December 2, 2022

How to Save Money When Traveling Home For The Holidays

Holiday travel season is upon us. Whether you’re headed home for Thanksgiving or planning a…

How to Save Money When Traveling Home For The Holidays

Holiday travel season is upon us. Whether you’re headed home for Thanksgiving or planning a family trip for December, traveling is especially expensive during the holidays. According to data from the travel booking app Hopper, travelers can expect to pay up to 39% more for a round-trip flight around Christmas compared to last year.

Fortunately, there are still ways to avoid parting with a ton of your hard-earned cash. Select has you covered with tips and tricks on how to save money on your upcoming trips, plus a few tips on how to make your journey a bit smoother. 

Get TSA PreCheck and/or Global Entry membership fees refunded

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Information about the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

  • Rewards

    10X miles on hotels and rental cars, 5X miles on flights when booked via Capital One Travel; unlimited 2X miles on all other eligible purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    19.99% – 26.99% variable APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR

  • Foreign transaction fees

  • Credit needed

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Rewards

    Earn 5X total points on flights and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases plus, 10X points on Lyft rides through March 2025

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Use credit card free night certificates when applicable

Some hotel credit cards with annual fees under $100 come with free hotel night certificates, which grant you one free night. This can come in handy to lower the cost of your family holiday getaway or to cover any stops you have on the way home. Credit cards like the World of Hyatt Credit Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card come with free anniversary nights, meaning you’ll get one free night on every anniversary of opening your account. To qualify, you’ll just need to be a cardholder and pay your annual fee. 

Since the price of your hotel room would probably be more than the credit card’s annual fee, it would make sense to apply for one of those cards to save cash on your stay. Plus, you’ll can also earn a large heap of rewards from the card’s welcome bonus.

The World of Hyatt Credit Card

  • Rewards

    Earn up to 9 points total per $1 spent at Hyatt: 4X bonus points per $1 when you use your card at Hyatt hotels and 5X bonus points per $1 you can earn as a World of Hyatt member

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn up to 60,000 total bonus points: Earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 more Bonus Points by earning 2X bonus points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1X bonus point, on up to $15,000 spent

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Use points to book hotel rooms and flights

To avoid using your savings or racking up credit card debt when buying airline tickets, book by using credit card points, airline miles or hotel points you’ve accrued throughout the year. If you have enough points, you can use your rewards to book a flight home and/or a hotel room and potentially pay next to nothing.

If you don’t already have a nice stack of credit card points to cover your trip, a hefty welcome bonus could give you a quick, and hefty, boost. The Chase Sapphire Preferred lets you earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. The bonus is worth up to $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, and potentially more if you transfer to one of Chase’s partners like United Airlines or World of Hyatt.

The American Express® Gold Card offers a similar bonus — new cardholders earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first six months of account opening.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Rewards

    $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining, 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    18.99% – 25.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

American Express® Gold Card

On the American Express secure site

  • Rewards

    4X Membership Rewards® points at Restaurants (plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.) and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months of card membership

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Use an app to monitor changes in flight pricing

Bring food to the airport 

This one is pretty simple. Anyone who’s bought a snack at an airport knows that it’s pricier than what you can make at home or even buy in a regular store. It’s often more affordable to just bring a snack from home. Unfortunately, because liquids aren’t allowed through TSA, you’ll still need to shell out for a bottle of water if you want to stay hydrated on your flight. Alternatively, you can also bring an empty water bottle and fill it up after you go through security. 

If you have to travel internationally, use a card without foreign transaction fees

A foreign transaction fee is an amount charged by a bank or the credit card issuer for any transaction made outside the U.S. If you’re constantly paying for things with a credit card internationally, these transaction fees can add up to a lot. To avoid these costs, be sure to use a credit card without foreign transaction fees, or you could be paying 3% or more in addition to what you’re buying. Cards like the Discover It® Cash Back card and the Citi Premier Card® are great options when traveling abroad.

Also, if the currency is different from your home country’s, always pay in the local currency, or you could accrue fees. Also be aware of this when withdrawing any money from an ATM or if a retailer asks you to choose when swiping your card at the register.

Citi Premier® Card

  • Rewards

    3X points per $1 spent at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, and on hotels and air travel, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    5% of each balance transfer, $5 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Discover it® Cash Back

On Discover’s secure site

  • Rewards

    Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

  • Welcome bonus

    Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

    0% for 15 months on purchases

  • Regular APR

    14.99% to 25.99% Variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Book your flight with a credit card that gives you built-in travel insurance 

Travel insurance can cover expenses ranging from canceled flights to lost bags, and the average cost of travel insurance is 5%-6% of what your trip costs. Without travel insurance, though, refunds can be hard to come by. Fortunately, there are a variety of credit cards with built-in travel insurance to choose from. 

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is one great option. The travel protections it offers include: auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance and trip delay reimbursement, but note that you must pay for your travel with your card to be eligible for the insurance protections.

Use a card that gives you rideshare rewards 

You might find yourself having to use Uber or Lyft to get to and from the airport when traveling home or going on a trip. Some credit cards will reward you for it, so it’s best to use them if you’ll be on the go. The American Express Gold Card gives you $10 a month in Uber credits, so your ride home could be discounted or potentially free depending on the cost. Plus, Capital One has recently launched Uber benefits for some of its credit cards, including 10% cash back on Uber rides and Uber Eats orders, plus a complimentary Uber One membership which offers discounts on rides and food delivery, among other benefits.

Bottom line

Traveling during the holidays will always cause a dent in your pocket, but making it home for Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be as expensive as you thought. By booking strategically and using the right credit cards, you can save on hotel stays, flights and transportation. 

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.