Traveling during the holidays can get expensive. The price of flights skyrocket and seats quickly sell out on trains and buses. However, if it’s one of the few times in the year when you have time off—or it’s critical that you see loved ones during the holiday season—there are still some ways to travel on the cheap. For starters, driving is often more affordable than flying, especially if you can take gas-paying passengers with you. Here are some of the best ways to save if you want or need to travel during the winter months:
- Shop for used cars now. It’s the best time of year to shop for cheap used cars or to treat yourself to a new car upgrade. Dealerships are frantic to get rid of inventory so they can make room for 2020 models. If you’ve been thinking about getting a new (or new-to-you) car, you won’t find a better time of year. The later you shop in December, the better. Plus, many of these “used” vehicles are actually 2018 models that have just a few miles on them.
- Fly standby. If you really need to fly to your destination and you have some flexibility, ask about standby options. Every airline has a different policy, so you’ll need to do a little research. However, you have better odds of getting a standby seat when traveling alone or with fewer travelers and if you’re able to hang around the airport during off-hours (such as red eye flights). You might need to wait a few hours, and even a couple of days during peak travel time, but if that’s manageable you can score some great seats. As a bonus, with free Wi-Fi in most airports and plenty of amenities, you won’t be “roughing it” for long.
- Offer to drive cargo or carry other passengers. You aren’t the only one looking to get a cheap ride during the holiday season. Try out a variety of apps that match commuters or cross-country drivers with riders. If you prefer not making small talk with strangers, a lot of people are looking for drivers to carry cargo (which can vary in size). If you have a vehicle—or would like to be a passenger—there’s a good chance someone else is looking to go the same direction as you.
- Shop for gently used snow tires. One of the most expensive aspects of traveling during the winter months is springing for snow tires. If you’ll be traveling on icy or snowy roads, you need to ensure your safety. However, this doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune on brand-new cutting-edge snow tires. Many tire facilities sell gently used tires for a bargain, and you’ll be certain that they have enough tread left in them for the season. Avoid shopping directly from fellow drivers, as you can’t be sure of how safe the tires are.
- Travel on major holidays. Oftentimes, ticket prices are expensive before and after holidays, but not on the actual day. If you have the flexibility, traveling on Christmas or the evening of New Year’s can be a great way to save. For many travelers who aren’t going far, it won’t put a kink in their plans and they can score discount prices on even in-demand destinations.
- Don’t forget about buses. Unlike some other forms of public transportation, most bus lines don’t hike up the prices just because of the holidays. There are many direct lines, and if you get creative you can come up with a myriad of ways to entertain yourself while traveling. Consider it time to catch up on reading, bingeing Netflix, or sleeping. Busses also have the capacity to handle wintry roads much better than most cars.
As you make your way home this holiday season, remember that safety and budgeting should be top priorities. You have a multitude of options available, ranging from driving yourself to trying out stand-by seats. No matter how or where you travel, getting there securely is what matters. Try a new way of traveling and you might be surprised by how well it suits your needs.