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How to save money on winter travel

No matter where you’re going this holiday season, we’ve got expert advice on ways to save

Young Asian little girl playing in a forest full of snow in winter.

The holidays are almost here—which means it’s time to think about booking your annual trip to visit family (or to get away from family). It may even be time to think about how you and your family want to spend spring break. Most importantly, it’s time to think about how to get your family where you want to be without spending more money than you can afford.

We have already written about how to make the holidays less difficult. Now, we’re going to share some expert-approved tips on how to save money on winter travel—to cut the cost of a flight, find somewhere affordable to stay, and more.

Whether you’re visiting relatives or taking a much-needed vacation, here’s how to get the most out of your trip—without burdening your family vacation with stress, jet lag, or credit card debt.

In this article:

Be flexible with your dates

Just because holidays fall on certain calendar dates doesn’t mean you have to celebrate them exactly on those days.

By postponing your holiday trip until after the holidays are over – or booking flights on less popular travel days like Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve – you can save money, save time and reduce some of the stress associated with crowded airports and last-minute delays. (And if you have kids with long winter breaks, you can also save money by not booking them into daycare or camp.)

“A lot of people go on vacation in the winter,” explains Tykesha Burton, a travel journalist who has visited all seven continents and shares family trips on MommaWanderlust. “I’ve saved tons of money by booking my family’s flights and accommodations a week after the holiday rush.”

If you’re taking a holiday this winter, you can also take advantage of off-peak times – but remember that the best deals often go to the people who make the fastest bookings. For example, if you find a low-cost flight at midnight on Christmas Eve, take it while you have the chance. Otherwise, someone else will.

“Book your winter vacation sooner rather than later,” advises Lawrence Delva-Gonzalez, a financial literacy educator who runs The Neighborhood Finance Guy. This applies not only to your holiday trip, but also to any trip you might be planning to take in January or February. You might even want to spend some time pricing travel options for Spring Break — and book the best opportunities before they disappear. “Look for Black Friday deals and book before Christmas.”

Be flexible with your location

Some of us already know where we’re going this holiday season—to visit the grandparents, for example, or to take the kids on their annual trip to Disneyland or a ski resort. Other people may have the option of choosing between different locations, which may give you the opportunity to save money.

Start by asking yourself what you might need to buy for your trip – and whether you can avoid these purchases by choosing a different destination. Delva-Gonzalez advises families to think carefully before traveling from a warm climate to a colder one.

“Dreams of a blanket of snow come with an expensive price tag for winter gear,” he explains. Not only do you have to outfit everyone in your household with warm winter clothing, but you may also have to pay extra to pack it. “There’s no way you’re going to fit three fleeces, an overcoat, a sweater, gloves and a scarf in your overstuffed carry-on. Baggage fees can seriously add up for a family.”

If you’re traveling from a colder area to a warmer one, you and your family may be able to get by with clothes you already own — and you could end up checking in fewer bags. Delva-Gonzalez suggests looking for cheap vacation destinations that offer plenty of sun. That way, you can pack light and spend a lot of time outdoors, taking advantage of parks and other free public resources.

If you’re traveling outside of your current time zone, use an app like Timeshifter to avoid the discomfort of jet lag and spend more time enjoying your trip. Haven Life Plus, a bonus rider available to eligible Haven Term policyholders, offers an unlimited Timeshifter jet lag plan at no charge – which is another way to save money when you travel.

Book holiday homes – and rent your equipment too

Some of us will spend the holidays in our childhood rooms. Others of us — especially those of us going on vacation this holiday season — will need to find our family an affordable and comfortable place to sleep.

“My number one cost-saving travel tip, regardless of season, is to stay in a vacation rental instead of a hotel,” says Burton. “Vacation rentals are usually equipped with full kitchens, so you and your family can cook instead of eating out, which is a significant savings” compared to getting a hotel room.

The other advantage of vacation rentals is that they often offer a lot of space. Many vacation rentals have enough beds – and bedrooms – for two or more families to sleep comfortably. “Vacation rentals are a great way to cut costs if you split the bill when traveling with a large group,” explains Burton. Whether you’re packing a vacation home with siblings and cousins ​​or using your vacation to connect with old friends, you have the option to share both the space and the cost.

When it comes to rentals, both Burton and Delva-Gonzalez emphasized the importance of renting all the gear you might need on your travels. “Rent diving, skiing or camping equipment,” Delva-Gonzalez told us. “It’s cheaper than lugging it around.”

Book trips that earn rewards

When people book vacations, they often pull out their credit cards — but they don’t always check to see if their credit card offers any money-saving travel rewards.

There are many ways to use credit cards to save money on travel. For example, many airline credit cards offer at least one free checked bag per flight – as well as discounts on in-flight purchases. Other credit cards allow you to redeem your points or miles for low-cost deals on flights, hotels or all-inclusive trips. Your card may offer additional travel benefits such as travel insurance, rental car insurance (handy for a car trip), airport lounge access or the ability to earn free upgrades.

“The American Express Platinum Card has some hotel benefits that usually go unnoticed,” Delva-Gonzalez explains — but you don’t have to go platinum to take advantage of credit card rewards. If you open a new credit card right before you book your vacation, for example, you can put your credit card sign-up bonus — which can be worth anywhere from $200 to $1,200, depending on the card — toward the cost of flights and hotels .

Keep in mind that any purchases you make on credit will need to be paid off—and unless you budget for your trip so you can pay off your credit card balance in full, you could end your vacation with more credit card debt than you bargained for. for. It’s not a Christmas present anyone would ask for.

However, treating yourself to some relaxation at an affordable price is a great way to end this time of year on the right note.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency supported and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe that navigating life insurance decisions, your personal finances and overall well-being can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency supported and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe that navigating life insurance decisions, your personal finances and overall well-being can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less difficult if they fit your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to provide tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide and should not be used for tax, legal or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to obtain advice from their own tax or legal advisor.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a term life insurance policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in some states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in some states, including NC) issued by CM Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Police and driver form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by AM Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is valid from 1 April 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other credit rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The driver is not available in all states and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual is responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made available under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party providers (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, visit: https://havenlife.com/plus

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