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Who Is Going?
Make a list of every person traveling. Then make a list of the dates you will be leaving and returning. See if you can give yourself a bit of leeway, because being flexible can lead to big savings. Also check off all airports that are good options for your location. One might be further away from your house, but have cheaper flights and perhaps even easy public transportation so you don’t have to spend a fortune getting to the airport or parking at the airport while you are away.
There are a range of sites that offer good airfares, and some also have affordable, all-inclusive package deals with flight, hotel (for some or all of your stay), car rental, and entrance fees to popular attractions.
Some people swear by Priceline to get big discounts, while others use Expedia or Travelocity to book their packages. Some travel experts recommend that you purchase flights at 1 AM on a Wednesday to catch any remaining discounted fares from Monday and Tuesday.
Keeping Down Food Costs
Bring snacks with you to avoid the expense of costly airport food. Remember not to carry large bottles of water or full stainless steel water bottles in your carry-on luggage, as they can be confiscated by security. Wait until you get past security to fill up.
In terms of accommodation, your relatives might have room to put you up, or you would need a hotel or motel (preferably with a kitchenette) so you could be more independent – especially if you have younger children. Another good option might be an Airbnb property near your family, if possible. This could give you some space and privacy even as you are spending time away from home. Be sure to read the sleeping specifications and the fine print. Don’t take your lively toddlers to a property full of expensive antiques, for example.
Will You Need a Rental Car?
Depending on where you are staying and where your family live, you may or may not need a car rental to get back and forth. In terms of airport transfers, some hotels and motels have a free courtesy bus. Taxis, Uber or Lyft might be an option, but expect them to be very busy at the holidays, and the costs can all start to add up.
Why Travel Insurance Can Be a Good Idea
Finally, travel insurance is a good idea in case your plans change at the last minute for any reason, such as illness or injury. In most cases, you will not lose the price of the trip; you would just have a rebooking fee to pay and would have to rebook within a year. Make sure you read the fine print on your airline seats, though, and on the policy.
Driving to Your Destination
If you are driving to you relatives’ houses for the holiday, you will need to budget for gas and possibly accommodation. If you live in the North, be sure to also winterize the car, put snow chains on and antifreeze in, and so on. Pack everything you would need in the event that you got stranded in bad weather — it does happen. Essentials include water, food and blankets.
Paying for It All
In the case of travel, it is best to pay for everything on a credit card because you will often get additional insurance and other forms of consumer protection. If you use a credit card that gives you cash back, air miles, or money back through the Upromise program for college savings, these can help make your trip more affordable.
Let’s look next at the cost of food and drink.
2. Cutting Food and Drink Expenses for the Holidays
Food and drink can be one of the largest line items on your budget, especially if you are traveling or tend to have a very lively social schedule.
Food on the Road
If you are traveling, each family member will need three meals a day plus snacks and water/beverages. Then there are the holiday meal items you are likely to contribute to as a guest in someone’s home.
Use stainless water bottles for the family. If you are a member of a warehouse club such as Costco, go shopping as soon as you arrive at your destination to get the basics your family needs most and stock the kitchen for your stay.
Luxury Items for the Holidays
The warehouses often have gift baskets and luxury food items especially for the holidays. These can make a great gift and/or contribution to the holiday meal. Some stores will also stock alcohol, so you can buy beer and wine for a fraction of what you would pay in the supermarket or a liquor store.
If you are driving to your destination, load up the car with your family favorites.
If you are staying at home, chances are you will be hosting a festive meal yourself. Finalize the guest list as far as possible beforehand, but add a few place settings just in case. Include a vegan option as well so you can cater to all tastes.
Bring Food Contributions When Dining Out
If you are invited out, it’s customary to bring a contribution to the meal, such as a covered dish or a bottle of wine. Some meals will be potluck; the host may also request that you sign up online for what dish you will bring so they don’t end up with a dozen desserts and no side dishes.
Bring a disposable pan they can heat and eat in. It’s quick and easy, and you don’t have to worry about getting back your favorite casserole dish.
Baking is an essential part of most holidays, with cakes, cookies and muffins galore. If you have to bake a lot for family, friends, parties with the kids at school, potlucks and so on, buy in bulk from warehouse clubs or online.
Candymaking can also be a lot of fun at the holidays. There’s nothing more delicious than homemade fudge. The treats from your kitchen can often make tasty and affordable gifts, if you take the trouble to wrap them nicely. Just make sure your fruitcake is light and moist, not a brick.Other Details
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