Year-end holidays are upon us. How does the time fly so quickly? Chances are you are heading somewhere for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year. In fact, statistics show that 30 percent of Americans are planning to hit the road in the next two months to visit family and friends. Because of this, the most wonderful time of the year can also become the craziest time of the year where your wallet is concerned. But with a little planning, you can make those trips more affordable.
1. Set aside money each month in preparation for your trip
In the past, I've done this for Christmas gifts, and it has turned a big expense into a much more manageable affair. Set up a separate "vacation" account in order to keep the funds separate and keep track of your progress each month. Budget your other monthly expenses to ensure that you can afford to plan ahead.
2. Be flexible when flying
Travelling a day or two outside the peak travel dates can save you hundreds of dollars per ticket when flying. You can also avoid lengthy layovers and packed airports thus making your travelling just a little less stressful.
3. Consider driving instead of flying
This Thanksgiving, my wife and I are travelling 1,300 miles to visit my family. I started looking at flights early in order to get the best rate. I checked back on different days and different times of day, but with my wife being a teacher, our flexibility is low. In the end, we decided to drive. With our Honda Civic, we will spend about $250 in gas versus $1,000 to fly. This isn't always possible, but should never be discarded when making the decision.
4. If you do fly, pick your hubs wisely
Try to steer clear of the busier airport hubs like Los Angeles and Chicago O'Hare. Airfare is generally more expensive going through those airports. You can also avoid the added stress of clogged runways and terminals.
5. Bring a snack
Avoid buying food during layovers. Airport food is expensive. Plus, it's surprising what type of snacks they will allow you to bring on the plane. If you are driving and your car ride is relatively short, pack a lunch instead of stopping at a restaurant. The savings won't be too exciting, but this mindset can help you save in other areas of your life, as well.
6. Use credit card travel awards
If you can to offset some of the cost of travel. Some credit cards offer special travel rewards and promotions that can help you pay for your next ticket. It is important, however, to be responsible with credit card spending. If you have trouble controlling your spending, it would be better to stay away from credit cards entirely as the interest costs could outweigh the rewards benefits.
The end of the year really is the most wonderful time of the year. It's difficult not being able to spend time with family due to financial constraints. Planning ahead and considering all of your options can go a long way to help you avoid consumer debt or the sadness of not being able to be with those you love.
Ben lives with his wife, Kilee, and dog, Paisley, in Arkansas. He has a passion for personal finance, sports, and learning. Ben recently started a blog at www.wealthgospel.com where you can find more of his opinions on personal finance. His life goals are to write about personal finance all day and start a non-profit organization to help others become self-reliant and to find their true potential. On any given day, you could find him eating homemade salsa, picking blackberries, or staying up until 3 a.m. to finish a book.