The holidays are a very popular time for individuals, couples and families to travel. But with this popularity come crowds, higher prices and often complications. This is a compilation of advice from travel bloggers around the world. We hope to save you some money, help your travels go more smoothly, and even increase your enjoyment. If even one of these tips improves your holiday travels, then we've succeeeded. Here's hoping you and your family have a wonderful holiday season!
Table of Contents
Holiday Travel Is An Ideal Time For Travel Insurance
Shared by Empty Nesters Hit The Road
The holidays can be a magical time to travel--enjoying special foods, spending time with family, and experiencing new or favorite places. Unfortunately, problems can also arise due to weather, packed airplanes and other mishaps. While we can't remove all potential challenges from travel, we can protect our financial investment.
If ever there is a time of year when purchasing a travel insurance policy makes sense its the holidays. A carefully selected policy can reimburse travelers for trip interruption and cancellation, missed connections, medical emergencies, and even lost luggage. There are some pros and cons to consider before making a travel insurance purchase, but for most of my travel, I purchase one. If you have a travel credit card that includes this benefit, that's even better!
The sites I recommend for comparing travel insurance options are InsureMyTrip.com and SquareMouth.com. Both websites offer a large variety of policies and great tools to compare the options. The travel insurance company that Jason and I are currently using is World Nomads.
Traveling soon? Get your personal quote from World Nomads now!
Live Like a Local & Save Money by Housesitting
Shared by Budget Travel Talk
Housesitting is the perfect form of Holiday Travel. Basically a housesitter looks after a home in return for free lodging. Homeowners tend to choose housesitters like themselves. Travellers, Retirees, Families, Singles, Artists - they all feel comfortable with similar folk living in their home. This translates to housesits for everyone.
We are Australians yet our first housesit was in the mountains of Andalusia, Spain. The owners chose us because we were the same age and they thought we would suit the village. While there we visited the fantastic Unesco listed Alhambra Palace/Fortress in Granada, ate tapas at the local bar, hiked, attended festivals and fell in love (with Lulu the wonder dog). In short we had a great holiday.
Back in Queensland Australia, housesits have taken us to stunning seaside locations on the Sunshine Coast, Magnetic Island and Port Douglas and to pets including more dogs, fish, cats and horses.
Housesits are arranged through on-line membership sites like Trusted Housesitters. After joining, prepare your profile – it’s your chance to shine – then start searching. It is a competitive process and takes time to organise but the rewards are unlimited.
There are country or city housesits, beachside or desert; long or short and some even include the use of the family car. Apart from a kaleidoscope of destinations and huge cost saving benefits, I love housesitting for the opportunity to sample a different life.
Housesitting is just one cost saving idea for a European trip, here are even more budget saving tips.
Manage Your Travel Finances With a Spreadsheet
Shared by TraveLynn Family
As a family we travel a lot. If we’re not on a long-term adventure (such as our recent travels across sub-Saharan Africa), we’re fitting in as many trips as possible into weekends and holidays from our home in the UK. To ensure our finances don’t run away with us, we use a spreadsheet to record every single payment; including bus tickets, snacks and activities. This means that every penny is accounted for.
This is particularly beneficial for long-term travel as we’ve been able to calculate how much longer we can travel with the funds available. It’s amazing to see in black and white how choosing a cheaper accommodation for a week allows for an extra week of travel sometimes! Some days are going to be more expensive than others. Indeed, on a travel day, money will go towards fuel, or bus/train tickets and often result in a more expensive day, whereas a day staying in a hut on the beach eating local food will be a cheap day. It’s all about keeping your average daily spend to budget.
Similarly, some countries are more expensive than others and you have to budget accordingly. We found our money went much further in India than it did in Tanzania, where we had to make tough decisions; such as NOT visiting the Serengeti as it would blow our budget and cut short our trip.
The spreadsheet helps us embrace slower travel and make informative decisions about where we spend our hard-earned travel money.
AirBnB–A Budget Savvy Option
Shared by The Globetrotter Guys
Last week we spoke to someone who had never used an Airbnb in their life and we were left quite astounded! Whether looking for accommodation during holiday travel, or any other time of the year, we think this is an option everyone should consider.
We have travelled extensively and can’t even begin to imagine how much money we will have saved through Airbnbs. Take a look at our top 3 reasons why you should look into Airbnbs:
- Cost – we have most recently travelled through Central America, but with everything being relative the same logic should apply in most places around the world. The typical price of a (good) hostel dorm on average across Central America was $10-15 per person per night. Of course there are cheaper options but to have a decent level of comfort your will want to look at this price bracket. Take an Airbnb in Guatemala for example and for $20 for two people you can have an entire apartment with a terrace overlooking a lake.
