For many people, the planning has been underway for months when it comes to holiday travel. When considering how to travel on a budget, a jumpstart on travel plans and booking arrangements early can prove beneficial1 and can save you time and money. After booking the most expensive parts of a trip, which typically include airfare, car rentals, and fuel, there is also the expense of food and lodging once you reach your destination. Putting a travel budget in place for the holidays can feel a bit stressful, but we’ve gathered a few tips for traveling on a budget to help lessen the chaos and get you on the road to making holiday memories that will last a lifetime.
Holiday Travel in 2023
Over 130 Million people2 in America plan to spend at least part of the holiday season traveling. Despite the rising costs of day-to-day life and resuming student loan payments,3 many people are still planning to spend an average of $1,9472 on travel related expenses this season. Whether or not this level of expense is feasible for your own budget will require a little planning and consideration. Starting with a basic budget plan for monthly expenses is a great way to find out whether or not you truly can afford to travel this holiday season.
Before jumping into the nitty gritty of budgeting and finding ways to save money, it’s important to assess your ability to pay for your trip in general. If you’ve already booked tickets in order to take advantage of early bird pricing, you’ll just need to figure out what other expenses you will incur. Will you be staying with family? Will the trip require overnight accommodations along the road? What about food for the road and once you reach your destination? Traveling on a budget can be done with a bit of planning even during the holiday season.
Create a Budget
An easy-to-follow budget plan that isn’t overly complicated will serve you well when making holiday plans. List out all of your expected expenses, big and small. You can use the easymoney easy budgeting guide to create a budget plan that works for your everyday expenses, but a holiday budget requires a few unique line items and slight changes to a typical budgeting format. It can be hard to remember every potential cost when figuring out how to budget for a trip, so use this list of potential costs to help jumpstart your Holiday 2023 Travel Budget plans:
Shopping ahead of time is the best option, but if you’re unable to book early pay close attention to the busiest travel days and attempt to book different dates. For example, the 22nd of December and the 26th of December are predicted to be more expensive4 than other days close to Christmas this year. Pro tip: Make sure to account for space in your suitcase for presents or make alternate arrangements for getting things home if your holiday plans include gifts.
Rental Car + Fuel
Build in a little bit of extra in your budget just in case you need to extend your reservation or if alternate routes are required due to weather issues. If you need to travel with a pet, a rental car may be your best option. Perhaps you will opt to drive your own vehicle when traveling, but renting does have benefits. You will not put those extra miles on your personal vehicle, rentals are typically in great travel condition and covered with roadside assistance if you have an issue, and you have the option to rent a larger vehicle if needed for passengers and luggage.
I’ve taken a long bus trip a few times in my life, and it’s an adventure. Bus travel tends to be the most economical choice when deciding between air and ground travel. It takes a bit longer, but depending on your route it can be a really neat experience.
Accommodations During Travel
If you are hitting the road this holiday season, you may need to break your trip into more than one day of travel. Traveling home by car for my husband and I takes 2-3 days of driving and therefore a couple of hotel stays along the way. Personally, I’ve found success with using Hotwire.com the day of my stay to find a good deal. However, booking ahead, especially during the busy holiday season, may be your best bet to save money.
Food for Travel
Travel snacks are the best, but they can be really expensive. Airport food and drinks are notoriously expensive, so pack a reusable (empty) water bottle and a few TSA approved snacks6 if you’re able. If you have dietary restrictions, bringing your own food could be a necessity. Food planning is one of those budget travel tips that can make a huge difference. We all have to eat, and when you’re hungry making a budget friendly, healthy choice can be hard. Make your plans before you leave home to heighten your chance of sticking to the budget and your meal plans.
Staying with family during the holidays isn’t the first choice for everyone. I enjoy staying with family, but my husband doesn’t always feel the same. Booking a hotel or rental home is an added expense that isn’t always possible, but if it’s part of your plan you will want to book as early as possible to snag the dates you need to match your travel plans. .
If you do not take a vehicle with you on your trip, you may need a car when you arrive at your destination. If you choose not to rent a car (which would require budgeting for fuel), public transportation where available, ride shares, taxis, or asking friends and family for rides (offering money for gas if/when needed) should be accounted for in your budget. Keep in mind the weather during the holidays may be different than wherever you are from and plan accordingly—walking might not be feasible if you’re not used to colder/icy conditions.
Meals During Your Stay
When my husband and I plan a trip to our hometown to see our families, we don’t have to worry about a place to stay. We do, however, plan to purchase our own food, including most staples in our diet. We have dietary restrictions and eat differently than anyone else in our family. We don’t want to push that cost onto anyone else, so we make it clear we will be providing our own food. Taking into account dietary restrictions, allergies, and eating habits is important when visiting someone and staying in their home. You can plan a more pleasant experience for yourself and your hosts if you have a plan for food and a budget to cover costs.
