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How to Prepare for Travel this Holiday Season

Holiday travel can be stressful. Here’s how to prepare for the best possible experience this holiday season.

November 9, 2022

The holidays are approaching, and people everywhere are starting to make travel plans. Holiday travel can be stressful, however — and this year is shaping up to be a particularly complex time to travel. 

Whether you’re planning to travel around Thanksgiving, Christmas or another holiday your family celebrates, this guide can help you prepare for the upcoming holiday travel season. 

Why the 2022 holiday season will be a challenge for travelers

The 2022-2023 holiday travel season is likely to be stressful for many travelers. There are a variety of reasons for this, including:

  • An increased level of flight delays and cancellations

  • Ongoing COVID-19 complications

  • Increasing flight and travel costs

  • Increasing instances of baggage delays and lost baggage

  • An ongoing shortage of pilots, leading to increased flight cancellations

Experts are predicting a busy travel season, with more than 50% of Americans planning to travel over the holidays. This increased volume will likely worsen existing pressures on the system. 

What we have learned from summer travel

You may have read about (or experienced directly) the hectic summer 2022 travel season. This past summer saw record levels of flight cancellations and delays, lost baggage and other travel mishaps. 

Travel is rebounding to normal levels as the pandemic subsides, and the travel industry is struggling to keep up with demand. 

So, what have experts and travelers learned from a hectic summer of travel? Here are some tips that might help for the upcoming holiday season:

  • Have your documentation ready — check COVID-19 requirements, passport requirements, etc. before leaving home.

  • Give yourself plenty of time for security.

  • Consider keeping your important items in your carry-on luggage, in case your checked bag gets lost or delayed.

  • Check airline policies on baggage ahead of time to avoid delays.

  • Consider planning to arrive at your destination a day early to avoid the potential for delays. 

Ultimately, the key to travel this winter will likely be advanced planning and a whole lot of patience.

How to avoid going into debt over holiday travel

The holiday travel season is also expected to be quite expensive, particularly when it comes to airline tickets. 

The last thing you want is to end up going into debt over your holiday travel plans. To avoid costly debt, here are some tips to help keep travel costs down. 

Start saving ahead of time

Holiday travel is bound to be pricey this year, so it pays to plan ahead — and to start saving well in advance. 

If you can start setting aside a small amount of money each month, you’ll be more prepared when it comes time to travel. 

Shop around for the best price

Comparison shopping is very important when it comes to travel expenses. These days, you don’t need to use a travel agent, as travelers can easily do their own research. 

Using tools like Google Flights or SkyScanner can help with flights. For lodging, be sure to check hotel alternatives like Airbnb and VRBO, or plan to stay with family. 

Be flexible with your travel dates

While this isn’t always possible, being flexible with travel dates can save you a lot of money. 

This might mean traveling on Thanksgiving day, instead of the day before — or it might mean opting for a family gathering the week after the given holiday. 

Off-peak flights and lodging will be quite a bit cheaper than peak travel dates, and there may also be more flights available with fewer crowds to deal with at the airport. 

Consider staying local

If you’re on a tight budget this year, it may be worth staying local and visiting out-of-state family another time. 

You may also wish to ask family to come visit you, instead. Although money is often a taboo topic, it’s completely reasonable to explain to your family that you simply don’t have enough room in your budget for holiday travel this year. 

Utilize credit card rewards

If you have a rewards credit card, you may be able to redeem your miles or rewards points for discounted travel. Most airlines have their own rewards cards which can be used to earn airline miles on each purchase you make. 

If you don’t yet have one, you might consider applying now. Many cards have a signup bonus that you can earn after spending a certain amount within the first 90 days. For example, you might earn a bonus of 40,000 airline miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days. 

However, be wary of credit card debt. Ideally, you should only use a credit card if you can afford to pay off the balance in full each month. That way, you can benefit from the rewards points, without spending anything on interest. 

If credit card debt is holding you back from your financial goals, check out Tally† Tally is an app that helps qualifying Americans consolidate credit card balances into a lower interest line of credit. Learn how Tally works here

Consider driving

Flights are often the biggest expense for holiday travel. In some cases, it might make sense to drive instead of fly — particularly if you’re traveling with a family. 

With gas prices on the rise, it pays to do the math to see how much this could actually save you. Be sure to account for any other extra expenses, like a hotel room or taking an extra day off of work. 

Keep an eye on airline fees

These days, airlines tack on all sorts of miscellaneous fees. Bag fees, seat selection fees, fuel surcharges — you name it. 

When calculating your Thanksgiving travel budget, it’s wise to consider the impact of these fees. There may be small tweaks you can make to save money, too, like opting for small carry-on luggage instead of checked bags.

Bottom line

It’s looking like the 2022 holiday season might be a stressful one — but you can reduce any potential headaches by planning ahead. Having a budget in mind and preparing financially can help you minimize any financial stress, as well. 

†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. Based on your credit history, the APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% - 29.99% per year. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.