5 tips to save on holiday travel in 2022

Airport Wi-Fi
(Image credit: JESHOOTS.com/Unsplash)

Despite increased prices due to inflation impacting gas prices, airfare and hotel accommodations, 74% of consumers still plan on traveling this holiday season, according to research by PwC.

Even though domestic air-fare has gone up 35% from last year and hotels have shown an 11% increase in price, many are still prioritizing travel. However, to keep up with rising costs, consumers are having to buy fewer gifts this year, despite spending the same amount or more than in previous years. 

To make the most of your cash this holiday season, it’s crucial to save as much money on travel as possible. The following tips can help you spend less this holiday season (opens in new tab) when traveling. 

Have a flexible travel schedule  

Airline prices vary depending on the day; flights booked in the middle of the week will be cheaper than those on weekends. Therefore, being flexible on what days you'll travel will let you take advantage of the cheapest deals. You’ll be able to compare prices between different airlines on varying dates.

Booking flights for Thanksgiving travel on Nov 21-23 will offer some of the cheapest prices this year, according to GoBankingRates (opens in new tab), as will flying on Thanksgiving itself. Similarly for the Christmas holidays, booking early helps, and the cheapest days to fly will be on Dec. 12 and Dec 13. Just make sure you book your flight as early as you can, as prices tend to be less expensive the earlier you book.

Use a price comparison travel site

An easy way to keep up with the best flight deals, without having to spend hours browsing flights every day, is to download a flight tracking app. This takes the leg work out of finding the best deals and sends an email when prices drop.

For example, Google Flights (opens in new tab) will compare prices across airlines and dates, and when flight prices drop, you’ll receive an alert. Skyscanner (opens in new tab) is a similar site that tracks the best flight deals for you. 

These services go beyond just airfare as well. Certain sites, like Trivago (opens in new tab) will allow you to compare prices across hotels in order to find the best deals. 

Avoid travel fees

By avoiding travel fees, you’ll be able to save more cash on upcoming trips. Many credit cards will allow you to do this, as will having elite status with an airline or hotel.

For those traveling abroad this holiday season, making purchases with a card that has no foreign transaction fees will help you avoid these expenses and save more money. Additionally, not checking baggage is a way to avoid expensive fees. Especially if you’re traveling with a large family, paying for baggage could potentially cost you hundreds of dollars. 

Those with airline elite status can typically avoid baggage fees, along with other fees like cancellation fees. Even if you don’t fly often, so therefore don’t have elite status with an airline, certain credit cards offer similar benefits, like the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card (opens in new tab)

Use the right credit card

Many travel cards have benefits that go beyond just waived baggage fees, offering a great deal of value. Most travel cards earn significant cash back on travel purchases, like airfare, transportation and lodging.

For example, the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card (opens in new tab) earns 5x miles on hotels and rental cars, while still earning 1.25x miles on everyday purchases. This makes it a great way to rack up extra miles to save cash this holiday season. Earning miles on everyday purchases helps offset the cost of travel prices, leaving more money in your pocket. 

Many travel cards also offer generous welcome bonuses for cardholders, allowing them to earn a lot of miles in a short amount of time. They also offer exclusive rates on travel expenses, free upgrades, auto rental insurance and purchase protection. Some cards, like the Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card (opens in new tab), even offer annual companion certificates on domestic flights.

Drive, don't fly

Due to the high cost of airfare this year, driving might be a better option if you’re trying to save money. While gas prices are still higher than they were a year ago, they’ve continually been dropping since October 11 and are still significantly lower than summer prices. 

If this is the case, just make sure you’re saving on gas (opens in new tab) as best as you can; small things like properly inflated tires and using cruise control can allow you to maximize gas usage.

Traveling by train can also be less expensive than flying, so it’s a good option to consider if you’re looking for ways to cut costs. Opting to travel by train can save you potentially hundreds of dollars. 

Erin Bendig
Staff writer, personal finance

Erin pairs personal experience with research and is passionate about sharing personal finance advice with others. Previously, she was a freelancer focusing on the credit card side of finance, but has branched out since then to cover other aspects of personal finance. Erin is well-versed in traditional media with reporting, interviewing and research, as well as using graphic design and video and audio storytelling to share with her readers.