If your kids attend a traditional school, planning affordable travel can be difficult. School vacations tend to be peak travel times as everyone wants to squeeze in a trip while the kids have a week or two off. Holiday breaks are even worse, with everyone having time off work and so many people traveling to see family. But if school vacations are the only time you can travel- don’t panic! There are lots of ways you can still work to save money while planning a fantastic trip. Check out these tips for travel during peak season if you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck while traveling on school breaks!
Tips for Travel During Peak Season
1. Plan Ahead
It’s no secret that the price of flights and hotel rooms go up as the date of travel gets closer. This is especially true for peak travel dates such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring Break. Your best bet at scoring deals is to book as soon as humanly possible. Have a family game plan ready when your kid’s school releases their official calendar so you are ready to book that trip right away! Lots of people like waiting for last minute travel deals, but traveling during peak season isn’t the right time to hope you snag something amazing at the last minute. You’ll be glad you booked as early as possible as you watch those flight prices climb higher and higher the closer you get to your trip!
2. Be Flexible with Dates
You’d be surprised by how much of a difference a little flexibility can make. While you may not want to pull kids out of school for an entire week, consider adjusting your date of departure or your return home by a few days. Traveling on a Wednesday evening or Thursday morning is going to be cheaper than a Saturday morning. Likewise, coming home on a Monday or Tuesday will be cheaper as well. If you can adjust your dates just a bit, it might be worth letting the kids miss a day or two of class.
3. Be Creative with Destinations
If you want to go to Aspen over Christmas or Florida for Spring Break, be aware that the rest of the country will be there with you! If you want to save money and avoid massive crowds, be creative with your destination. Pick somewhere that is in the shoulder season or off-season for cheaper flights and hotels as well as fewer crowds. For example, shoulder season in England is April through early June and might be a great Spring Break destination as prices will be lower than they are during the peak season in summer. You can also look at destinations that are a little but less popular. Want a ski trip for Christmas? The Green Mountain ski resorts in Vermont will be less crowded and easier to access than the popular Colorado resorts, but they’re just as beautiful. In the summer, consider lesser known national parks over popular parks like Yellowstone or Yosemite.
4. Pick a Few Destinations
Especially if you are planning to fly or have very little flexibility with your travel dates- pick a few destinations that everyone in the family would be happy with, then decide which one will be the most affordable based on the cost of flights and hotel. If you have your heart set on one destination and have little flexibility in your travel dates, you’ll be stuck with market prices. But if you have the flexibility to come up with a few trip ideas that everyone will love, you can see which one ends up being the most affordable for the dates you can travel. And just like that- you saved a little money!
5. Opt for Ground Transportation
If you’re heading out of the country, flying is likely your only option. But if you’re staying in the states, consider traveling by car, bus or train as these options will be more affordable than plane tickets. An 8 to 10 hour train trip might seem like a wasted day- but if you consider how long the lines will be at the airport, it’s really not that bad. Plan a scenic route so that you can catch some beautiful sights on your travel day and it might be worth the savings!
6. Consider Smaller Airports
Looking at different airports can save you time and money- so it’s definitely worth taking the time to investigate ticket prices at smaller airports if you are flying. Los Angeles International Airport can be brutal during peak travel times- but flying into Burbank, Long Beach or Orlando isn’t nearly as bad. Sometimes flights in and out of these smaller airports are cheaper- not always, but it’s worth a try. Although even if you don’t save a ton of money, the amount of time you’ll save might be totally worth it!
7. Play the Points Game
If you can only travel during school holidays, spend the rest of the year playing the points game to help offset the cost of peak travel expenses. Get a credit card that offers travel points and use that card all year to collect as many points as possible. There are two types of travel points cards. One way to go is to get a card for a specific brand. If you love flying Delta or staying at Marriott properties, open a card through that brand and earn points with that specific company. The other option gives you a bit more flexibility. A general travel card like the Chase Sapphire card allows you to spend your points on a wide variety of travel brands. If you make most of your purchases throughout the year with a travel card, you should save up a decent amount of points to put towards your flights or hotel stays so you’re paying less out of pocket.
8. Book Accommodations with a Kitchen
Maybe you couldn’t save a ton of money on your flights, but you can make up for that by booking a hotel room or AirBnB with a kitchen! Going out to eat with the whole family can get really expensive, really fast. Instead, plan to do some grocery shopping when you arrive so you can cook most of your meals at your place. You may still want to splurge on a special restaurant or two during your trip, but if you can at least make breakfasts and pack a few lunches from your kitchen, you’ll save a ton of money over the course of your vacation.
9. Keep an Eye on Resort Fees
Resort fees- they are the bane of every traveler’s existence! Sometimes it’s not even the resort fees themselves, but the sneaky way hotels and travel sites sneak them in there without you really noticing. You think you’re booking a room at one price then BAM- you’re hit with daily resort fees for each guest and suddenly your great deal isn’t so great anymore. If you’re looking to keep costs down while traveling during peak season, try to avoid hotels with extravagant resort fees. Read the fine print when booking, or call the property to speak to someone directly so you know exactly what to expect.
So as you can see, even if you’re traveling around school schedules- there are lots of tips for traveling during peak season that can still help you save money. It takes a little bit of extra flexibility and creativity, but it can be done!