They say there’s no place like home for the holidays – but many Canadians travel far and wide to celebrate the holiday season. Whether you're driving the family across two provinces to visit grandma, or flying south to rediscover the sun, here are seven holiday travel tips to ensure all your days are merry and bright – and affordable.
Take a tip from Santa, who starts updating his naughty-or-nice list in January. Plan your travel as far out as possible, so you have lots of time to decide where you're going and when. If you're flying, start researching holiday fares months in advance, so you’ll know a bargain when you see one. More airlines are now holding surprise one-day sales, so those who are prepared can reap the rewards. Stay flexible: many booking sites show you alternative fares on adjacent days that can save you money.
Generally, you’ll save the most if you can avoid flying during the five days before Christmas, or just after New Year’s Day. For more trip-planning tips, see here.
Don't Lose the Cheap Seats:
Industry experts say holiday airfares tend to hold steady during November and December, but don't put off your purchase too long. There are only so many low-priced seats per aircraft, and the cheapest usually go first. If several family members are flying at once, lock in the savings ASAP. (Don't forget to pay with your President's Choice Financial Mastercard® to earn PC Optimum points.)
Prepare for the Worst:
Unless you're rigorously following a dealer’s maintenance plan, your car may not have been in the shop for some time. Make sure you get the minivan checked before you leave on your long winter’s journey. The last thing you want is for Santa’s sleigh to break down on a dark highway in sub-zero temperatures. (Just in case, carry a cell phone charger, food and drink, extra blankets and a foldable snow shovel. Maybe even a few battery-powered hand-warmers. And extra batteries. Welcome to Canada.)
In recent years, more and more Canadians have travelled south to find holiday warmth. Budget-conscious families may find Las Vegas offers the most attractions for your dollar (including a chance of flurries if you visit the nearby Grand Canyon). If you insist on a tropical beach, Christmas week offers lots of availability throughout the Caribbean.
Consolidate Your Baggage:
If you're flying for the holidays, be warned that more airlines are adding baggage surcharges – so what looks like a bargain fare may not turn out to be. Review all fare options carefully to ensure you're getting the best deal for your needs. Travelling with the family? Save money by consolidating all your belongings into just one or two well-stuffed pieces of luggage. (You can use this as an excuse for why you didn’t bring along that Christmas sweater your aunt gave you last year. Just be careful about weight restrictions!)
Call for the Best Price:
Once you've used your favourite booking site to identify a great hotel with the best rate, call that hotel to try to negotiate a lower rate or a room upgrade. Generally speaking, they’d rather sell to you directly than pay a middleman, so they are often happy to undercut or match the discount sites.
Your Presence Is More Important Than Your Presents:
With today’s hefty baggage surcharges, it no longer makes much sense to carry bulky Christmas gifts with you when travelling by air. Contact your local post office to compare the cost of carrying, mailing or shipping your Christmas presents. Better still, consider smaller, lighter presents you can stuff in your carry-on, such as gloves, books, or gift cards.