If you’re gearing up to travel for the holidays, you may be in for massive sticker shock. Airlines, hotels, and rental car companies commonly jack up their prices in the holiday peak. But this year, some of those costs are already on the rise as part of the general bout of inflation that’s plagued consumers since the spring.
According to recent data from the Labor Department, the cost of rental cars is up a whopping 42.9%. Meanwhile, hotels are up 18%.
The one bright spot is that airfares dropped 6.4% in September as other travel costs rose. But that decline may be short-lived, since holiday pricing could rear its ugly head in late November and December.
How to cope with higher travel costs
The better you prepare for increased holiday travel costs, the less likely you are to wind up in debt this season. First, start saving for your upcoming trips now. Look at your budget and identify a few spending categories to cut back on. Dining out less frequently, for example, could make it so that you’re not left in the red if the car you rent later this year costs you $100 more than you anticipated.
Another good bet is to get yourself a side hustle. If you’re able to take on a gig on top of your main job, you can sock away your earnings for holiday spending. That might come in handy not only for travel costs, but also for gifts and other expenses and obligations. And since many businesses need extra help leading up to the holidays, finding a side job may be easier than you think.
Finally, take a look at your credit cards and see what reward programs they currently offer. If you don’t get a lot of cash back for hotel stays, rental cars, and flights, consider applying for a new credit card that will reward you more generously for these purchases.
Furthermore, if you expect to fly to your holiday destination, having a travel rewards card could help you reap additional benefits and savings. Many of these cards are loaded with perks that can make your travels less expensive, like free checked bags.
Book your plans early
As the holidays get closer, the availability of flights, rental cars, and hotel rooms is likely to decrease. As a result, now’s a good time to consider booking your plans. Most hotels offer fairly flexible cancellation policies, so if you book a room now and prices go down next month, you can most likely cancel without penalty. Airlines are far less flexible, though, so be sure to do your research before booking a flight.
Traveling for the holidays could mean spending more than you bargained for. The more you prepare now, the more you’ll be able to enjoy the holidays without landing in debt.
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