6 tips for holiday travel on a college budget

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It’s about that time. All over the country, college students will be preparing to pack up their bags for a few weeks and heading back home.

While this can be a super exciting time, it can also be incredibly stressful, especially if your family can’t help you with the cost of travel. When you’re in the throws of this new life transition, missing out on traditional holidays spent with your family can have an impact on your mental health and your emotions.

Luckily, there are ways to make travel home a little more affordable. 

Start racking up those airline miles

You’ve probably heard your parents or friends talk about getting miles. With airlines like Jetblue, Southwest, and Alaska, gaining enough points for travel isn’t as impossible as some other airlines. While this is a slow burn solution, the sooner you sign up for points, the sooner you can accumulate and use them. 

These days you can get points for everything. From dining out to taking surveys online. While we don’t want to encourage you to go all out and get a credit card, do some research and see how you can get as many points as possible. 

Check prices all the time

Travel prices fluctuate often. Some sources say that booking 50 days out is the best time to guarantee the lowest prices. Unfortunately, for holiday travel, that isn’t always true. 

The best thing to do is to check Google Flights regularly for your flight dates. If you can, try to keep your travel dates flexible so you can choose the cheapest ones. Even better, you can set up a Google Flight Tracker, which will automatically send you an email when a flight you’re interested in drops in price. 

Be strategic about your travel days

The cheapest travel days are typically Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturdays, mostly because they’re the least popular days to fly. Depending on when the holiday falls, trying to get on a flight that falls on one of the cheaper days can be super helpful.

Additionally, the further you are away from the holiday, the cheaper the flights will be. If you can plan to fly out a week before Christmas, it might mean saving a significant amount of money.

While sneaky travel days don’t always work with your schedule, if you can be flexible, definitely do it. 

Sign up for flight alerts

Use apps like DealRay or Hopper to set up flight alerts right there on your phone. They’ll use your settings to search fares, tell you the best days to travel, and let you know when you’re getting the best deal. 

You can also sign up to get newsletters like AirfareWatchdog and Scotts Cheap Flights (for international flights).

The thing with these types of alerts is that you need to be ready to purchase when they pop up. Flight prices change so rapidly that even 24 hours later, these deals can be gone. 

Clear your cookies

In sneak news, sometimes airlines can tell how often you’re searching for a single flight, and they’ll hike up the price, expecting that you’ll buy it. An excellent way to get around this is to clear your history, cache, and cookies, and try looking again a little bit later. 

Join cashback programs

Some airlines or travel sites offer incentives like cashback every time you book travel. This isn’t something you’ll get back immediately, but over time you could cash out enough to get a free flight. 

Cashback doesn’t just apply to shop for air travel. Rakuten and Ibotta offer cashback on tons of everyday purchases.

There are tons of small ways to start saving money on your travel back home. If you think in advance, these tips can bring down the cost of your flight and take a little financial weight off your family.