- Kitchen facilities – in both cases, having a kitchen saves a lot of money on eating out.....however, we have found that sharing kitchen facilities with others can be a disaster, no matter how good the hostel, some people just aren’t clean! This has meant that when we have stayed at a hostel we still end up eating out. Take your Airbnb and private kitchen and you can bulk cook in peace for the week and save a fortune!
- Live like a local – one of the best things about being in an Airbnb is connecting with a local person who can give you money saving tips that other backpackers or tourists just do not know about! The advice could be on free activities such an unknown walking routes, the cheaper local supermarkets and so on.
Please don’t get us wrong. Hostels have their benefits, the biggest being the social aspect! But for us, being a couple and wanting to travel on a budget meant that Airbnbs have won us over so far!
To read more check out The Globetrotter Guys.
How To Make The Most of European Christmas Markets
Shared by Look And Walk
Christmas Markets are street markets that pop-up in most European cities during the weeks leading up to Christmas. The stalls sell Christmas ornaments, scented candles, toys, spices, candy, food, mulled wine, cider, and a variety of other merchandise. On the weekends, there are concerts going on and there’s a lot of Caroling.
While it may be tempting to visit them right on Christmas day or around that day, you should do something different. Why? Most of them are closed on Christmas Day (and also on New Year’s Day) while the ones open are super crowded.
Most Markets open as early as St. Nicholas (Dec 6th) and some even earlier. By mid-December, flight prices and accommodation tend to go up so if you could squeeze a visit between Dec 10 and Dec 15, you are going to have an amazing time and not spend a fortune.
Do remember that Christmas falls during winter in Europe; and although places like Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Greece have milder weather, the most popular markets take place in Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic and all of these countries have brutal winters. Wear layers, don’t leave your mittens at home…and warm up with a hot punch or mulled wine!
To learn more about Christmas Markets, visit Look and Walk.
Save Money By Volunteering
Shared by Two Scots Abroad
If you are travelling long-term and feel you might be in need of some company over the holiday break you could consider taking part in a volunteer programme like Workaway. Programmes can last for weeks or months, and come in different variations from volunteering on family farms, in busy accommodation, and even surf camps!
The benefits of these types of programmes are that you can save your budget because you are swapping a skill (cleaning, dog walking, admin, etc) for a bed and often food. You also get the chance to learn about other cultures and for Christmas time that could mean different ways of celebrating! Obviously, you also get the company over the Christmas period without having to shell out on the plastic crap Christmas gifts! Go you saving the planet, being a helping hand and trying something new!
Save With Self Guided Tours
Shared by Lived In 10 Countries
Wherever you go for the festive season, you can always save big by taking a self guided tour and driving yourself. Plus, with a little bit of planning, it can be really simple. From taking in the Christmas markets, a staycation in the country or a tropical break that gets you through the cold months, you don't need to shell out for a tour.
In Iceland, skip the Northern Lights tour and just get geared up in layers and head out with your group for a walk around Reykjavik at night. The coast is a great place to catch the lights and it really isn't far, plus you'll have much more flexibility.
If you've taken to the Mediterranean, such as Spain, you can down 12 grapes at midnight after driving yourself around Madrid, Toledo and Segovia, all easily accessible with a rented car.
Having booked a staycation with family, why not squeeze in some sightseeing at the same time while you have days off work. It's definitely the moneysaving way and you'll get a chance to see the area through the eyes of knowledgeable locals. Driving yourself and using a guide book or blog post to guide you is the perfect solution.
Tips for Holiday Travel With Children
Shared by Small Footprints, Big Adventures
Taking a holiday with young children is a much different travel style than holidaying with adults! It can be tempting to schedule in a lot of activities, but we have found that being flexible and patient is the best way to approach it. Time to rest and relax after big days exploring and travelling to new destinations are vital for kids and parents, otherwise everyone gets exhausted pretty fast. And conversely, too much relaxation will likely be pretty boring to young kids after they have rested enough, so don’t expect an overly peaceful holiday either!
When we travelled through South East Asia in 2017, we found that our children wanted familiar foods much more often than we did. Therefore, we sought Western food as well as Asian dishes, which usually wasn’t too hard to find. Pushing them to keep trying new things when they didn’t want to just led to unhappiness, but allowing familiarity ensured the kids felt heard and respected. They did try many things, and I think giving them the option really helped us all enjoy the time away more.
Similarly, making sure everyone gets to choose activities sometimes is a great way to keep everyone happy. If the parents choose everything kids can feel like they are just along for the ride, not an active participant in the family adventure. Having few expectations and the flexibility to account for each person’s needs, helps our trips go much more smoothly and enjoyably for all of us!
Learn more about travelling with children from Small Footprints, Big Adventures.
Saving With Secret Santa
Shared by Epic Road Rides
My husband is one of five children, so when we get together with his family over the holiday period the thought of buying presents for them and all their children too can be a bit daunting (not to mention expensive).
