How to Prepare for Holiday Travels

If you’re like me, any mention of the holidays in September is likely to make you cringe. “Too soon!” your mind screams.

But tell that to your wallet. And your bank account. The holidays may seem far away but you know how time works in adult years…basically the season of visiting your relatives will be here tomorrow.

Luckily for you: we’re here with a friendly nudge to get your financial butt in gear and prepare for holiday travels.

What should you consider before booking a flight?

Booking flights for holiday travel should never be a haphazard affair. It requires some thought and research to make sure you’re getting the best rate. Holiday flight prices can be truly scary, so to find the best prices, here’s what you need to consider:

  • What airports are nearby?
  • Are your dates flexible?
  • Will you need extra luggage space for gifts?
  • What is the baggage policy?
  • Do you have credit card points that you can use to cover or offset this trip?

By searching different airports and dates, you may be able to save some serious money. For example, I booked a flight recently and the difference between flying out of Los Angeles compared to Burbank was more than $100. Another pro tip: consider flying out on a red eye or flying on the day of the holiday for better deals. I’ve done both, and while not super fun, I did save money and still arrived in time to celebrate with family.

And, here’s another thing to think about: if you know you’ll need to check your bag(s), research baggage fees ahead of time. This way you’ll know what to expect and can plan for the possible added expense. Lastly, check your credit card to see if you have miles or cash back that can offset this trip. Depending on the card, you may also have other travel perks like access to an airport lounge or waived baggage fees.

How far in advance should you book your flight?

Finding the best flight price can be a little tricky but buying at the last minute during the holiday season is definitely a no-no. So, when exactly should you book your flight for your holiday travels?

According to travel site SkyScanner.com, booking flights for the holidays is cheapest in September. In September, prices are on average, 5 percent cheaper. And, booking 14 weeks before Christmas – the week of September 17 – is the best week to book flights. If booked during this time, you’ll score an average of 7 percent in savings.

To get the best deal, you can also set up a price alert using SkyScanner or Google Flights. CheapAir also has a calendar of some of the best days to fly if you’re traveling for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What time should you book your flight?

According to the Holiday Flight Report created by CheapAir, the best time to buy for Thanksgiving is in August or September. For Christmas – as shown above – the best time is in September.

If you want to go a step further, the best day and time to book your flight may be a Tuesday around 3 p.m., according to FareCompare.com.

How much should you budget for holiday travel?

Holiday flights are always more expensive because the demand is so high. Airlines know people will be traveling during this time and they can charge a premium.

Even buying at the best time can still be fairly expensive. According to The 2018 CheapAir Holiday Flights Report, you can expect to pay around $400-$500 per flight on average.

On top of that, you’ll want to consider your accommodations. Will you have a place to stay or will you need to book a hotel or an AirBnB? You will also want to budget for any activities and entertainment during your time away. And, of course, make sure to budget in the amount you may need to spend on gifts once you arrive at your destination. Indeed, the amount you need to save for your trip will depend on your particular situation.

Regardless, holiday travel is pricey, so start saving up now! Using Chime, you can save easily with our Automatic Savings program. You can also save effortlessly when you spend money with our round up option.

Another tip: set aside a portion of your paycheck for your holiday travels. I have a savings account that I named “Travel Fund” and I set aside money each time I get paid. Having that money in a special account helps minimize stress during the holidays — which let’s face it, on its own is fairly stressful, even without all the extra costs.

Remember: the holidays are all about spending time with family and getting some much-needed down time. You don’t want to add debt to the mix so saving now can help you avoid using credit to pay for something you can’t afford.

Final word

You may think it’s too soon to start thinking about holiday travel plans, but in reality it’s never too early to start saving for the holidays. Being prepared and booking flights early can help you score the best deals and avoid the stress of scrambling at the last minute.

To boot, a little preparation, budgeting, and booking ahead can save you future headaches and allow you to enjoy the holidays — without worrying about money.

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