Deal Finder: Ways to save $$$ on Holiday Travel

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By LATINA EMERSON, The Shopper Deal Finder

This holiday season, many people will travel to spend time with family and friends or relax at a popular vacation destination. As the prices of gas, food and labor increase nationwide, travel has become even more expensive.

A recent survey by NerdWallet found that Americans plan to use their credit cards to fund their holiday travel and will charge an average of nearly $1,500 to pay for flights, hotels and other expenses. Only 21 percent plan to pay off their credit card balance by the first statement, which means they’ll be accumulating debt with interest fees.

Every penny counts, so it’s important to reduce holiday travel expenses. Here are some ways to save on holiday travel:

Use membership programs to save on hotels, rental cars and more

Membership programs such as AAA and AARP offer a number of ways to save on travel costs. AAA membership provides savings at participating hotels, rental car companies, restaurants, popular attractions, concert venues, sports arenas and more. 

AAA members can save when booking at Best Western, Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott and MGM Resorts. At Hertz, they can get 20 percent off the base rate for car rentals, in addition to having the young renter fee waived and getting free use of a child safety seat, a free additional driver, 10 percent off a tank of gas and free unlimited mileage on most rentals. 

AAA membership also offers 24-hour global travel emergency assistance, and members automatically receive Travel Accident Insurance coverage when a trip is arranged and purchased through AAA travel. The plan covers Classic members up to $100,000 and increases based on the membership level. 

For more information about AAA membership perks, visit https://autoclubsouth.aaa.com/membership/compare-benefits.aspx and https://autoclubsouth.aaa.com/membership/member_handbook_pdf.aspx.

Earn miles and points with airline and hotel rewards loyalty programs

If consumers travel regularly, they should enroll in airline and hotel rewards loyalty programs to earn miles and points that will lead to savings on travel costs. When enough miles or points are earned, travelers can book flights with airline miles and hotel stays with points from hotel rewards programs.

Do research on rental car prices

Consumer expert Clark Howard recommends for travelers to check the availability and prices of rental cars for their travel dates before purchasing airline tickets. Typical rental car rates are $100 per day at most airports and locations in the United States, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, according to Clark.com. Travelers must decide if they’re willing to pay these rental prices and then book quickly because of the shortage of rental cars. Howard recommends using AutoSlash.com to find lower rates before the pick-up date. 

Be flexible with travel dates

Consumers will find better deals on travel if they don’t fly during popular days and times. It’s typically cheaper to fly on the day of a holiday or the evening before instead of a few days before the holiday, according to Entrepreneur.com.

Set a budget

Determine a budget for your trip so you won’t overspend. Figure out how much you can afford to spend daily on food, gas, admission fees, souvenirs, etc. To reduce food costs, pack your own snacks and lunch, rather than buying food from convenience stores and restaurants.

Purchase travel insurance

If something goes wrong before or during your trip, the cost of accidents, medical emergencies and cancellations can quickly add up. Purchase travel insurance before your trip to help manage these costs. Some credit cards offer free travel insurance when the trip is booked using the card, according to Entrepreneur.com.

Pack light when flying

Airline baggage fees for checked bags can become expensive, so pack light and try to stick to a carry-on bag to save money when flying. Many airlines allow travelers to bring one full-size carry-on bag and one personal item on board for free.

Save money on gas with apps and vehicle maintenance

Gas prices have steadily increased, so drivers will need to find ways to save money at the pump. The GasBuddy app allows travelers to check gas prices while they’re on the road, so they can locate the gas station with the best deal. To learn more about GasBuddy, visit https://www.gasbuddy.com.

It’s vital to perform vehicle maintenance before leaving home on a road trip. Make sure tires are properly inflated because underinflated tires increase rolling resistance, which increases fuel consumption. Underinflated tires could also lead to costly future repairs because they put greater pressure on the vehicle’s suspension and chassis, as well as stress the vehicle’s brake lines, wheels, calipers, fenders and rotors. Low tire pressure also makes it more difficult to handle the vehicle, affecting the driver’s ability to stop, make turns to avoid an accident and turn corners safely, according to Rick Hendrick Chevrolet’s website. 

For tire pressure recommendations, refer to the owner’s manual or the sticker on the vehicle’s driver’s side doorjamb, according to Edmunds. Drivers can use a hand-held tire pressure gauge from an auto parts store to check tire pressure. Tires need to be cold to get an accurate reading, so take measurements first thing in the morning or three hours after driving, Car and Driver magazine reports.

Drivers can improve their gas mileage by up to 3 percent by keeping their tires properly inflated, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. 

Also, keep the vehicle’s engine properly tuned to improve gas mileage. By repairing a vehicle that is out of tune or has failed an emissions test, drivers can improve gas mileage by an average of 4 percent. Fixing a serious maintenance issue, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve mileage by as much as 40 percent. In addition, using the recommended grade of motor oil can improve gas mileage, the U.S. Department of Energy reports. 

When driving, travelers can use cruise control on mostly level ground or on long, steady uphill or downhill grades to improve fuel efficiency and limit changes in momentum (acceleration and deceleration) that waste gas. However, cruise control shouldn’t be used in heavy rain, snow or temperatures where ice could form because acceleration on slick surfaces or while hydroplaning can lead to under- or oversteering. Also, suddenly hitting the brakes can unset the cruise control and cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle, according to MotorTrend.

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