If you’re wondering how you can make your way home for the Thanksgiving holiday without going broke, you’re not alone. AAA estimated that 46.9 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles to get home for Thanksgiving, and while not all of those people will be flying, you can bet that they aren’t all driving, either.
Once you look at the cost of travel - air or otherwise - and the cost of getting some holiday shopping done on Black Friday, Thanksgiving can quickly become a costly affair. Luckily, there are ways you can make travelling home to see your family possible, by finding savings on the big and the little expenses involved.
Here are seven major ways to save money while traveling this Thanksgiving.
Book Ahead of Time - But Not By Much
Surprisingly enough, booking way ahead of time isn’t your best bet to score a great flight deal. According to SkyScanner, you’ll be able to get the best deals the week of October 31st, which boast an average savings of 7.73%. So sure, you’re still planning ahead, but only by a few weeks.
That said, deals will depend on your specific travel plans, which include the airports you’re flying between and what dates you’re available to fly. If you have any flexibility on those factors, you might be able to net even more savings, so make sure to comparison shop before you plunk down your credit card.
Stay for Longer
Peak travel days are the ones that get you into town in time for turkey, and out of town before work or classes start back up. Typically, that means that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday afterwards are going to be the busiest travel days by far. If you can work around traveling on those days, you might be able to save big, whether you’re taking a bus or a plane or a train.
Your options for extending your trip might include missing a few classes, or taking some extra days off at work. You could even try pitching your boss on remote work for a few days before and after the holiday, especially if you aren’t physically needed in the office to do your work (think anything-that-you-can-do-on-a-laptop).
And if bringing work home for the holidays sounds like the worst idea, just remember “I need to get some work done” is an iron-clad excuse to get out of plans with friends you’d rather avoid, or out of driving your teenaged cousins to the mall.
Airfare Is Expensive - Make Sure The Airport Isn’t
You’ve already ponied up hundreds to get home if you plan on flying, so why not save money on things you can actually control, like the bonkers-expensive airport food? (It’s not very good anyways.)
To make your airport experience as frugal as possible, bring an empty water bottle through security that you can reuse, and pack your own snacks. Almonds, granola bars, veggies, sandwiches and the like will breeze through security, and you won’t have to spend $12 on a sad airplane sandwich when you realize you’re starving mid-flight.
Plan Your Weekend Retail Adventures
If you’re planning to knock out some shopping while you’re home, make sure to plan ahead to get the best deals.
You can check out our full list of tips to get the best deals this Black Friday (link to Black Friday shopping piece once it’s live), but at a bare minimum, make sure you…
- Make a list before you head out shopping (or before you sit down and flip open your laptop).
- Research normal prices for your list, so you know what’s actually a good deal. If a flyer pitches you on a “great price” but it’s actually only 10% off? It’s probably not worth standing in line outside Best Buy at 4AM to score it.
- Set a reasonable budget, and stick to it, even if you do find killer deals.
Take Advantage of Free Activities
I know it’s tempting to let loose a little bit over the holiday weekend, especially if it’s the only time you see your high school squad these days, but the real joy of the holiday is seeing them, not running up a huge bar tab or spending a bundle shopping with your friends.
Make plans that won’t cost you an arm and a leg for the weekend, like catching up over coffee or hosting a potluck dinner for your pals. And pro tip: check in with your family before inviting a whole bundle of people over. They’ll probably be happy to see your old friends, but you never know.
Live on Leftovers
The best part of a giant turkey is that it always tends to leave a bundle of delicious leftovers you can munch on for the rest of the weekend. Instead of buying your lunch while you’re out shopping, or grabbing dinner with friends, try to schedule your big activities outside of mealtimes so you can chomp on those sweet, sweet Thanksgiving leftovers.
Because seriously, when else are you going to have a practically-unlimited supply of turkey and mashed potatoes? You know you aren’t making that for yourself on the regular.
Save on (Additional) Transportation Costs
Outside of how much it’ll cost you to get home, you might have extra transportation costs to consider. If you’ll need to rent a car while you’re home for the holidays, a little bit of preparation can save you a bundle of money.
The biggest money grab involved in car rentals is the rental insurance. If you have a car, check to see if your car insurance covers rental cars as well, so you can skip out on the extra fees to buy insurance from your rental car company. You might also have coverage through your credit card, as long as you use that card to pay for the rental. Both options are better than handing over an extra $10 to $20 a day for supplemental insurance, especially if you're already covered.