How to Take the Stress Out of Holiday Travel

Most of us already know if it makes more sense to fly or drive during the holidays. So we’re not going to compare the two. But we are going to help you save money on your Thanksgiving or Christmas travel, whatever you choose.  

Spending less on travel means you can budget more for the fun stuff you want to do upon arrival! Who doesn’t want that? Check out these four simple ways to find a great deal before you go.

1. Take Advantage of Apps

Gone are the days of sorting through individual hotel or airline websites. Now, aggregator apps do most of the work for you. Find your lodging through Hipmunk, which compares prices from, Travelocity, Priceline, AirBnB and others. Figure out your fuel cost with Gasbuddy’s trip calculator. And set up airfare alerts via AirfareWatchdog (iPhone only) or Skyscanner. Isn’t technology amazing?

2. Ship Your Presents for Free

Gifts take up space—lots of space. So instead of paying annoying baggage fees or renting a ginormous vehicle to hold all your stuff, ship it to your destination!

If you have an Amazon Prime account, for example, you can have gifts shipped directly to your family for no additional cost. Plus, they’re already in a box, so they won’t know what’s inside. (You can opt to have them gift-wrapped by Amazon for $4–6.) The more free shipping you can use, the less you have to pack in your suitcase or cram in your car.

3. Use Gift Cards and Points

Cardpool and Raise are great sites for finding discounted gift cards with leftover cash on them. Buy several and use them to pay for your flight, hotel, rental car or a few restaurants en route.

If you have some hotel points or airline miles saved up, you could travel even cheaper. But what if you don’t have enough to cover your total cost? Some chains allow you to purchase with a combination of cash and points. If they don’t, ask a friend or family member before you rule out rewards. Who knows? Maybe they have tons of points they can’t use before they expire. Southwest Airlines even allows customers to reserve a reward flight on behalf of someone else at no extra charge! You never know until you ask—nicely, of course.

4. Be Flexible

It’s a well-known workaround to fly or drive on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day. This not only reduces stress, but it also means cheaper flights and fewer gas-depleting traffic jams!  If you’d rather not spend your holiday traveling, check sites like to search a wide range of dates to find the lowest fares. And if you know the specific hotel chain you want to stay at, go the company’s website and do a “my dates are flexible” search. You may decide to travel after the holidays to save even more on getting there.

The Last Word

Protect your valuable time and money this holiday season by searching for the best deals before you go. Just remember to make a budget for your fun! That means planning for all your travel—gas money, hotel stays, restaurants and flights—before the holidays arrive. When you do, you’ll enjoy a smoother departure and a much-needed vacation!

Ready to create your holiday budget? Head over to to create a free budget in less than 10 minutes!