Holiday travel season is upon us. Whether you’re headed home for Thanksgiving or planning a family trip for December, traveling is especially expensive during the holidays. According to data from the travel booking app Hopper, travelers can expect to pay up to 39% more for a round-trip flight around Christmas compared to last year.
Fortunately, there are still ways to avoid parting with a ton of your hard-earned cash. Select has you covered with tips and tricks on how to save money on your upcoming trips, plus a few tips on how to make your journey a bit smoother.
TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are Trusted Traveler program options offered by the US Department of Homeland Security. They allow travelers to spend much less time waiting in the security lines at the airport, which can really come in handy if you’re worried about missing your flight. TSA PreCheck costs $78 and while Global Entry costs $100, both need to be renewed every five years (note that Global Entry includes a TSA PreCheck membership). But some people don’t know that you can actually have these fees refunded if you have the right credit card on hand.
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card get a credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck ever four years, which can make signup for either service essentially free. And with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you can get a statement credit of up to $100 every four years to help cover Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees.
Use credit card free night certificates when applicable
Some hotel credit cards with annual fees under $100 come with free hotel night certificates, which grant you one free night. This can come in handy to lower the cost of your family holiday getaway or to cover any stops you have on the way home. Credit cards like the World of Hyatt Credit Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card come with free anniversary nights, meaning you’ll get one free night on every anniversary of opening your account. To qualify, you’ll just need to be a cardholder and pay your annual fee.
Since the price of your hotel room would probably be more than the credit card’s annual fee, it would make sense to apply for one of those cards to save cash on your stay. Plus, you’ll can also earn a large heap of rewards from the card’s welcome bonus.
Use points to book hotel rooms and flights
To avoid using your savings or racking up credit card debt when buying airline tickets, book by using credit card points, airline miles or hotel points you’ve accrued throughout the year. If you have enough points, you can use your rewards to book a flight home and/or a hotel room and potentially pay next to nothing.
If you don’t already have a nice stack of credit card points to cover your trip, a hefty welcome bonus could give you a quick, and hefty, boost. The Chase Sapphire Preferred lets you earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. The bonus is worth up to $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, and potentially more if you transfer to one of Chase’s partners like United Airlines or World of Hyatt.
The American Express® Gold Card offers a similar bonus — new cardholders earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first six months of account opening. Terms Apply.
Use an app to monitor changes in flight pricing
When you’re willing to be flexible about the date you plan to fly home on, travel newsletters are a great way to find deals. Scott’s Cheap Flights and Travel A Bunch are popular options to help you save money on flights. It’s also a good idea to sign up for any airline’s sale alerts. The Hopper app is another good option that shows you which dates flight prices will be higher or lower.
Whether it’s a booking site, flight comparison algorithm or lower-cost airlines, it’s always important to check out the ways you can save on flights. No matter which newsletter or app you use, one of the best ways to score lower priced flights is to book ahead of time because the closer to the flight date, the more expensive tickets usually are.
This one is pretty simple. Anyone who’s bought a snack at an airport knows that it’s pricier than what you can make at home or even buy in a regular store. It’s often more affordable to just bring a snack from home. Unfortunately, because liquids aren’t allowed through TSA, you’ll still need to shell out for a bottle of water if you want to stay hydrated on your flight. Alternatively, you can also bring an empty water bottle and fill it up after you go through security.
A foreign transaction fee is an amount charged by a bank or the credit card issuer for any transaction made outside the U.S. If you’re constantly paying for things with a credit card internationally, these transaction fees can add up to a lot. To avoid these costs, be sure to use a credit card without foreign transaction fees, or you could be paying 3% or more in addition to what you’re buying. Cards like the Discover It® Cash Back card and the Citi Premier Card® are great options when traveling abroad.
Also, if the currency is different from your home country’s, always pay in the local currency, or you could accrue fees. Also be aware of this when withdrawing any money from an ATM or if a retailer asks you to choose when swiping your card at the register.
Book your flight with a credit card that gives you built-in travel insurance
Travel insurance can cover expenses ranging from canceled flights to lost bags, and the average cost of travel insurance is 5%-6% of what your trip costs. Without travel insurance, though, refunds can be hard to come by. Fortunately, there are a variety of credit cards with built-in travel insurance to choose from.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is one great option. The travel protections it offers include: auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance and trip delay reimbursement, but note that you must pay for your travel with your card to be eligible for the insurance protections.
You might find yourself having to use Uber or Lyft to get to and from the airport when traveling home or going on a trip. Some credit cards will reward you for it, so it’s best to use them if you’ll be on the go. The American Express Gold Card gives you $10 a month in Uber credits, so your ride home could be discounted or potentially free depending on the cost. Plus, Capital One has recently launched Uber benefits for some of its credit cards, including 10% cash back on Uber rides and Uber Eats orders, plus a complimentary Uber One membership which offers discounts on rides and food delivery, among other benefits.
Traveling during the holidays will always cause a dent in your pocket, but making it home for Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be as expensive as you thought. By booking strategically and using the right credit cards, you can save on hotel stays, flights and transportation.