Planes, Trains & Automobiles: 6 Tips For Saving On Christmas Travel
Written by Jaillan Yehia
It comes around once a year – yet every Christmas is totally unique, isn’t it?
Some years you get into the Christmas spirit by mid-November and find yourself eating mince pies, watching Elf and drowning in gift wrap weeks before the big day. Other holiday seasons sneak up on you – and before you know it December 24th has rolled around and you’ve done absolutely nothing about it.
I find that some years I am feeling flush, and full of Christmas spirit – I throw money at gifts and luxuries like there’s no tomorrow and leave no expense spared. On those years I shop in beautifully decorated department stores, co-ordinate my gift wrap with matching ribbon and create elaborate stockings.
Other Christmases I feel more frugal, am determined to cap my spending, and vow not get suckered into the commercialism of it all. When I’m in that frame of mind I try to think beyond shiny, sparkly things and instead track down something thoughtful for my friends and family – and I’ve even been known to make my own presents.
Depending where you are in your life at Christmas, you might even be mega excited about jetting off somewhere exotic for the whole shebang – I’ve tried that a couple of times with great success, spending one Christmas in The Philippines and one in Cambodia.
Another great Christmas travel idea is a mini-trip to a Christmas market before the big day – you get to see somewhere new, do some unique Christmas shopping but still be back home to enjoy the festivities.
Maybe you’ll take a trip home to see family or visit friends this year or are simply looking forward to spending Christmas at home, gathered around the tree and cooking yummy treats in your own kitchen?
Whatever your Christmas style, and whatever your mood and circumstances, Christmas usually involves some form of travel so here are a few of my favourite travel tips which can be used throughout the year, but will definitely come in handy for saving on travel at Christmas.
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Hand Luggage Only?
All frequent travellers know that extras like checking in bags add to the cost of a flight, especially when travelling with a low cost airline.
If you’re getting on a plane this Christmas it can be tempting to just book a bag both ways to save the stress, but it may not be necessary. For example I’m off to visit family in Denmark and will be laden down with gifts and goodies, but once I’ve offloaded all that loot I know I’ll be travelling light on the way home so I’ve avoided the £40 charge to check a bag on the way back.
So ask yourself if you need a bag both ways or can you get away with a cabin bag only? This amazing chart from Samsonite really helps you figure out what you can get away with bringing on board with different airlines.
Finding Sale fares & promo Codes
Obviously signing up to newsletters and mailing lists and following social media accounts which give discounts on fares with your favourite airline is job number one when planning a trip home for Christmas.
Because Christmas travel is so sought after and books up well in advance you need to be pretty eagle eyed to spot the discounts but on pricier flights looking for promo codes is key – this one with Emirates Airline: 10% off Economy and Business Class flight bookings may not seem like a big percentage saving, but when you consider that even an economy flight might run to around £700, a 10% saving is probably enough to pay for your airport parking, possibly even a few Christmas presents too.
If you’re going between the UK and Europe it can also be worth considering a ferry instead of a flight – the advantages are not having to worry about luggage at all, being able to travel with pets and the fact that generally it can be a lot less stressful. One of my personal favourites is P&O Ferries which has amazing deals, offers and savings including things like giving you free wine.
If you’re taking a train over the holidays, the best tip I can share with you is to check if you’re eligible for a railcard. Being neither a student nor an OAP I always assumed I had to pay full price for train tickets and that was that – until a couple of years ago when I stumbled by accident on the Network Railcard.
This can be purchased aby anyone and gives you a third off tickets on any route within London and the South-East including London Underground if you buy your travelcard along with your train ticket from outside London. The card only costs £30 for a year and the savings will offset that pretty quickly, especially if you’re travelling over a peak time like Christmas.
Super Off peak trains
Talking of peak travel, there is another little trick I’ve learned which applies not just to trains in the South-East. It can be fiendishly difficult to see which trains are off-peak and which are super-off peak but knowing the difference, and the cut off times, can save you a lot of money.
Often the peak and off-peak ticket types are displayed on the ticket machines more prominently but if you’re visiting friends and family over Christmas or you’re off to do some Christmas shopping and you know you won’t be headed home until after 7 pm (depending on the train operator, so please check) you should be able to get the cheapest possible ticket: Super Off Peak. Combine this with a Railcard and the saving is huge.
Most of us will be driving somewhere for or around Christmas and that means filling up with petrol. If you’re tackling a long drive then filling up with fuel at a reasonable price and not being held hostage at a motorway service station is key, as an extra 5p a litre can soon add up.
Using an app like Petrol Prices helps you find the cheapest fuel nearby, especially useful if you’re visiting someone at Christmas and aren’t familiar with the fuel stations in the area.
If you’re going to rent a car to travel around Christmas time and aren’t already a member of a car hire company’s loyalty scheme, then now is a good time to think about joining. I personally choose to use Avis Preferred, but there are plenty of other options.
Rental cars get booked up fast and we all know it can be hard to guarantee you’ll get the car you asked for, but the benefit of being a member of the provider’s club is that your rental will be prioritised, paperwork will be filled in, ready and waiting for you – saving valuable time when you just want to be with your family at Christmas.
Loyalty scheme members are more likely to get an upgrade – plus you might get a discount, and saving money on travel at Christmas, as well as cutting out some stress, is a Christmas present which would please anybody.
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