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Save Your Money and Sanity This Holiday Season

by Elyse Glickman

Nov 6, 2017

© Famveldman | Dreamstime


Whether you’re driving over the hills and through the freeways to see relatives or you’re leaving on a jet plane, chances are you are more likely to have post New Year’s Day bills on your mind than sugarplums. However, even if a family reunion comes together last minute, there are strategies you can adopt to save; it will end up being the gift that keeps on giving for your entire family.


Andrew Schrage of MoneyCrashers.com says getting the biggest bang for your holiday travel dollar is just a matter of some advance planning and cost analysis for different travel options. The decision to drive or fly for a given family, for example, will not only depend on the number of members and their specific travel needs, but also on market factors, such as gas prices (higher than last year, and will increase during the holiday peak travel periods) are also key, as is the decision of whether or not to ship packages or bring them along.

Wrapping gifts to ship

Photo: Dragonimages | Dreamstime

The USPS and UPS websites provide enough information for one to make an informed cost comparison with taking extra baggage on a flight. Alternatively, families can agree ahead of time about other options, such as exchanging gift cards from shops tuned to different recipients’ tastes and interests, or skipping gift exchanges and instead volunteering as a group for a local soup kitchen, shelter or charity at the destination. The same common sense packing rules should apply in keeping weight of personal items in your luggage and number of bags under control. Choose low-maintenance clothing in non-wrinkle fabrics, and pieces that can be mixed or matched and dressed up or down.


While the web provides numerous sites offering hotel and restaurant cost comparisons and “deals,” Schrage recommends the mobile app Hotel Tonight to suss out last-minute deals on hotels, though timing and creativity can also be factored in for controlling costs.


“You may want to consider staging your family gathering between Christmas and New Years to save on food, lodging and so on, especially as you know your school age kids will probably be off,” Schrage says. “Doing your family gathering between holidays, or the ‘dead week’ after New Years’ Day can save you a ton of money on lodging. To cut down on restaurant costs, and stir up a bit of nostalgia in the process, you can count on coupons and the potluck dinner strategy to save on food.”

Family At Airport Passing Through Security Check

Photo: Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime


If you choose to fly, comparing flight options at alternate local airports at the origin and destination can also yield major savings. It is also important to note smaller airports with fewer flights often have fewer delays than the city’s major airport. As security lines are also a source of drama at larger airports, especially when small children are involved, smaller airports often mean a more relaxed check-in experience. No matter what airport you fly out of; however, you should always try to “leave for the airport early” to anticipate any kind of delay or unforeseen travel inconvenience.


In terms of alternative lodging, what could be cozier than an actual home? With no monetary exchange between swappers, HomeExchange and GuestToGuest offer their users 350,000 homes to choose from in 187 countries. These sites can save travelers an average of 58 percent per year on typical vacation costs, as well as provide added benefits such as extra bedrooms, an equipped kitchen, toys, bikes and even cars in some arrangements.


And some final food for thought, whether you decide to drive or fly. To steer clear of expensive, empty-calorie food at airports and rest stops, consider bringing individual serving-sized salad and soup kits, such as Ready Pac’s Fresh Prep’d soup and salad kits. These handy items include 11–18 grams of protein and at least a half-cup of crisp, fresh vegetables. Trader Joe’s sandwiches and salads to go are another excellent option, retailing half the price of their in-flight counterparts.


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