Trying to plan a vacation around the winter holidays can be stressful even under the best circumstances. This year clearly throws everything out the window. If you’re looking to travel this holiday season, the process may be difficult and time-consuming. Not to mention, expensive.
But traveling doesn’t have to be such a pain. Half the fun of a trip is the journey, and we believe that journey starts the moment you begin planning. If you want to travel for the holidays this year, here are our best tips to do it safely and frugally.
1. Book Wisely
Some of the oldest travel tips in the book still apply in 2020. For instance, the earlier you book airfare and hotel, the cheaper prices will be generally speaking. If you’re traveling directly around Thanksgiving or Christmas, try your best to avoid the peak travel days. For Thanksgiving, those are the day before (Wednesday) and that following Sunday. For Christmas, peak days are usually the Friday before and the Sunday or Monday after.
In addition, your destination matters. If you aren’t sure where you want to go yet, we have a list of some of the best affordable winter getaway spots.
2. Safety First
In addition to the typical caution you may take while traveling, you should be extra careful this year. Before getting to the airport or even finalizing plans, review the COVID-19 guidelines of the state you’re in and the one you’re traveling to. The situation is everchanging, and the rules are too, but you should at least know what you’re walking into. Some states, for instance, mandate travelers quarantine for 14 days depending on where they come from.
Also, expect to wear a mask while in transit, and having hand sanitizer nearby is always smart. Airlines and hotels have taken measures to make environments as safe as possible, but it can never hurt to take some measures of your own.
Luckily, if something changes that makes your trip impossible, most major airlines have waived cancellation and change fees indefinitely.
3. Limit Your Time at the Airport
If your family is anything like mine, you’re probably used to getting to the airport hours before your flight takes off. While that is a safe way to always board your plane on time, loitering around a busy airport is a different task in the age of COVID. There are ways to make sure you’re through security and at your gate as quickly as possible though and avoid the hassle.
Registering for TSA Precheck is a smart move, as it usually allows you to jump in a shorter security line. Moreover, you can download your boarding pass to your phone in advance, eliminating one more thing to do at the airport. Obviously, you should give yourself enough time to make your flight, but its a safe and smart idea to plan ahead and avoid unnecessary extra time at the airport.
4. Compare, Compare, Compare
Shopping around before booking travel and amenities is always smart, but potentially more so this year than ever. Airlines are struggling with a serious demand slump, and are desperate to get seats filled however possible.
Comparison shopping for flights could land you serious deep discounts, which is why it’s always a good idea to use sites like KAYAK and Orbitz. Mixing flights away from peak days with deep dives into prices can land you a major holiday travel discount.
5. Weigh the Risks and Benefits
Hopefully, by the holiday season, the coronavirus is at least a bit more under control in the U.S. than it is today. That would obviously make holiday travel easier for everyone, but it’s not a sure thing.
Regardless, until a vaccine is widespread there will always be some risks associated with travel these days. The circumstances you book your trip under might be radically different than the day you’re supposed to leave, and it’s important to weigh things at the moment. If something feels unsafe, there’s a good chance it might be, and it’s up to you to weigh the importance of your trip against the risk of taking it.