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Tips for the Frugal Holiday Traveler

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tips-for-the-frugal-holiday-travelerFirst of all, I’m not a Grinch. I swear.

The holiday season is definitely the most wonderful time of the year; you won’t find any argument there! But, when it comes to my wallet, my waistline, and my crazy family, it’s also the most stressful time of the year. If you’re like me and you moved away from your hometown after college, one of the most stressful parts of the holiday season is planning your trip home. 

And, it’s not just a question of getting time off work and navigating tricky winter weather. So if you’re dreaming of being at home this holiday season but don’t want your bank account to hate you, here are a few tips for keeping your holiday travel costs down.

Tips to Travel Cheaper During the Holidays

1. Buy Your Plane Tickets on a Tuesday

It goes without saying that you should try to buy your tickets as far in advance as possible. But, did you know the day you buy them can also make a difference? Don’t ask me why, but as someone who has spent the past five years buying cross-country plane tickets at Christmas, I can tell you that they are almost always cheapest on Tuesdays. In fact, the website Farecompare.com actually did a study on this and found that the cheapest fares for U.S. flights can usually be found Tuesdays at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time. 

2. Turn on Private Browsing When Searching for Your Tickets

I know, it seems too mean to be true, but airline websites actually track the amount of times you visit their sites and type in your particular search. The more times you visit the site, the more they will increase the prices, because they get the idea that you’re dedicated to this trip. Solve this (and stick it to the man) by turning on your private browsing when you’re looking, so there are no traces of your previous searches.

3. Ask (Politely) for Small Gifts

The first Christmas after I had moved to Arizona from Ohio was a bit awkward. My very generous Ohio family wasn’t used to thinking about whether the gift they had in mind for me would travel well with me back to Arizona. Now, they usually give me things like gift cards, or even an online print-out of something they bought me and had shipped to my house. Have a conversation with your loved ones about finding the best way to have a great Christmas and still give each other everything you’d like to without forcing you to lug a 100-pound bag home.

4. Do Your Shopping Online

You don’t want to have to check 10 suitcases at the airport because you’re trying to bring home the roller blades you bought your little sister and the golf clubs you bought your dad. Shop online and have the items shipped to your family’s house. That is, if you trust them not to open them before you get there.

5. Search for Nearby Airports

Many airline ticket search websites have an “include nearby airports” option. I highly recommend this, if you can swing it. You’ll find better prices often at smaller airports, or the ones that are a bit farther away from major metropolitan areas. You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth $100 extra to get home early, or whether you can spare a few hours to save a few bucks, but at least it’s your decision and not the airline’s.

The bottom line is, you’re blessed to be able to spend the holidays with the ones you love. It might be a bit of a financial stretch, but if you’re smart about it, you'll get to hug your family back home and you can still have some money left over for that adorable Christmas sweater you’ve been eyeing all season.

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