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Your Position: Home - Measurement & Analysis Instruments - How to Save Money on Holiday Travel

How to Save Money on Holiday Travel

Of Americans who say they intend to spend money on flights or hotels this holiday season (which is about half), the average they plan to spend is $1,946.50, a September 2023 NerdWallet survey found.

That's up from the $1,582 Americans said they'd spend in 2022's version of the same survey. It's still even higher than the $1,814 Americans said they'd spend in the 2021 version of the survey — the year that many travelers began returning to holiday travel after taking 2020 off.. That data is all according to an online survey commissioned by NerdWallet and conducted by The Harris Poll of more than 2,000 U.S. adults 18 and older.

That higher spending figure is also particularly compelling considering that airfare prices are actually down about 13% year-over-year. How are people spending more this holiday season if airfares are lower? Many are upgrading to higher fare classes — exchanging basic economy for the fare that avoids the middle seat — or perhaps even splurging for a premium class. Others are booking longer flights — finally returning to international travel after years of border restriction.

When it comes to hotels, many travelers are exchanging family stays with hotel stays, piling on to the costs. In short, don't be fooled by lower prices: holiday travel in 2024 might cost you more than ever.

But there's hope. Here are NerdWallet's best ideas on how to save money on holiday travel in 2024:

7 ways to save money on holiday travel in 2024

1. Use miles or points for flights

Using points or miles to book flights can help you save cash on a portion of the trip, which is a trend that skews younger. Sure, 30% of overall travelers say they plan to use points/miles to pay for travel expenses according to NerdWallet's 2023 Holiday Travel Report, but an even-higher 40% of millennial holiday travelers (the generation most likely to use points/miles for this year’s travel expenses) say they will.

If you have miles or points, spend them down. Unlike the conventional recommendations on saving money, NerdWallet almost always recommends spending — rather than saving — travel rewards. Just like inflation, points inflation is real as airlines and hotels regularly raise the number of points or miles needed to book travel.

But unlike money, you can't invest or earn interest on your points, and they have no value outside of travel — which is why it's best to spend them on travel you'd book anyway.

2. Use free night benefits on hotel award stays

Speaking of points and miles on flights, use them on hotel stays too. But many hotel brands do one better — offering free nights to loyalty members who book on points.

For example, Marriott, Hilton and IHG offer a fifth-night-free benefit when you book a consecutive four-night stay using points. This benefit doesn’t apply to cash bookings.

If you don’t have enough points to afford the first four nights, consider applying for a hotel credit card — as you could likely earn the points you need from the welcome offer.

3. Be flexible with your travel dates

In general, you’ll be able to find better deals if you don’t fly during popular times. For example, a flight from New York to Miami might cost more miles if you fly on Friday than if you fly on Thursday. Returning home on a Sunday night may cost more than on a Monday night.

Additionally, if you’re going away for any holiday, it's usually cheaper to fly on the day of the holiday (or the evening before) rather than a few days before. For example, a nonstop one-way flight from New York to Paris during Christmas week costs $868 on Dec. 22 or $910 on Dec. 23 this year. However, those flying on Dec. 24 or Dec. 25 will have to pay only $482 or $563, respectively.

NerdWallet analyzed the busiest days to fly during the winter holidays. And though they don't always correlate with lower airfare, they almost always do — so consider avoiding the busy travel days and flying (or even driving) on the less busy ones.

» Learn more: How to save time and frustration on holiday travel

4. Plan your ride shares in advance to save money and time

More crowded airports means higher prices and lesser availability from ride sharing services like Lyft or Uber. Luckily in 2023, there are new tools to alleviate those challenges.

Among the best improvements is a new feature Lyft unveiled in November 2023 called the On-Time Pickup Promise. Here's how it works:

  1. You book a ride in advance (you can schedule up to 30 days out), specifying the exact time you want to leave for the airport. When you schedule, you lock in that price so you won't be subject to potential surge pricing.

  2. Lyft guarantees your driver will be there within ten minutes of your pickup time. If the driver doesn't show, the company pledges to give you up to $100 in Lyft credits to compensate lost time and potential expenses (such as if you book a taxi or an Uber instead).

5. Use a credit card that provides travel insurance

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Travel insurance protects you and your nonrefundable deposits from emergencies that might derail your vacation. However, these policies can cost hundreds of dollars and they've only gotten pricier in recent years. According to Squaremouth, a travel insurance comparison engine, trip insurance purchases through the site have increased by 300% from 2020 and 70% from 2019.