The solution we’ve found is to run a Secret Santa gift exchange.
There are some really easy to use websites out there that make it super simple and means no one person has to be Santa (and therefore know what everyone else got). So one person (the administrator) creates a group on the website and adds everyone that wants to take part. The administrator hits go and the website sends an email to each person saying who they need to buy for. Some websites also have extra functionality, like the ability to specify that certain matches are avoided, add gift lists or send messages anonymously between participants!
You can then agree a budget for presents with your family and the job is done. Only one present to buy and with a bigger budget than if you were buying for everyone, hopefully everyone gets something they really want!
To learn more visit Epic Road Rides.
Consider International Holiday Travel
Shared by Mindset Yes Family
Thanksgiving is a great time to travel internationally. While this holiday season is associated with overpriced airfare, crowded airports and loads of traffic in America, it is a slow travel time in most international destinations.
November offers great opportunities to find discounted rates for international airfare and accommodations, though it may require a bit of flexibility.
Consider flying out the Friday before Thanksgiving and returning the Monday after the holiday weekend. And, if you are open to various destinations, there may be even more opportunity to save money.
In addition, tourists are scarce, the weather is ideal, and depending upon your timing, you may be able to experience some holiday cheer.
Many Christmas markets open right around Thanksgiving in Europe and other parts of the world, as they do in the United States. We were in Spain a few years ago during Thanksgiving and loved watching the holiday decorations go up, visiting the holiday markets, and doing some Christmas shopping.
While there, we learned that European retailers have adopted the American shopping frenzy notoriously known as “Black Friday” and are quite successful at getting shoppers to open their pocket books with reduced holiday pricing. We had fun getting some discounted Christmas gifts to bring home as well.
To learn more check-out Mindset Yes Family.
Travel Only With a Carry-on To Avoid Delays
Shared by Adventure Dragon
During the holidays, I always fly carry-on only. It's a great way to avoid the extra long airport lines that can quickly become a nightmare during the November and December months. Waiting to check baggage is a long and cumbersome experience during any time of the year, but during the holidays, the lines can easily add an extra hour or two onto your wait before even making it through security.
If all you bring is a carry-on bag, you can check into your flight online at home and then head straight to the security line upon reaching the airport. It saves so much time, and stuffing everything you need for a week into a single bag is easier than you may initially think.
The trick lies in packing clothing items that can be cross-coordinated to create multiple outfits. I typically only bring one pair of jeans, one dress, a couple pairs of shorts, and then a handful of shirts that can be paired with any of my bottoms. Most toiletries can also be left at home and then purchased at your arrival destination from a nearby grocery or dollar store.
Flying carry-on only also allows you to immediately exit the airport as soon as your plane lands. You'll thank yourself for the convenience as you stroll pass the endless line of other passengers waiting for their luggage to appear at baggage claim.
To learn more visit Adventure Dragon.
Speed Up Holiday Travel With TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry
Shared by the Travel Sisters
For US travelers one of my tips to make holiday travel easier is to sign up for a TSA Precheck or Global Entry membership which lasts 5 years. Getting TSA Precheck on your boarding pass makes going through airport security faster and easier because you do not have to take off your shoes, belt, light jacket, laptop and bag with liquids.
There is often a separate TSA Precheck lane, which is usually shorter and faster than regular lines so having TSA Precheck will save you time while traveling. Children ages 12 and younger can also use the TSA Precheck lane when traveling with a parent or guardian who has TSA Precheck on their boarding pass.
For those that travel internationally, it might make sense to apply for Global Entry which includes TSA Precheck plus expedited passport control when entering the United States. While there is an application fee for both programs, certain credit cards reimburse cardholders for the fee, so you might be able to sign up for free. Even if you have to pay the application fee, I think having Global Entry is worth it and makes travel easier and more pleasant.
Save Money By Travel Hacking
Shared by the Savvy Globetrotter
One way to save money on holiday travel is by collecting and using miles and points. If you collect miles and points you can use them to book flights and hotel stays for pretty much free. There are many ways to earn miles and points without flying (also referred to travel hacking).
The easiest and fastest way to earn a large amount of miles and points is by signing up for credit cards in order to earn large sign up bonuses after meeting certain minimum spending requirements. While some travel hackers sign up for many credit cards you don’t have to apply for a lot of credit cards, sometimes the sign up bonus from one or two cards is enough for a free trip.
Some travel credit cards have an annual fee but sometimes the banks waive the annual fee for the first year or the annual fee is less than the value of the sign up bonus. You can cancel the card before the second year and keep the bonus if the fee is not worth the benefits of the card.
In addition to earning miles and points for signing up for credit cards, you can also earn miles and points by online shopping, signing up for dining programs, taking surveys and other various other methods. For more information on getting started with travel hacking see my Travel Hacking Basics guide.