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4 Smart Tips for Saving Money on Last Minute Holiday Travel

Book flights, a hotel room, and more for less.

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Eager to visit family and friends on Thanksgiving, but dreading the high cost of getting there? There’s no doubt that travel costs have increased substantially in recent years, but that doesn’t mean your wallet is doomed, especially if you’re among the many people making last minute holiday travel plans. Here are four simple tips for saving a lot of cash if you haven’t booked your trip yet.

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Score a hotel room deal.

Prefer the comfort and privacy of a hotel room to staying with relatives, but don’t want to pay peak prices? Good news: In several US states, hotel prices are currently at their lowest rates of the season. Why? Hotel occupancy only reaches about 57 percent on Thanksgiving (because many folks opt to sleep on their relatives’ couches). In response to this annual occurrence, hotels often let their rooms go for less. All you have to do is ask.

Hint: Look for a room at a location that hosts business conventions, is near airports, or is in financial districts. Most office work is on pause for the holiday, so more rooms in these types of hotels are sitting empty. Hotel managers slash prices to fill them.

Cut airfare costs.

Planning to fly to your holiday gathering? You probably know it’s smart to book a flight that departs the week before Thanksgiving since prices spike in the days leading up to the holiday. But what if you can’t leave that far in advance? Try traveling on Thanksgiving Day. Since fewer people fly on the holiday, airfare drops by about 25 percent. Not a fan of traveling on the holiday? You can cut the cost of airfare by 10 to 15 percent by looking for flights from smaller regional airports — they have lower overhead, so they’re able to pass the savings on to you. Also smart? Consider flights with layovers, which are typically 20 percent cheaper than nonstop fares. And plan to return on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. A new Google Flights study shows that tickets for flights departing on these days are up to 20 percent cheaper than other days.

Rent a car for 50 percent less.

Since 2019, the price of renting a car has swelled by 48 percent! On top of this, a shortage of rental cars made it more difficult to find last-minute reservations. What can help: There are alternatives to traditional car rental companies where you pay about 50 percent less. For example, you can rent another driver’s car on car-sharing websites, such as AvailCarSharing.com, Getaround.com, Lyft.com/rider/rentals, and Turo.com. You pick up the car from the owner’s home or at a public place, like a gas station or parking lot, and typically insurance is included in the price. Prefer traditional rentals? Find the lowest price by visiting AutoSlash.com, which compares fees across major rental companies and looks for deals, coupons and discounts to save you the most cash.

Whittle down parking fees.

Driving yourself to catch a flight? Opt for a lot near the airport. They cost up to 70 percent less than airport lots and often offer coupons on RetailMeNot.com and Groupon.com for up to 50 percent off. Find parking and compare daily rates by visiting AirportParkingReservations.com or ParkRideFlyUSA.com. Need to park in a garage? Free apps like BestParking (BestParking.com) or SpotHero (SpotHero.com) help you find the cheapest one in the area you’re visiting. Parking by a meter? ParkMobile app (ParkMobile.io) and PayByPhone app (PayByPhone.com) help you avoid expired meter fines by sending a reminder of when to add more time.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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