The holidays are just around the corner and many people are starting to scramble to get their shopping done … and that includes buying plane tickets (these 10 tips should help!) Between the gifts and the travel, whether you’re heading home or making your escape to a great destination this holiday season, things tend to add up. If you need help to keep costs low and stay on budget, you’ve come to the right place. Here are 12 tips for saving money this holiday season.
1. Don’t Pay More Than You Should
If you are traveling out of the country, make sure your credit card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees … unless you don’t mind paying 3% more on everything you purchase. Not sure whether your credit card charges foreign transaction fees? Make a quick call to your provider to find out. Or, you can get the Barclaycard Arrival card since it not only has no foreign transaction fees but it has a chip with pin capability, which is a huge help for international travelers.
2. Pay in Local Currency
It’s a dirty little trick vendors play around the world to make more money from you when you shop. When a sales clerk swipes or inserts your credit card, the machine will ask if you want to pay in U.S. dollars or the local currency. Paying in U.S. dollars would seem to be the more convenient option, but in reality, it’s not. In fact, it’s a total rip-off, since the retailer will charge a higher exchange fee than your bank back home does. So always pay in the local currency of the country you’re in.
3. Avoid ATM Fees
Whether you’re traveling halfway around the world or just to the other side of town, check with your bank to see if they have domestic and international partners. That way, if you can’t find your bank, you might be able to find one of their partners so you can save on the ATM withdrawal fees. Fees are usually $5 per transaction! Here’s Bank of America’s list of partners.
4. Get Bank Alerts
Pretty much every bank and credit card company allows you to get a notification by text or email as soon as any transaction is made. If any fraudulent activity has taken place, you can stop the damage immediately. Be sure to have your bank’s telephone numbers preprogrammed into your phone so you can take action quickly if you lose a credit card.
5. Go Where the Dollar is Strong
If you want to get away to either do some holiday shopping or to escape the cold, then go to places where your dollar will stretch and not shrink. For example, US travelers should consider Canada for this reason. Not only is it geographically close, but $1.00 USD currently equals $1.35 CAD. Other money-saving places are: Brazil (1 US = 3.41 BRL), Japan (1 US = 113 JPY), Mexico (1 USD =20.65 MXN) South Africa (1 USD = 14.11 ZAR), and any country using the Euro (1 USD = 0.94 EUR). All are far less expensive than they have been in the past five years, thanks to the strength of the US dollar.
6. Go Where it’s Cheap
Although some of the places I mentioned above are a lot cheaper than they used to be, it doesn’t mean that your entire trip will be cheap. If you want to go somewhere inexpensive, then I highly recommend southeast Asia. Not only are the airfares the lowest they’ve ever been but you can stay in luxury accommodations, eat fantastic meals and get around cheaply.
7. Be Flexible
Without a doubt, the key to finding cheap holiday flights is to be flexible. It’s not that difficult to figure out that the most expensive time to fly is when everyone else is, too. If you can leave a day or two earlier and/or later, you can save some serious money.
8. Ship Your Bags
Chances are you will be checking bags – especially if you’re traveling with gifts. If that’s the case, stay away from the low-cost carriers because even though their fares seem to be the cheapest, it will end up costing you much more if you’re checking bags. Some airlines charge up to $100 just for one carry-on so do your research in advance. One airline that gives you two checked bags for free is Southwest Airlines. Flying them could save you at least $120 on a roundtrip ticket. If you don’t want to deal with checking bags (it can not only be expensive but a nuisance, since bags get lost and delayed often), consider shipping them via Ground if traveling domestically and if you can wait 5 days or more. This can save you time, money and aggravation.
9. Wrap Your Gifts at Your Destination
The TSA allows wrapped gifts but if there’s something in the gift that needs to be inspected, they may open it and they don’t always do it gently. Rather than spending time wrapping your gifts before your flight, just do it at your destination.
10. Save on Hotels
If you book a hotel in advance, then be sure to recheck the price of your stay about three or four days before you check in. Often, hotels that don’t fill up lower their prices to entice potential guests. As long as you have a refundable reservation, and you booked directly through the hotel, you can reserve another room at the lower price and cancel the original reservation. It’s also a good idea to clear your computer’s cookies or use a different browser so your search history isn’t remembered.
11. Research Scams Ahead of Time
I’ve been scammed abroad before and it could have been avoided if I’d only read a website or two. There was the time my two buddies and I got taken in Budapest by a couple of “college girls” who wanted to go out drinking. If we had read the US State Department’s page on Hungary, it never would have happened; not only was the scam listed, but the bars that were taking part in the scam were as well. In addition to reading the U.S. State Department advice, I also recommend studying similar pages on Australia’s, Canada’s and the United Kingdom’s sites. They all provide helpful information to their citizens that sometimes differs from what we get in the US. The links above direct to each site’s page for France since it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
12. Stay Connected for Cheap
If you’re traveling out of the country, then be sure to find out in advance what the roaming charges are. I use T-Mobile because I travel internationally a lot and they give users free international data and text messaging in over 115 countries-plus all calls in those countries for just 20 cents a minute. It doesn’t work great domestically but overseas, it’s amazing.
If you don’t have a good cellular plan or are going on a cruise, then set your phone to airplane mode and just use WiFi to avoid coming home to an astronomical bill. Some travelers go to McDonald’s or Starbucks because they provide free WiFi.
Bonus Tip: Pay for Your Travel with Barclaycard
Since it’s almost impossible to use your airline frequent flier miles during the holidays unless you are really flexible with dates or are willing to use double or triple the usual amount, then pay for your trip using credit card points. Credit cards like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard allow you to redeem your miles for travel statement credits starting at 10,000 miles for $100 toward all or a portion of your travel purchase of $100 or more made within the past 120 days. On top of that, for a limited time, you will earn over $500 in travel, 2x points per $1 spent, and a 5% rebate on all point redemptions. Learn more about it here