Almost half of Americans (49%) planned to spend money on travel — flights and/or hotels — this holiday season, according to a Harris Poll survey and NerdWallet analysis. This translates to 123.5 million U.S. travelers who said they’ll add an average of $1,456 to their credit card balances with their holiday travel plans. And it’s not just the flights and hotel rooms that are costing consumers — credit card interest can rack up, too, if balances aren’t paid quickly.
What Holiday Travel is Really Costing
In the same Harris Poll/NerdWallet survey, Americans said that they paid off 2017 holiday travel in an average of 2.2 months, while 5% reported that they’re still paying for it.
If holiday travelers in 2018 pay off the estimated total of $135.8 billion in credit card balances over 2.2 months this year, that means U.S. travelers will pay an additional $2.8 billion in interest (based on NerdWallet’s analysis). In plain English: That’s a lot of credit card interest.
Tips for Holiday Traveling on a Budget
With holiday travel costing a lot of money year after year, it’s important to think of ways to spend less when and where you can. Here are a few frugal tips for traveling over the holidays (and any time, really):
- Search for Deals: Spend time doing a little research. Sometimes you can find connecting flights or flights on multiple airlines that are good deals. You can search via Google Flights or deal sites like ClarkDeals.com for discount fares aggregated from various airlines. Travelzoo is another site that offers global travel deals on flights, hotels, and even restaurants and spas.
- Travel on “Off” Days: If you have some flexibility in your travel plans, you can travel on Christmas Day or even late on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve, and flights might cost less. You could also find airports to be less hectic. Traveling on Thanksgiving Day is another good way to relax your travel itinerary a bit and beat the holiday rush.
- Ship Directly: Rather than packing and toting a lot of presents with you and racking up airline baggage fees, consider having packages shipped directly to your loved ones so that they’ll meet you there when you arrive.
- Use Credit Cards That Give Points Back: While this isn’t a true money-saving tactic, it can help you make sure that you’re getting something in return for spending on those holiday trips. If you’re using a credit card to book travel, consider one that offers bonus points for travel-specific expenses, like Chase Sapphire Reserve® or the Platinum Card for American Express®. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card also offers a travel credit of $300 every year, and both cards offer reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA Precheck (which can make your travel experience much easier).
The most important part of holiday travel is to arrive at your destination safely in time to enjoy the merriment of the holiday, but it’s also a good idea to not let holiday travel become something that continues to cost you for months to come. And remember: Being responsible with your spending and finances is important all year round. Click here to read more articles on Mr. Cooper’s blog about money and managing yours.