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Family Money

Summer vacations are just getting started and many of us are already thinking about our travel plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Savvy planning will definitely reduce stress around the holidays and give you bragging rights as you lock in great deals now.

Do you really get the best flight deals by booking in June? Many travel sites suggest waiting until three months prior to Christmas, just after Labor Day. As for Thanksgiving, book before Halloween since fares tend to creep up leading to the turkey day. However, most travel experts emphasize the “when you fly” is much more important than “when you buy.”

I have personally booked flights six months prior to my holiday travel when the flight schedules are released by the airlines. Sometimes I kept the flight and other times I exchanged a reservation for a less expensive one or for a more direct flight without penalty.

As a frugal shopper, I don’t like leaving money on the shelf so I use coupons, hotel points and mileage credits to get the best bang for my buck. Keep in mind, time is money so the cost savings needs to be worth it.
Here are a few suggestions I’ve used when traveling via plane, train or automobile:

• Consider when to travel. If you are flexible with your dates, try leaving/returning on a weekday, mix and match different airlines or even different airports, or choose an indirect flight. Set up mobile alerts to notify you when a fare changes and may be at its lowest. If your travels take you north, return to Fredericksburg on a Monday afternoon to take advantage of the Express Lanes/Flex Pass.

• Consider your food options. Book a hotel with a kitchenette to save leftovers or to eat a meal or two a day in your room. Freeze water bottles to keep them cold on road trips or when passing through airport security. Pack oatmeal with your favorite toppings for an easy breakfast and use a travel fridge that you can plug into your car A/C adapter to keep food and drinks chilled on the go to avoid costly airport food or convenience store stops.

• Keep baggage weight in mind. Ship your luggage to your destination to avoid longer wait times at airport security, additional baggage fees, and/or using precious storage space for gifts whether in checked luggage or in the family car.

Lastly, have your family save that extra change from now until your trip. It’ll help the kids learn about financial planning and the savings will help pay for an extra treat while traveling.

Nikki Ducas is a budget-savvy Fredericksburg mom teaching her two young sons that you can afford nice things without accumulating debt.

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