Holiday travel plans look different this year. More hidden costs, restrictions and requirements for even domestic travel can make planning your usual yearly trip costly if you aren’t aware, especially when traveling with kids. Most countries have new rules and regulations that could cost you thousands. But with careful consideration and the tips below, you can cut your family holiday travel expenses:
1. Check COVID-19 requirements.
Vaccinated or not, it’s important to know the requirements of your destination. Firstly, research the health advisories and global entry requirements for your destination. Keep up to date with the current health advisories found on the Government of Canada Travel Health Notices site, which provides insights on COVID-19 travel health, environmental, political and other information. The Government of Canada’s page regarding COVID-19 will provide guidelines for where you’re visiting so your trip isn’t ruined by forgotten proof of medical records or a required quarantine period. If you are still unsure at any time, contact your destination’s embassy with Canada.
2. Stay connected.
Stock up on the latest travel app before you leave home. When you want to experience a destination, use Airbnb to rent a home. It connects you with hosts in over 191 countries and 34,000 cities, whether you’re traveling on business or for pleasure. When you search for a trip, Hopper taps into historical data to see flight prices are typically at their lowest. Then it will either recommend that you go ahead and book or wait to see if the fare goes down. XE Currency is a free app that tracks live exchange rates as well as historical data. Finally CityMaps2Go is an offline map that relies on GPS to find street addresses and attractions, while also allowing you to search for a restaurant, shop, hotel and book hotels.
3. Prepare ahead of time.
The booming post-pandemic travel industry doesn’t allow you to plan last-minute. Planning weeks and even months in advance for important pieces of your trip (hotels, rental car, etc.) is crucial and can actually get you the best deals for things like flights and rooms. Plan alternative trips in case traffic or weather makes road conditions unbearable when driving by car. When flying, ensure you check the airline’s restrictions ahead of time for checked bags and COVID-19 requirements. For larger families, this step is especially crucial to book hotel rooms with enough beds for everyone.
4. Insure your travel.
Many countries are requiring visitors to possess Travel Medical Insurance upon arrival, including coverage of costs for potential COVID-19 medical expenses as well as quarantine coverage. Not all travel insurance providers are the same. When comparing plans, carefully review medical coverage, trip cancellation, pre-existing medical condition exclusions and always make sure they include COVID-19 coverage that covers trip cancellation or interruptions due to COVID-19.
5. Ship gifts or give gift cards.
TSA can, and will, unwrap your presents – and you probably won’t like their re-wrapping job. TSA suggests to ship wrapped gifts or wait until you reach your destination to wrap them, as they might have to unwrap a present to inspect it. Or, consider putting items in a gift bag instead of wrapping them in paper. Also, just because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean prohibited items get a pass and there are some unexpected items on the list. Use this tool to check if you’re uncertain about specific items.
6. Travel on off-peak days and at off-peak times.
Flight statistics show that planes traveling earlier in the day have a better on-time performance. And if your flight is cancelled, you will have the option of taking a flight later in the day. There will also be fewer lines at security and nobody on the road. In general it’s impossible to predict what the single cheapest day to fly will be. Travel experts generally agree on the cheapest travel days to be Tuesdays and Wednesdays if you want to save some money.
7. Look into loyalty programs.
Whether or not your family is full of frequent travelers, consider looking into airline, hotel and other travel related rewards programs. Oftentimes by signing up, you can get a great deal on your next trip. Consider what kind of rewards program would be beneficial and weigh options to see which can get you the best deals. For families with kids, looking into rewards loyalty programs at hotels with activities and amenities for them can help you get more out of your stay and keep them busy.
The overly friendly person next to you on the plane, the cancelled flights, unexpected COVID-19 quarantines, the luggage that fell off in the middle of the highway? All of it will make for great stories over dinner when you finally make it to your destination, but it can be stressful. Limit your stress as much as possible by following our seven steps, and remember to step back and take a deep breath when things don’t go as planned.