During the 2023 holiday season, more than one-fifth of 2023 holiday travelers (21%) said they plan to buy or have bought travel insurance for their holiday trips — a figure that's up from just 16% of 2022 holiday travelers.

Luckily, you might not even have to pay for it. Some credit cards offer free travel insurance when you book the trip using your card. Research what travel insurance coverage is offered by your credit card. If you already get free travel insurance from your credit card, you can save a lot of money by not having to buy separate coverage.

Although your card’s coverage may not be as comprehensive as a stand-alone travel insurance policy, it may be enough. On most credit cards, medical coverage is not included in the free travel insurance policy provided. If this applies to you, consider purchasing stand-alone travel medical insurance. A medical-only policy may be cheaper than a comprehensive travel insurance plan.

» Learn more: The best travel insurance companies according to NerdWallet analysis

6. Use a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees

If you plan on going abroad and you don’t have a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees, you may be stuck paying extra. An average foreign transaction fee of 3% of the purchase price is added each time you swipe your card. These fees can quickly add up, and frankly, you can avoid them.

There are plenty of credit cards, including no-fee cards, that waive foreign transaction fees. See if the card in your wallet already waives these fees. If it doesn’t, consider applying for a card that offers 0% foreign transaction fees.

7. Use a bank that refunds ATM fees

When you’re traveling abroad, you may find yourself in a situation where credit cards aren’t accepted so you’ll need to pay in cash. If you don’t have a bank account that reimburses ATM fees, you may be stuck paying two sets of fees: a fee charged by the ATM you’re using and a fee charged by your bank to withdraw cash at a different bank’s ATM.

These fees can fluctuate and add unnecessary extra costs to your trip. To avoid this scenario, open an account with a bank that reimburses ATM fees.

» Learn more: 4 best banks for international travel

You can save money on holiday travel in 2024

If you want to save money on your holiday travels, making strategic changes to your approach can make a big difference. First, consider booking flights with miles and hotel stays with points. Doing so will not only offer extra flexibility, but it can also unlock benefits like a fifth night free when booking four award nights at a hotel.

In addition, use the perks you already have from your bank and credit card issuer to avoid paying for travel insurance, foreign transaction fees and ATM fees. These tweaks will allow you to save money on holiday travel.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:

Why I'm Not Opening Any CDs in 2024 -- Even Though Rates Are Up to 5.5%

Have you seen how high the APYs have gotten on certificates of deposit (CDs)? As of Jan. 21, 2024, some of the offers on our best CDs list were offering rates of up to 5.51% APY! With the Fed (possibly) getting ready to cut interest rates, now could be a good chance to lock in a high yield on a CD.But even though the APYs are tempting, I'm not convinced that opening a CD is the right move for my personal finances. And CDs might not be the right option for you, either.Here are a few reasons why I'm not opening any CDs in 2024.1. I don't want to lock up my money in a CDWith my cash savings, I like to keep my options open. Putting money in a CD requires you to commit that cash for a certain length of time -- a short CD term might only be three months, but you can't take the money out. If you do need to pull money out of a CD before the term is up, you will owe an early withdrawal penalty.Instead of a CD, putting your cash savings in a bank or credit union savings account gives you flexibility for using that cash. What if you have an emergency expense? What if you need to replace your car, and you need cash for a down payment? What if you find a can't-miss deal on an affordable winter vacation, or find some other investment that you want to make with that money? None of these financial moves are possible when your money is locked up in a CD.This lack of flexibility means that I don't consider CDs to be the best place for your emergency fund. And if you're saving for short-term or medium-term goals, like a down payment on a house, I don't believe CDs are the best fit for that either -- because the higher APY of a CD isn't always worth the financial freedom and flexibility that you lose by locking up your money.2. The best high-yield savings accounts pay high APYs tooCDs aren't the only game in town if you want to earn a better yield on your savings. The best high-yield savings accounts (as of Jan. 21, 2024) are also paying yields of 5% or higher -- the best savings account on our list offers 5.32% APY!Is earning an extra 0.19% APY on your savings worth the inconvenience of a CD? Maybe if you have $250,000 to put into a CD, but even then, that difference in APY only amounts to an extra $475 in one year. I would rather have the flexibility of a savings account or money market account.With a high-yield savings account, you get:APYs almost as high as (and sometimes higher than) the best CDsThe freedom to withdraw your cash at any timeNo early withdrawal penaltiesIt's true that if interest rates go down in 2024, savings account APYs will go down too. I could be missing out on a chance to lock in a higher APY on a longer-term CD. But I don't try to time the market with stocks, or with savings account APYs. No one knows what the future holds, and no one knows what the Fed will do at their next meeting.Even if interest rates (and savings account APYs) go down by 1% by the end of 2024, that's a risk I'm willing to take and a price I'm willing to pay. My savings account will be earning a pretty good interest rate during all that time, and I'll have complete flexibility for how to use my cash.3. CDs aren't a good long-term investmentSome CD investors like to get long-term CDs (like 3-year or 5-year CDs) so they can lock in a high APY for a longer duration of time. But these long-term CDs are also not a good fit for my personal finances. If I'm reluctant to lock up cash for 12 months or six months, why would I want to lock up that cash for several years?I'm still at an age and stage of life where I basically think about investing in terms of two buckets: I like to have one bucket of short-term cash, with plenty of emergency savings and money for short-term goals like vacations and home repairs. And then everything else that's not short-term cash goes in the bucket of long-term investments.Based on my age, investment time horizon, and risk tolerance, most of my long-term investments are in stocks. So the idea of buying a 5-year CD doesn't make sense to me. If I'm investing for five years from now, I'm going to buy stocks. If I need cash for something that's shorter term, I want the flexibility of a highly liquid, immediately accessible savings account.Your life stage, risk tolerance, time horizon, and overall personal finances and investment goals might be totally different from mine, and that's totally OK! If you're a retiree who needs fixed income, maybe buying CDs should be part of your strategy. But if you're still trying to grow your wealth with long-term investments, buying stocks is likely to be a better strategy.Bottom line: I'm not opening a CD in 2024 because I value the flexibility of a savings account. I don't want to commit my money to a CD that charges early withdrawal penalties, and the best high-yield savings accounts offer similarly high APYs. My philosophy on CDs is: don't lock up your emergency savings in a CD, and don't use CDs as long-term investments. Flexible access to cash in the bank can provide priceless peace of mind.

