Traveling for the Thanksgiving-Christmas holidays can be really expensive and stressful. And, as teachers, that is our prime time off so that is typically when our travel is lined up. In the past few years, we have had quiet a bit of holiday travel experience and my hope is to share some tips on keeping holiday travel from breaking the bank:
Stay with Family
If at all possible try to coordinate a few nights with family because hotel prices absolutely skyrocket during this time of year. It may seem stressful to stay with family on the day-of so maybe you can coordinate to stay with them a few nights before/after the holiday and find lodgings the rest of the time. Offering to help with the festivities is a great bribe too!
However, know when you’ve over stayed your welcome. The holidays are a stressful time for hosts and adding extra house-guests only increases it. Will and I try to keep our time as houses-guests to a max of 3 nights; that way we don’t feel like we’re overstepping our boundaries and quiet honestly 3 nights in someone else house is usually plenty of time for us too.
Don’t Over Plan Expensive Outings
Enjoy the time you have with your family and sometimes a day in the house talking and eating is totally worth it…and cheap. You don’t need to be doing something Instagrammable every second of the day. Plan one thing a day, keep is simple, and leave out the gimmicky stuff; it can get expensive fast to “treat” a large party to activities all the time.
Here are some fun low-key ideas for the holidays:
- Nature walks
- Board games
- Cooking together
- Round-robin story time
- Holiday-themed crafts
- Tour of the town
- Leisurely drive of neighborhood decorations
I’m not saying everyday needs to be this way, but try to keep 1-2 days of holiday travel open for (FREE) surprises!
Cook at Home
I know cooking can seem taxing over the holidays but it’s really expensive to go out with a large party to dinner every night. One person gets an appetizer and oops suddenly the bill is over $300! My family likes to assign different nights to cook so that the burden isn’t on one person and it can even turn into a fun competition. Not only is this a great way to save money come holiday time but it can also be a calorie-savor (depending on who is doing the cooking of course!).
P.S. This is also a great time to learn some family recipes from moms and grandmas!
Make Travel your Gifts
We all love gift-giving and receiving but it can be hard to manage travel AND gifts. The past few years our travel has been our gifts to each other. And personally, those memories are worth more than a new necklace or purse. For this plan to work, all members have to be made aware and agree to the rule, otherwise it could get awkward if you show up to your aunt’s house empty-handed when she bought stuff for all the kiddos.
As much as possible try to avoid travel on the most expensive pre-and-post-travel days, but I know this can be hard with work and school schedules. For example, we get the whole week off for Thanksgiving so it’s pretty inexpensive for us to fly Saturday-Saturday versus the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Same goes for Christmas, this year we decided to travel to Mexico on December 27th through January 5th because it was cheaper. Be flexible if possible.
Just like traveling during off-peak days, traveling to locations off-season can save you a ton of money if you don’t mind being unorthodox. Now I’ll be honest, this isn’t really something we’ve tried out because spending the holidays with family is so important to me but it could be worth it. For example, no one is really planning to travel to lets say Amsterdam for Thanksgiving are they??? Or better yet, convince members of your family to go with you and make the holiday in this new, exotic location.
Get a House Together
IF your family is all traveling together, try to get a big house or apartment. Not only is it cheaper than hotel rooms, it also allows you to cook and it can feel more “homey” for the holidays. I am an ardent lover of AirBnb but there are plenty of other house-sharing sites out there.
Do you travel for the holidays or stay put?