiful winter scenery.
8. Make it a Package Deal
If your family is expecting a big crowd for the holidays, consider getting a hotel room along with your flight and save money with a package deal. Booking an air-and-hotel vacation together can save you a bundle over booking each component separately. Locking in one of the great-value hotel bargains that pop up around the holidays can really help offset the cost of your flight. Look especially at business hotels, which usually have particularly good deals around the holidays when they are devoid of their normal clientele. Check out hotels around convention centers and business districts for some of the best package rates.
7. Don’t Fear the Layover
Most airlines are cutting back the number of routes, which means fewer non-stop flights and much higher demand, and therefore higher prices. If you come across a reasonable non-stop flight, we recommend booking it on the spot. The price may be higher, but you get peace of mind and ease of travel, which will probably make it worth it. These deals will be hard to come by, so to save money, include a layover in your itinerary. Travelling with a layover can be problem free if you book wisely. Always allow for sufficient time during the connection, particularly during the busy holiday season when delays due to winter weather are expected. A minimum of 2 hours is recommended. Also, attempt to use the same airline for all legs of your journey. This will cut down on the chances of a lost bag and they will be more willing to help you if there is a problem. Finally, avoid delay-prone airports if at all possible. New York’s JFK and Chicago’s O’Hare are among the worst. Being stranded at an airport is no way to spend the holidays and reenacting the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles will not be as fun as it sounds.
6. Shop Around
Make sure that you scour the web for airfare deals. Online travel agents like Travelocity, Expedia, and Orbitz offer huge amounts of flight inventory, while Kayak is a great site that compiles “scraped” prices from numerous airline sites. Don’t forget to go straight to airlines’ web sites, as well. Popular carriers like Southwest and JetBlue don’t list their fares with most online travel agents, and you can also save on third-party ticketing fees by booking through the airlines’ sites directly. These are just some suggestions, there are many more options out there, so be sure to leave no stone unturned when searching the web for deals.
5. Read the Fine Print
All kinds of new airline fees have popped up this year, and inexperienced travelers are in for a rude awakening this holiday season. Carriers are now charging for everything from checking your bags to booking an aisle seat, and even for small things like headsets and bottles of water. Some airlines may offer the lowest fares on paper, but if you’ll be checking a bag on American, for instance, they will charge you, which may make flying with Southwest the more cost-effective option overall. So be sure to read the fine print when booking your flight and compare, compare, compare.
4. Consider the Alternatives
If the city you’re leaving from (or heading to) is serviced by several airports, make sure to include them all in your search. Smaller airports are often much cheaper and offer many additional perks as well, such as: fewer crowds, cheaper parking, and less frequent delays. It may even be worthwhile to drive an hour or two to a neighboring city’s airport when factoring in the savings (just don’t forget to include the price of gas). Here are some alternative airports in larger cities: Chicago has the smaller Midway, San Francisco has Oakland and San Jose, and New York has Westchester County and Macarthur.
3. Fly on the Holiday
It may not be the best way to maximize your holiday time, but airlines offer deep discounts to people flying on the holidays themselves. With fewer travelers competing for seats on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve, airlines are motivated to move seats on these flights at cheap rates. Keep in mind, however, that there is some risk associated with booking travel on these days, as cancellations or delays could put a damper in your holiday plans. Some families will even move their holiday celebrations around in order to take advantage of these discounted fares.
2. Be Flexible
Having flexibility in your travel days can pretty much guarantee you savings. Some days to avoid are the Wednesday before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving, December 23, December 26, and January 2. Some online fare search sites have a “flexible dates” option, use this for big savings. Additionally, if you’ve been saving up your vacation days at work, the holidays are a great time to cash them in. By leaving early for your trip or by coming back later you can avoid the holiday crowds and find much cheaper flights. Also, keep an eye out for overnight or early morning flights. These are not as popular which means they are much more affordable.
1. Book Early
As it gets closer and closer to the holidays, fares will increase dramatically. If you find a good deal, take it, especially if you are planning on flying during peak times, like the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Passenger demand is extremely high and airlines have cut their capacity, this all translates to more expensive flights as the airlines have no incentive to lower fares. There is always the off chance you may find a great deal at the last minute, but this is a huge gamble as most decently priced flights will be long gone. The lesson here is it is never too early to book your flight home for the holidays.