How to Grow a $1,000 Emergency Fund Into $3,000 in 2024

You need money available in an emergency fund at all times. You never know when you might lose a job, get stuck with a huge medical bill, or face a car repair your regular paycheck can't cover.Recent SecureSave data finds that 63% of Americans can't cover an unplanned $500 expense by dipping into their savings. So if you have a cool $1,000 sitting in your savings account, consider yourself to be in better shape than the typical U.S. adult.However, an ideal emergency fund is one that has enough money to cover three months of essential expenses. Chances are, $1,000 isn't enough to do that unless you happen to have extremely low expenses (maybe you're a recent college grad who lives at home).Getting from a $1,000 emergency fund to having enough savings for three months of bills can be challenging. And it may have to be a multi-year process. But it may be possible to grow your $1,000 emergency fund to $3,000 in 2024 alone -- especially if you make these moves.1. Cut one small expense and send that sum into savings automaticallyTo save $2,000 during the year, you basically need to bank $167 a month. You can probably do that if you cut out all of the fun things in your budget, but that's really no way to live. So instead, cut one expense. And you don't even have to cut it completely -- just somewhat.Let's say you cancel one streaming service but keep a second one you have. If that move saves you $16 a month, so be it. That's almost $200 in savings, or 10% of your goal.However, don't just cut an expense and call it a day. Set up an automatic transfer so that specific amount leaves your checking account at the start of the month and lands in your savings. You don't want to accidentally take your $16 or so in Netflix savings and blow it at Starbucks by popping in a couple of times a month.2. Join the gig economyWorking a second job may be a tall order for you if your main job is demanding and you have a lot of obligations outside of the office, like caring for young children or pets. But perhaps it's feasible to earn an extra $100 to $200 a month doing gig work, which could put you at your savings goal for the year.One thing you may want to focus on is a job that allows you to set your own hours, like driving for a ride-hailing service. That way, you can take advantage of slower periods at work or in your personal life and work more hours then, but scale back when things are busy.3. Take a less expensive vacationPacaso says that in 2023, the average vacation cost $1,919 per week, per person. As such, it's conceivable that skipping out on a 2024 vacation entirely might basically get you to your $2,000 savings goal.But let's be real -- we all deserve a getaway that allows us to recharge and experience new things. So a more realistic approach may be to see if you can spend more like $1,000 on a 2024 vacation if you'd normally be inclined to spend double. You can then put the sum you aren't spending on things like airfare and lodging in the bank.Another thing to consider is a staycation. The upside there is that you still get a break from work and you still get new experiences. But not paying to get places (other than perhaps some gas or train fare) or for lodging could save you a lot.Tripling your emergency fund could put you in a much better position by the end of the year. Make these moves to give your savings a boost -- and to enjoy the peace of mind that comes with it.

