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Affordable Christmas Getaways for Winter Break on a Budget

October 24, 2018 | By Emma Frost

Planning a Christmas Getaway this year? If you’re short on cash, it can feel a little overwhelming, but you don’t have to break the bank to make it a holiday to remember. Whether you’re dreaming of adventure in Alaska or sand and surf in Hawaii, there are some easy ways to make it happen for less than you thought possible.


Trip Planning Basics

It might seem like it goes without saying, but figuring out where you’re going this holiday season is the first step to making your vacation plans a reality. If you have family or friends to visit in any of those destinations, you might even have the extra incentive of a place to stay while you’re there. Here are just a few general tips to keep in mind.

  • Start Planning Early: Where are you going? How are you getting there? And where are you going to stay? The sooner you start planning (and saving), the sooner you’ll be able to kick back.
  • Try to Stay Flexible: Sometimes traveling on the day itself or taking a flight with a layover can be the difference between paying a lot and a little.
  • Pack Responsibly: Bringing exactly what you need is a balancing act; you don’t want to forget something that will cost more later, but overpacking could mean fees if you’re not careful.

No matter where you’re headed or how you’re getting there, these tips can come in handy when it comes to your planning stage. It also doesn’t hurt to keep your friends and family in the loop when it comes from everything from house and pet-sitting to where you’ll be staying. Chances are your loved ones will be happy to help you out either way, and the cash you save can go toward Christmas gifts for your gracious hosts or sitters.

Your Trip

When it comes to holiday travel, there are really only two options: driving and flying. Here are a few things to consider about each.

Driving

If you’re close to your destination already, making a road trip of it might be the way to go. There’s a lot to take into account with this approach, however, like the possibility of holiday gridlock as many Americans have the same idea you do. From Atlantic to Pacific, the traffic is far from terrific this time of year. But with proper planning, driving can save you big bucks – especially if you’re traveling with a big group. Driving can also be a nice way to take in the scenery and catch up with your family before getting into the hustle and bustle of the holidays. And the best part of driving is you’ll have your car there with you when you’re out and about.


Flying

Nowadays, flying is more possible than ever. You can book a flight Vegas or Miami for as little as $70 (depending on time and tickets), and find flights to Philly for Christmas for under $50 with sites like Kayak. Here are a few things to keep in mind about flying:

  • Travel on Days Others Won’t: It might feel like a drag to be at the airport of Christmas, but it could save you big bucks on your ticket.
  • Go for a Long Layover: Nothing is worse than missing your connection. Cut out that concern and choose a longer layover – you might even get to take in some of the sights.
  • Minimize Your Fees: Find out what’s included and what’s not, and pack accordingly to avoid getting charged for an overweight bag on your way there or back.
  • Use Your Points Wisely: Points are great, but blackout dates aren’t! Find out if it’s worth it to use your points now, or if saving them for another trip will be more worth your while.

Use this information to make a decision that works for you, but whenever the travel stress starts creeping in, no matter how you get there, just remember why you’re going in the first place.

Your Stay

It’s easy to let your holiday expenses creep up on you, especially when you’re traveling, but you don’t have to be a Scrooge to manage them. If you don’t have the luxury of staying with family this year, you can get 2-bedroom rentals for under $150/night at any of these US Christmas vacation destinations on TripAdvisor:

  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: $120
  • Hilo, Hawaii: $135
  • Anchorage, Alaska: $135

These prices are based on last year’s numbers, but can offer you some insight when deciding how much vacation you can afford. You can also use sites like Airbnb to search, compare, and book hundreds of cabins, apartments, beach houses, and desert hideaways.


Final Thoughts

Whether you’re visiting family or taking a personal vacation, how you get there is half the equation, and where you stay the other. Rental amenities like a full kitchen and access to laundry facilities can make your trip more convenient and cost-effective, and cutting costs here can end up costing you more in the long run. Just be sure to find a good balance and take your other expenses into account to avoid relying on installment loans to deal with unpleasant surprises. Having a solid plan in mind can help you keep your winter break on budget!