The gist: By coordinating, consolidating and choosing wisely, your family can rack up some big savings during the big holiday gatherings.
1. Duck those baggage fees
If you have a family of four, those airline bag fees add up fast. Two checked bags per person, $25 per bag each way…there goes 1/3rd of your plane ticket price right there. And unfortunately, discount sites like Kayak don’t take into account baggage fees when comparing prices: if you’re checking two bags, you’re better off getting a $150 ticket on Southwest, which lets you check 2 bags free, than getting a $120 ticket on Delta, which charges $25 per. Be cognizant of each airline’s bag fee policy when you book travel (our bag fee infographic compares major airlines’ policies). And remember that if you have certain credit cards, you can find those fees waived. For example:
- The American Express Platinum gives you a $200 credit against airline incidentals like bag fees
- The Delta Skymiles credit cards let you check one bag fee – for up to 9 people on your reservation. If you’re flying Delta with a lot of family, book together!
- The United MileagePlus Explorer gives you one free checked bag
2. Coordinate travel plans
If your traditional holiday brings together all the far-flung members of your company, start talking with your relatives before you arrive. Book your flights such that, as much as possible, you get into the same or nearby airports at around the same time. that way, you can minimize the number of cars you rent, ask the eighteen-year-old cousins to carry the luggage rather than paying for a cart, and if the host family is shuttling you to/from the airport, they don’t have to make five trips to pick up five people.
3. Bring your own airport food
This is a well-worn travel tip, but it’s even more important when you’re traveling with a family. If you’re a bit peckish before a one-hour flight, you might well decide to suck it up. Such fortitude crumbles when it’s your child that’s hungry. Hungry means cranky. Cranky means loud. Loud means getting The Look from your fellow passengers.
So in anticipation of the capricious, often ill-timed physical needs of your beloved offspring, bring snacks or meals along with you. Airport food is either bad and expensive, or good and really expensive. So bring something along from home (leftovers, perhaps, on your way back?) and save the hassle and money of buying past security. Just remember that they don’t allow liquids, so leave the gravy and sauce at home.
4. Make one Costco trip, not five grocery store trips
Before you arrive, plan out the holiday meal menu (as much as you can, at least). Consolidate your family’s grocery lists so you can make one big trip to Costco. Stock up on tons of flour and butter, rather than each family buying ingredients for their own pie crust. And if you do need to do your own shopping – say, if you’re the only one making a meat dish, or if you just don’t trust anyone else to buy the best produce – cut down on gas by doing your shopping on the way to the family gathering place.