Is $10,000 Too Much to Keep in a Savings Account?

Saving $10,000 is a huge milestone, and it's worth celebrating. That kind of money can solve a lot of problems. But it also raises some important questions, like where's the best place to keep that kind of cash?A savings account might seem like the obvious option, but it's not always the best move. Here's what you need to know to decide if it's right for your money.Benefits of keeping your $10,000 in a savings accountFirst things first: There's nothing wrong with keeping $10,000 in a savings account. If you're working with a reputable bank, your money will have Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insurance up to $250,000 per person per account ($500,000 for joint accounts). This protects your money even if the bank fails. So there's no risk of loss as long as you protect your personal and banking information.Keeping your money in a savings account can also help you earn interest over time. Interest rates vary depending on economic conditions. Currently, they're pretty high, with some of the best high-yield savings accounts offering rates exceeding 4.50%. That could earn you $450 or more in a year with a $10,000 initial deposit.Using a savings account keeps your money accessible as well. This is extremely important if that $10,000 is part of your emergency fund or is for a large purchase you plan to make in the next couple of years. You usually don't want to invest this money because markets can be unpredictable in the short term. If you need to withdraw your cash when your investments are down, you'd have to settle for a loss. A savings account enables you to withdraw your money worry-free at any time.The drawback to keeping your $10,000 in a savings accountThough savings account interest rates are high right now, they aren't guaranteed to stay that way. And even the best savings accounts probably won't earn you as much as investing would over the long term.A certificate of deposit (CD) might be a better choice if you're worried about savings account interest rates falling throughout 2024. CDs give you a guaranteed interest rate for the entire term, which could be anywhere from a few months to several years, depending on the CD you choose. If you lock in a high CD rate now, you could potentially earn more in interest with one of these accounts than you could with a savings account over the next few years.But you should note that you typically cannot touch money in a CD until the end of the CD term. If you access yours early, you'll usually pay a penalty equal to several months of lost interest. So it's not the right place for your emergency fund or cash you plan to use before the CD term ends.Investing your savings is another option, but as mentioned above, market volatility makes this a poor choice for the money you plan to use soon. It can be a great option, though, for money you don't expect to use for years. The S&P 500 -- one of the most popular market indexes -- has a compound average annual growth rate of 10.7% over the past 30 years.If you invested your $10,000 and it earned about 10% per year over the next 10 years, you'd wind up with close to $26,000. No savings account will earn you that much over that time.It doesn't have to be all or nothingThere are pros and cons to all of the above options. If you're not comfortable putting all your eggs in one basket, consider spreading your money around. Keep some in a savings account and put the rest in a CD, brokerage account, or retirement account. This can help you earn higher yields while also keeping some of your cash readily accessible. Think through all your options and go with the approach that you're most comfortable with.

My Brother Won a Car on The Price Is Right. Here's What It Cost Him

When my brother got tickets to be in the audience of The Price Is Right, he figured it would simply be an entertaining way to spend a day off. He didn't imagine his name would actually be called during the show's opening round.But lo and behold, my brother was one of the first four contestants asked to come on down and participate in the iconic show that has you guessing at prices of various consumer goods. And as luck would have it, my brother was able to out-bid his competitors and move on for a chance at a new car -- a car he won through savvy guessing, but also, a nice amount of luck.My brother was ecstatic to have won such an awesome and valuable prize. But that prize wound up being a bit of a mixed bag.Taking the money and runningMy brother won a Hyundai Elantra with an estimated value of $25,415. He was happy to have won the car, but there was a problem -- he already had a vehicle and didn't need a second one. And he certainly didn't want to have to bear the cost of auto insurance for a vehicle to largely just sit in his driveway.Thankfully, my brother was able to work something out with the dealership. Instead of keeping the Elantra, he was able to use the roughly $25,000 credit he got to buy a used car from them and then sell it back for $21,000, which he took as cash. This route was worth it for him because sales tax and registration for a new Elantra would've been about $4,000. And now, my brother has a pile of cash he can add to his savings account instead of a car he doesn't actually need.Gearing up for a giant tax billMy brother won two prizes on The Price Is Right -- a grill package worth about $1,400 and the Hyundai Elantra. All told, it's more than $26,000 in winnings.But now, my brother is going to be looking at a pretty hefty tax bill on his prizes. And it doesn't matter that he took cash for the car. He's looking at paying that tax either way.The exact amount will hinge on his total tax situation. What'll probably happen is that my brother will receive a tax form from the game show summarizing the value of his winnings, and he'll need to work with his accountant to figure out what it will cost him.As a very basic example, let's say you win $20,000 on a game show and fall into the 24% tax bracket based on your income. You might, in that case, end up having to pay as much as $4,800 on your winnings. If that $20,000 is a cash prize, you could simply reserve some of it for your tax bill. But what if you win a $20,000 vacation package, or $20,000 in furniture? It's not like you can send the IRS a dining room chair or a loveseat and call things even.So be very careful when you're looking at taking home any sort of game show prize. You may even want to meet with an accountant before applying to be on a game show to get some advice.The good news is that my brother stands to gain something financially either way. But imagine you were to receive a $26,000 bonus from work. That's a great thing. But you'll likely end up losing a large chunk of that $26,000 when you account for the portion you owe the IRS.All told, my brother is grateful for his experience and now has a really fun story to tell. But if you're planning to audition for a game show in the hopes of walking away with a huge amount of cash or a set of prizes, do know that winnings like that are considered taxable income. And it might take the input of a very seasoned accountant to help you reconcile your tax bill after coming away with that sort of haul.

