Holiday travel tends to be stressful, but this year, it may be even more financially so, thanks to inflation. According to a survey by Bankrate, only 43 percent of U.S. residents plan to travel for leisure purposes involving an overnight stay this holiday season. And of those who are traveling, 79 percent are modifying their travel plans due to inflation and rising prices.
The economy is affecting all travelers, regardless of demographic. Although everyone is on the hunt for cheap travel, millennial holiday travelers (40 percent) and Gen Xers (31 percent) seem the most concerned about the strain on their budgets.
Whether you’re a millennial trying to fly home for Christmas or a boomer hoping to take a Caribbean cruise, it is possible to travel affordably around the holidays, despite rising costs and inflation. From booking early and packing light to using your stash of points, here are six ways to save money on holiday travel this season.
1. Book early
While booking travel last minute may afford you solid deals come late January or early February, booking early is key to saving money on holiday flights and hotel stays.
Travel demand will only continue to rise as the holidays loom closer. Unfortunately, most travelers don’t have as much flexibility around these dates as they would on other, off-peak travel times. After all, if you want to arrive at grandma’s for turkey on Thanksgiving or to ring in the New Year, you’re held to a pretty specific timeline.
Bankrate senior industry analyst Ted Rossman says the best solution is to book early. “Airline fares are up 28 percent over the past year. I suggest making airplane and hotel reservations earlier than in previous years since demand will probably outpace supply. This summer, air travel was particularly messy as consumers unleashed pent-up demand and the industry couldn’t keep pace,” he said.
The chart below shows when travelers who require reservations are booking holiday travel. If you’ve waited until November, you’re already behind 53 percent of these travelers.
Note that 15 percent of these travelers weren’t sure when they would book their holiday travel. If this is you, we suggest making those reservations as soon as possible to travel cheaply.
2. Be flexible with your travel dates