Last Minute Gifts
Budgeting for travel during the holidays is more than planning for travel logistics. If your holiday plans include celebrating with gifts, you may want to budget for last-minute purchases. The hustle and bustle of the 2023 holiday season might be a bit overwhelming for some of us. For me that sometimes makes me a little forgetful. I’ve been guilty more than once of forgetting someone on the list when purchasing Christmas gifts and had to run out the night before to grab a present.
Contributing to a Group Check
"Should we all just pitch in?" Eating out as a group, going out for a beverage, even adding a gift or special item to a meal can wind up being an unplanned expense. When family or friends ask you to chip in unexpectedly, it’s nice to have the ability to say yes without wrecking your budget.
Cushion for Uncontrollable Travel Changes
Don’t forget to include a little bit of wiggle room in your budget to accommodate travel delays and weather-related issues along the road if driving. Planning for the unexpected will make even the most frustrating of travel snafus easier to deal with and it’s worth the effort up front. Beyond travel costs, expenses can become more of a burden if you also have to miss work due to a delayed return home. Although many airlines provide reimbursement5 or rebooking, a meal voucher, and a hotel stay in the case of a delayed or cancelled flight that is within their control, they typically do not provide such assistance if the delay or cancellation is due to a winter storm. Now, despite the truth of this information, that doesn’t mean you should be panicked or worried about traveling. Thousands of people travel annually without mishaps, but those who encounter issues surely would be well served to have a bit of preparation taken care of that could ease any burdens during their travels.
Stick to Your Plans
Successfully pulling off holiday travel on a budget is easier said than done at times, but sticking to your travel budget will likely make the weeks following the holidays a bit easier financially. For some people, traveling during the holidays is a choice and a privilege. For others, this year, traveling may be a necessity. Fortunately, a budget can be modified to fit individual circumstances and financial situations. After completing a budget for essential holiday travel you may find that funds are not available. Luckily there are other options that may be available to you. Borrowing from friends or family, credit cards, an Installment Loan, or a Line of Credit from your neighborhood easymoney store are all options to consider. If you choose to borrow money, of course, you will want to plan your repayment and make it part of your upcoming budget. No matter your situation or how you plan to travel, sticking to a budget can prove helpful. Budget friendly travel during the holidays may not be the easiest feat to pull off, but it is definitely possible. Whether you choose to travel or stay home, easymoney wishes you and your family a happy holiday season as you celebrate with family and friends.
*Products vary from state to state. Check your neighborhood easymoney store for details. In Alabama, customers can apply for Installment Loans, Payday Loans and Title Loans. In Tennessee, customers can apply for a Line of Credit, Payday Loans, and Title Loans.
1Rawson, Carissa (2023, Aug 17). How to Travel on a Budget for Beginners Retrieved from: https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/travel/a-beginners-guide-to-budget-travel
2El Issa, Erin (2023, Oct 24). 2023 Holiday Travel Report Retrieved from: https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/travel/2023-holiday-travel-report#:~:text=More%20than%20130%20million%20Americans,or%20nearly%20%24254%20billion%20total.
3Price, Jessica (2023, Oct 31). Resuming Student Loan Debt Repayment Will Impact Budgets; Consumers Should Prepare Now Retrieved from: https://www.lend360.org/resuming-student-loan-debt-repayment-will-impact-budgets-consumers-should-prepare-now/
4Wong, Kathleen (2023, Oct 2). It’s getting late: How to book the cheapest flights for the holidays, according to experts Retrieved from: https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/2023/10/02/holiday-travel-2023-cheap-flights/71007787007/
5Genter, JT (2023, Oct 26). Flight Delay Compensation: What to Know Retrieved from: https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/travel/flight-delay-compensation
6TSA.gov What Can I Bring? Retrieved from: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/food
Jessica PriceRead More from Jessica Price
Jessica is hyper-focused on making information about the Personal Loans offered by easymoney including Payday Loans, Installment Loans, Line of Credit, and Title Loans accessible and easy to understand. Learning the basics about finances shouldn’t be complicated after all! The key to responsible borrowing is understanding the loans you’re considering, and it’s Jessica’s mission to help anyone considering a loan make an informed decision. Jessica is passionate about sharing easy-to-follow Budgeting Tips and helping readers increase their financial literacy in the Financial Corner of the blog. You’ll find great budgeting tips, Simplified Savings tips, and information that will help you improve your financial wellness sprinkled throughout each of her blogs.