5 Kirkland Products to Try at Costco This Month

If you're fairly new to shopping at Costco, you may not be so familiar with Kirkland products. So in a nutshell, Kirkland is Costco's store or signature brand. You'll find the Kirkland name all over the store's grocery aisles, as well as on household essentials and even clothing.Now, if you're someone who takes comfort in the brands you know, you may be hesitant to give Kirkland a try. But loading up on Kirkland products could be a huge source of savings. So if you pick up these products this month, you may be doing a good thing for your personal finances to kick off the year.1. Kirkland Signature Variety Snack Box, 51-countWe all need snacks that are easy to grab and take with us on the go. And Kirkland's variety snack box fits that bill. For $32.99 online, you can snag a box of 51 individual snacks that include granola bars, trail mix, and roasted almonds and cashews. The theme among these snacks is that they're a bit less heavy on sugar and more energy-focused. And at $0.65 per snack, it's hard to beat the price.It's also worth noting that Costco products are almost always less expensive in-store than online. So you might run up a smaller credit card tab if you buy a mix like this in person.2. Kirkland Signature Organic QuinoaQuinoa is being hailed as the new super grain, and it's versatile enough to go into a range of dishes. You could serve it warmed for breakfast with fruit or eat it cold in a mixed salad for lunch. Or, throw some grilled fish or chicken and roasted vegetables over it for dinner.You can buy a 4.5-pound bag of Kirkland quinoa online for $10.99, bringing your cost to just $0.15 per ounce. At a local supermarket, your per-ounce cost might be three times as high.3. Kirkland Signature Semi-Sweet Chocolate ChipsIf you can't remember the last time you baked cookies at home, then a 4.5-bag of Kirkland chocolate chips is probably not something you need. But since these chocolate chips have a decent shelf life, if you're an avid baker, they could be a good buy -- especially in January. People who live in cold weather climates often tend to hunker down more in winter, which could lead to more baking opportunities.If you buy this sack of chips online, you'll pay $13.99, or about $0.19 per ounce. At a local supermarket, you might easily pay more than $0.30 per ounce.4. Kirkland Signature Wild Flower HoneyWinter tends to be the time when people catch a host of viruses and colds, which means a large supply of honey might serve you well. Honey has antimicrobial properties and might help your family feel better, according to the Harvard Medical School. Kirkland's version will cost you just $17.99 online for a five-pound bottle, or $0.23 per ounce. You might easily pay 30% more at a regular supermarket.5. Kirkland Signature Organic Pure Maple SyrupThere's nothing like a batch of homemade pancakes on a cold winter morning with delicious maple syrup drizzled over the top. Unless you have your own tree to tap, you'll be hard-pressed to find maple syrup at a lower price than Costco's Kirkland version. A 33.8-ounce jug costs $14.99 online, which translates into a cost per ounce of $0.44. At a regular supermarket, you might pay almost double.These are only five of many Kirkland products you're likely to spot at Costco or Costco.com this month. It pays to take a look around and see which Kirkland items check off a need on your list.Remember, buying Kirkland products at Costco is a very low-risk proposition. Costco is known to stand behind the items it sells. So if you buy a Kirkland product you aren't happy with, rest assured that you'll most likely be able to take it back for a full refund without a hassle.

How to Save Money on Holiday Travel

Navigating Expensive Holiday Travel: 5 Tips for a Cost-Effective Journey

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