About 99 million Americans traveled at least 50 miles from home during the last holiday season, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). Whether you’re visiting relatives during the holidays, taking a trip to a warm weather location, or planning next year’s vacation, you can find many opportunities to lower your costs and get the most from your travel dollar, says the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Plan Ahead (But Keep an Open Mind)
No matter where you’re headed, you’re more likely to find affordable travel costs and hotel rates if you don’t wait until the last minute. If you start scheduling next year’s trips now, you should also be able to find discounted prices, even for holiday or peak periods. At the same time, if you’re willing to be flexible, you can find surprisingly inexpensive travel or lodging costs. If possible, pick your dream location and check to see when flights or hotels are cheapest, then plan your trip around those times. If the timing works you could save a lot if you can don’t need to plan your travel around a specific day of the week. Flexibility can also work in your favor for peak-period travel.
Going skiing in early December can be much less expensive than at the very end of the year or around Presidents’ Day, when many families are traveling. For national parks like Yellowstone, lodging is less expensive virtually any time of year other than summer. You’ll also find that traveling in Europe tends to be cheaper in the fall. If a peak period is the only time you can travel, don’t despair. Look into packages that include airfare, lodging, and car rental. You could find significant savings.
Don’t Miss Out on Discounts
Can you get a travel discount based simply on the company you work for? You’ll never know if you don’t investigate. In fact, many people are not aware of travel discounts for which they’re eligible. Large employers, for example, often have employee clubs that offer reductions on travel or other goods and services. Similarly, large national service organizations such as AAA and AARP often provide members with discounts on travel fares or hotels. Check the websites for clubs or organizations to which you belong to see if they can help you cut costs.
Take Smart Precautions
In addition to lowering costs, you also want to protect your money while you’re on the road and ensure you have access to it. Particularly if you’re traveling out of the country, be sure to contact your bank and credit card company to let them know your plans so they don’t block your transactions because they’re seeing unusual activity. Take no more than a couple of credit or debit cards—just what you need—and don’t leave your Social Security card in your wallet in case it’s lost or stolen. Bring bank and credit card contact information so you have them if needed, as well as copies of key documents such as a passport—but don’t keep them in your wallet. While it’s fun to tell friends about your travel ideas on social media, it does alert crooks to the fact that your home will be empty. It’s better to share your photos later than broadcast your plans in advance.
Your CPA Can Help
Have questions about making the most of your travel dollars or saving for next year’s expenditures? Be sure to consult your local CPA. She or he can offer the advice you need to make smart financial decisions. For help creating a budget, setting financial goals, or to find a local CPA with PICPA’s CPA locator tool visit www.picpa.org/moneyandlife