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5 Biggest Holiday Travel Budgeting Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

Aly Walansky  |  October 5, 2022

Are you planning to travel for the upcoming holiday season? Avoid these mistakes when planning and budgeting for your travel expenses.

If you were hoping to spend less this year on holiday travel, brace yourself: according to’s 2022 Holiday Flight report, this year we can expect airfare for Thanksgiving travel to trend a harrowing 25% more than 2021 prices, and Christmas and New Year’s flight rates will be up by around 28%. So, as we decide on destinations, itineraries and plans, we’ve also got to think about budget and the final cost for all legs of our journey. For example, maybe it’s cheaper at first glance to drive rather than fly. But with a car, you’ve got to add in tolls, gas, insurance, and perhaps an overnight stay at a hotel. Or if a flight is cheaper, don’t forget to add in your transportation to and from the airport, plus fees for checked bags if you have them. No matter how or when you’re traveling, there’s a lot to keep in mind to make sure nothing wrecks your budget before you ring in the New Year. Here’s a look at some common mistakes people make when budgeting for the holiday travel season, and what you should do instead.

You didn’t book early enough

So, does that 25%-28% average increase mean that’s what you’re going to pay? No. Not if you book now. Yes, it may seem weird to snag a Christmas flight before you’ve even donned your killer Chucky costume for Halloween, but snagging them before November is absolutely the best way to save, possibly hundreds.

Additionally, it’s important to know which days are the cheapest to travel.  That means not traveling home the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, rather staying till Monday or Tuesday to score lower rates. Likewise, don’t fly home the day after Christmas or the day after New Years, instead book for a day or two later on either end. For example, recommends booking return flights for Monday, November 28th which will save travelers an average of $145 per airline ticket. As for Christmas and New Years travel, recommends avoiding travel on December 26 and January 1, instead booking travel for Tuesday December 27 and Monday January 2.

You didn’t do your research

You may remember that back in school the best way to get ahead on the course load was to do your homework and do it early. The same remains true here. There are so many hidden costs these days when you travel. This may include booking fees, luggage fees, even resort fees.

Social media and browsing blogs and online articles is a good way to start as well. “Once you have chosen your destination, check out travel blogs on your location,” says De Anne Combs, fashion and travel expert and the co-founder and development director of La  Peony.

This research may include finding out which neighboring airport is cheaper to fly into or if there is a local car rental agency that can save you big time over national chains.  You can often learn a lot about a destination, too.  For example: “A local tour operator can save you big on excursions over booking them through your hotel. Finding these things out ahead of time can protect your budget,” says Combs.

You didn’t purchase travel insurance

We’ve all seen the options at the bottom of every online ticket purchase before we click “confirm”: “Add Travel Insurance To Purchase?” Your instinct may be to click “no” every time to save the $50, but when it comes to holiday travel, which can be fraught with cancellations and delays due to snow, over-bookings and just general airport crowdedness, you might want to go for it this year.  Depending on the policy you get, it can cover meals and hotels if you miss a layover, reimburse you for lost baggage and so much more.  And while you can buy it directly from your airline of choice, you don’t have to. “Many travel booking sites offer insurance, but my personal preference is to price it out separately.  Make sure to look at several insurance providers and what is and is not included in the plan. Also, check out the insurance company’s reviews online before finalizing your selection,” says Combs. If one carrier is much cheaper but has poor reviews, spending a little more money may save you in the long run.

You Went With The Airline You Always Use

We get it. Over the years it’s easy to get “locked in” to an airline that we know and love, one that serves our local airport and the destinations we fly to most often. Once we’ve accrued points, status, or free checked bags with these airlines, it’s very easy to simply open their app (where our known traveler # is conveniently saved) and book all our travel there without ever shopping around. But a HerMoney staffer recently found that by opting for a flight on British Airways rather than going with her tried-and-true favorite Delta, she could save $600. No, she didn’t get to board the plane first, nor did she get a free checked bag, but the savings was just too good to pass up. In other words, while loyalty can be a great thing,  with prices climbing ever-higher this year, it’s time to branch out a bit and see which airline is right for you, right now.

You didn’t consider all the hidden fees

While we’re talking free checked bags, it’s a good time talk about all kinds of hidden fees. Because they can really add up if you don’t check the fine print before you book. There are parking fees, the fee for a shuttle from the parking garage to the airport, baggage fees, seat selection fees, and even carry-on luggage fees on some airlines. Then there are things that you won’t be charged for at the airport, but you will need to pay for while you’re gone. Combs reminds: “Make sure to also include pet-sitting and boarding costs for your pets.”  And this means sometimes you’ve gotta do some math. For example,  if your flight home one day later is $50 cheaper, but you’ve got to pay for an extra day of pet boarding at $60, and an extra day of airport parking at $10, then technically you’ve just lost $20. Thankfully,  little research on the front end can save you tons of cost + travel headaches on the back end.

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