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Book your Christmas travel NOW
The nights are drawing in, the summer holiday season is over for another year and many people’s next big focus will be Christmas.
And although December 25 may seem like a long time away right now, it’s less than three months until Father Christmas will be hopping onto his sleigh and travelling around the world to deliver presents.
While Father Christmas’ travel expenses are relatively modest – a few extra bowls of reindeer food, perhaps – the cost of travelling over the festive season can be eye-wateringly expensive for many as we set off to visit loved ones.
However, with a little forward planning, you can really cut the cost of your Christmas travel. We’ve put together a checklist below to help you to travel for less over the festive season – allowing some extra money for presents.
1. Buy your train tickets now
If you are planning on travelling by train over the Christmas period, now is the time to be looking for your tickets. Rail tickets tend to be released up to 12 weeks before the date of travel, so December tickets are on sale now (if you are travelling later in December or even early January, set a reminder in your calendar to snap up tickets in a few weeks).
Booking now will not only allow you the best chance of nabbing a reduced advance fare before anyone else, you’ll also have the best choice of what’s available.
To make even further savings on rail travel, use a price-comparison site such as TravelSupermarket to compare the price of train tickets side by side. And look at the price of travelling in both first and standard class, buying two single tickets compared to one return, and check what the price difference would be if you set off slightly earlier or later – you may be surprised what the cheapest option is.
When you’ve decided which tickets you’re going for, don’t throw money away on booking or card fees at the last hurdle – TravelSupermarket’s rail channel doesn’t charge for either.
And, if you want to earn 3% cashback on your train travel, find out about the revamped Santander 123 credit card in Melanie Wright’s article ‘Santander 123 credit card now pays back on travel‘.
2. Book plane tickets as soon as possible
Whether you are flying within the UK to see relatives at the other side of the country or are jetting off overseas, the earlier you can secure your plane tickets, the cheaper they will generally be.
And, as many flights start to fill up in the run up to the festive season, the sooner you book, the better chance you have of getting the time and date you want.
Even if you are flying within the UK, it’s just as important to get a good deal so shop around for the best fares. And check what is included in the price of your flight as the cheapest option could actually end up costing you more by the time you have paid for all of the extras you need.
Baggage limits should be a consideration at this time of year when you will be lugging presents around – so don’t forget to check what you get as standard with each airline. Paying to check in bags, for extra weight or, even worse, paying fines for excess luggage at the airport can be a very expensive business.
3. Think about where you are staying
If you can’t bear the thought of staying with the in-laws for another year, or perhaps there simply isn’t room for all of the family at your Christmas destination, start looking for a place to stay over Christmas now.
Looking at all of the options well in advance of your stay will give you the best choice of what is available where you are going, so whether you are looking for a budget B&B, two rooms with interconnecting doors for a family group or want a luxury suite to wake up in on Christmas Day, book now so you don’t end up being told “there’s no room at the inn”.
And many hotel chains offer bargains over the Christmas period so keep an eye out for deals in the accommodation you want.
4. Hiring a car? Pre-book to save
If you need to hire a car to visit relatives this Christmas, you’ll get the best rate if you book online in advance – not to mention the best choice as popular car types can sell out in big cities.
We looked at prices for hiring a large family car from Manchester airport for a week from December 23. If you pre-booked now using TravelSupermarket, there are large family cars available from as little as £148.60 for the week. This compares to Hertz’s pay at location price of £544 for a car from its family collection – that’s a huge saving of £395.40 for a few minutes’ research online.
And you can cut the price of your car hire excess insurance too. This is important to buy as it prevents you from extra charges should your hire car be damaged or stolen, but if you put off buying it until you pick up your car, you could end up paying over the odds. Find out more about car hire excess insurance here and cut up to 65% off the price.
5. Hopping on a ferry? Early booking is essential
Perhaps the easiest way to reach your family is by ferry? If so, take a look at timings and fares now as ferries get heavily booked over the festive season.
You can save even more money by comparing fares from the all of the major UK operators on our ferry comparison service. And, if you are flexible, be sure to check whether you can snap up a cheaper fare by travelling at an anti-social time (early morning and late at night are often cheaper, as is travelling mid-week) as well as whether it is cheaper to buy two single tickets from different companies rather than a return.
6. And don’t forget New Year
Whatever your plans are for New Year, the same advice of shopping around in advance applies, so don’t leave sorting out your travel plans until the last minute. This is particularly vital if you are planning a special New Year’s Eve at a world-famous celebration such as Edinburgh’s Hogmanay or watching the fireworks in Sydney as demand for flights, hotels and trains can outstrip supply, leading to high prices and a last-minute scrabble by disorganised travellers.
Follow Cathy on Twitter at @CathyToogood
Please note: Any deals or prices in this article were correct and available at the time of writing.