Summer has faded to fall. In most parts of the country, this means people are packing away their camping gear, returning from summer adventures, and settling in for some fall fun closer to home.
Even as temperatures start to drop, people are out and about trying to squeeze a memory out of every last ray of sun. It’s time for pumpkin patches, tailgating, fall festivals, holiday markets, and beer fests galore. With never-ending opportunities to socialize, it can be hard to balance having a social life with being a productive person who works full time.
Luckily, a lot of fall and winter activities are tailored to the weekend crowd — who’s ever heard of tailgating on a Tuesday? With the holidays looming, though, and the pressure (or desire) to flock together with family, travel can become a little trickier to plan. With a few simple considerations, you can make holiday travel less of a headache for the whole family.
Use Your Financial Resources
One of the biggest obstacles to vacations is paying for said vacations. Between flights, gas money, lodgings, and eating out, travel expenses add up quickly. It can take a lot of planning to execute the perfect getaway without breaking the bank.
First, use your credit card! And no, I’m not talking about accruing debt that you’ll pay high interest on just so you can have an awesome vacation now. Use your rewards points!
Most credits cards offer a rewards program, even those through small credit unions. Check your statement for a points balance, or call and find out what type of rewards you can get with your card and how they can be used. This may end up changing the whole face of your trip!
If you want to save even more, consider cutting corners on eating or lodging. If you’re staying with friends or family, it’s easy enough to ask to use their kitchen. If not, though, hotels with kitchenette options are becoming more popular.
If you want to avoid paying for lodging but don’t have friends or family with room for you, you can travel in an RV. RVs are available for rent in many places, and the gas and rental fee are frequently cheaper than other travel options. Plus, you can decorate your travel home to make it as festive as you want!
If all else fails, it’s easier than you think to shift money from typical expenses into your travel fund.
Start by looking at your budget and seeing if there’s anything you can or would be willing to sacrifice to help with travel. From there, use best shopping practices for any necessities you still need — buy in-season produce, watch sales, and stack coupons for maximum savings. Almost every store has a savings app now, so it’s easy to download coupons to your phone.
Choose Your Travel Means Wisely
Consider how you plan to travel. It can seem like there’s no good answer to travelling during the holidays — plane tickets prices climb and roads become congested — but planning ahead can help.
If you live in a temperate climate and aren’t going far, consider driving. You’ll avoid congested airports, have more control over your schedule, and have the added flexibility of a vehicle at your final destination. Driving is nearly always cheaper than flying unless you can score a ridiculously good flight deal.
For convenience and efficiency reasons, a lot of holiday travelers opt to fly. While tickets can be expensive, having flexible arrival and departure days will help you avoid the busiest days. Tickets will be cheaper on days with a lower demand, so consider leaving a day earlier than you originally planned. You’ll avoid crowds and possibly save a lot of money.
However, if you have static travel days, flying can mean congested airports full of people who may travel only once a year, leading to inefficient security lines. This can be compounded by potential weather delays. Even if you are travelling in sunny regions, you may be stuck with inbound flights subject to nastier weather messing up the schedule.
With the possibility of flight delays, combined with an increased number of travelers, you will want to plan extra travel time. If you have a layover anywhere, try to give yourself a comfortable amount of time to make the connection. Make sure that you aren’t rushing to the airport after work or battling traffic to get to your destination before dark.
Take Some Time Off
Weekend trips can be the perfect way to relax without having to take time off work, especially if you used a lot of vacation time during the summer. If you’re planning more than a weekend getaway to watch the fall foliage, though, you’re likely going to need to take some time off work. Besides, who wants to spend their vacation fielding office phone calls and juggling spotty hotel internet?
The most convenient way to take days off work is by utilizing paid time off (PTO). If you’re lucky enough to have some PTO stored up, absolutely use it, but check your company calendar first. You can maximize your time off by planning trips around long weekends or paid holidays. Your company’s policy may also give you more perks than you know; some companies have more paid holidays than the traditional seven, and others offer travel reimbursement.
If you don’t have PTO, don’t despair! There are still plenty of options. If you can afford it, taking time off unpaid is usually available with most jobs. You can mitigate some of the loss of income by budgeting for your trip or saving up over several months.
You also don’t have to take entire days off. It can be just as awesome to take a half day off — you can leave a little earlier and get to your destination with enough time to settle in before your first full day of vacation starts. Remote working is great in this case, or, if you work a shift job, trade with someone who will be staying local during the time you’re traveling.
Once the planning and packing is done, it’s time to get going. Whether you’re hitting a literal road or something closer to tarmac, do your best to settle in and relax. Disconnect from your office email and vow not to return office phone calls. The planning and stressing should be over — it is supposed to be a vacation, after all!