Saving Money on Holiday Travel: College Edition

By LaTisha D. Styles, millennial-minded blogger & voice of YoungFinances.com, a platform where readers with very little knowledge of financial markets can learn to invest and manage their money. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Holiday travel is a great way to unwind and take a break from reading and studying, but it can create a hole in your pocket.Many colleges and universities have distinct Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, so students may first have to choose only one break in which to travel in order to save money. Additionally, holiday airfares can be expensive, costing $200 to $500 per flight depending on the distance and purchase date.

Here are some tips that could help you save on holiday travel:

  1. Create a budget. Before you attempt to save, it is important to create a holiday travel budget and stick to it. Break your expenses down into the appropriate categories such as transit, entertainment, gifts, food, and fare. You can create your budget manually or you can use a personal finance application.
  2. Get cheap airplane tickets. If you want to save a substantial amount of money for your holiday travel, take advantage of student discounts. Some airlines have partnered with specific universities to offer student discounts, helping college students lessen their holiday travel expenses. Instead of checking airline websites frequently, use a site like Kayak.com or Expedia.com. Sites like these may provide a confidence score, estimating whether flight costs will drop or increase based on your flight dates.
  3. Take advantage of student discounts. You can also take advantage of student discounts offered by websites like STA travel and studentuniverse.com. Sites like Student Universe, for example, focus more on flight discounts whereas sites like STA travel aim to help you save money on trains, hotels, and tours. Early booking can also help you save money on holiday travel. Experts say that it is best to book your ticket at least 49 days before your actual flight.
  4. Pack wisely. These days, airlines are attempting to cut the price of tickets by creating optional services. Lately, checked luggage is charged separately. In order to avoid paying for extra luggage, it is important to pack wisely; bring only the things that you need. To avoid the extra baggage problem, you have to plan what to pack in advance and do the actual packing at least 12 hours before your flight. This way, you would not end up stuffing your luggage with things that you do not need. Packing wisely could save you upwards of $75 in extra baggage fees.  
  5. Use your student ID for more discounts whenever possible. One way to save money on holiday travel is to use your student discount as much as you can. Just present your university ID and you can get discounts for hotels, rentals, meals, and more!
  6. Give DIY gifts. One great way to save money on the holidays in general is to give away DIY gifts. It’s likely that friends and family know that you are still in college, so they will not be expecting extravagant gifts from you. If you do not have any craft skills, then maybe you can offer gifts of service. For example, if you are a law student, you can give away free law advice to your loved ones. If you are an accounting major, offer to help in tax preparations or bookkeeping. If you are a computer science student or a graphic designer, you can likely help design your friend’s website. Remember: it’s the thought that counts.
  7. Use the holiday to earn some extra cash. Just because you are home for a few weeks does not mean you just have to be a couch potato the whole time. Saving money can only get you so far; use the holidays to earn some extra cash. Talk to local businesses to see if there are seasonal jobs available.

When the time comes to travel for the holidays, you do not always have to or may not be able to rely on mom and dad. Use these tips to save money for and during your holiday trip, and explore money-making opportunities through a part time job.

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