Some of my fondest college memories arenât from going to homecoming games, attending my first college party or walking around campus when no one else was going to class.Â Some of my favorite memories are going home for winter break and seeing all my high school friends. Seeing old friends was always so fun, especially since we had all matured during the previous semester.Â Â
But getting home was another story. I went to college in Bloomington, Ind., a small college town where the university was the main attraction. That meant getting a flight back to my hometown of Memphis, Tenn. was always a struggle. I hated having to coordinate buses and flights while in the middle of finals.Â
Hereâs what I learned about booking flights home, so you donât have to struggle like I did.Â Â
The first step to saving on holiday travel is planning ahead. If you wait until the last minute to buy plane tickets, youâll probably pay more. You may even be completely out of luck and not find any flights that work for you.Â
You can sign up for travel alerts through Hipmunk.com, which aggregates flights from most major airlines. You can also look at Google flight alerts or sign up for emails for your favorite airline.Â Â
Learn about what airlines fly out of your hometownâs airport and what alternative routes there are. For example, if youâre struggling to find cheap flights coming out of Louisville, look at Cincinnati’s airport. You might have to get creative and look at airports you never consider.Â
According to the travel website Skyscanner, the best month to buy plane tickets for Christmas is in October. Yes, it might seem crazy to book tickets for winter break when the leaves are barely falling off the trees, but you could save lots of money.Â
Carpool with Other StudentsÂ
If youâre at a big university, you might find someone whoâs also traveling to your destination for the holidays. If you carpool with them, youâll save money on transportation while also dividing the driving time.Â
I did this a lot in college because I didnât have a car, but I only needed to travel a couple hours for Thanksgiving break. It was easy finding someone who was also going that way.Â Â
If youâre not traveling to a popular city, you should put out feelers ASAP. Make a shareable post on Facebook, put a physical notice in your dormâs common area or ask your college advisor if there are any official student carshare groups.Â
Look at BusesÂ
Even though the US isnât known for its public transportation system, buses can be a decent way to save money on travel if youâre going somewhere close. For example, you can find MegaBus tickets as little as $5 if you book way in advance. Some of these buses include WiFi and let you pick your seat beforehand.Â
Buses almost always take longer than driving, but are a good option if youâre on a budget and have time to kill. If youâre lucky, you can find a fellow student whoâs also traveling by bus and book your tickets together.Â Â
Compare Alternative DatesÂ
If youâre flying home for winter break, you probably have some leeway on when you arrive and when you need to leave. Being flexible on travel dates can save you a lot of money, especially during the holidays.Â
When you look at flights, you can often look at dates with one to three days of flexibility. Flights that leave or arrive on Tuesdays and Wednesdays are often less expensive than weekends. You should also use an incognito browser when you book tickets.Â
If you find an especially good deal that coincides with class, ask your professor if you can get an excused absence. Some may be ok with you taking a final early or if you miss the first day of classes for the new semester.Â
Again, ask your professors about this ahead of time. They may be more lenient if youâre asking in early November instead of the week before finals.Â
Use Credit Card PointsÂ
If you or your parents have a travel rewards credit card, see if they have enough points to book a flight. This works best if you book early, because flights often increase in price as the dates get closer.Â
Travel rewards programs all work differently so itâs good to compare offers before you book a flight. Your parents can book your flights using their account, or they can transfer points to your personal account. This doesnât work for every credit card, so call and ask if thereâs a way to do it for free. It may be easier to do if youâre an authorized user on the account.Â
Read the Fine PrintÂ
Nowadays airlines are trying to cut corners everywhere, by trimming seats and charging more for basic amenities. When you buy your flight, read through the ticket agreement to understand whatâs included and whatâs extra. In some cases, a carry-on bag costs extra just like a checked bag. But a checked bag may be cheaper than a carry-on.Â
If snacks arenât provided, bring your own beforehand. Also, try not to pack your bags completely full. If youâre like me, youâll have Christmas presents and new clothes to take back with you. And who wants to pay a $30 carry-on fee?Â Â
Understand What Your University ProvidesÂ
If youâre lucky, your college may have some free transportation options. For example, my university was in Bloomington, Ind., an hour away from Indianapolis. There was a free shuttle to the Indianapolis airport that left every two hours.Â
Thereâs also a student-only bus that goes from Indy to Chicago and Chicago-area suburbs. This is only available during the holidays and is very affordable.Â Â
The key to saving on holiday travel is to plan ahead, ask other people and do lots of research. You may discover someone in your dorm whoâs driving through your city on their home or someone who also takes the bus home.Â Â
The post How to Plan and Save on Holiday Travel appeared first on MintLife Blog.
As more and more people start feeling comfortable about returning to Ââ or planning their return to travel, there is one big question that brings pause to even the most optimistic travelers among us: What happens if I get COVID-19 when Iâm traveling?
Since most of my travels of the last year have been road trips within a 500-mile radius of my own home, this question hasnât given me much pause. Had I started feeling unwell or needed to isolate due to exposure, Iâd point my Google Maps toward home and quarantine there.
See related:Â Strategies for planning 2021 travel
What to do if you are exposed to COVID-19 or test positive far from home
Just after the Christmas holidays, a good friend of mine (weâll call her Maeve) traveled with her family to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, for a ski trip. Their plan was to spend a week together on the slopes. But they wound up with a couple of days visiting doctors and hospitals, two positive COVID tests, and a 1,900-mile, cross-country drive to get back home to quarantine in Pennsylvania.
Unitedâs COVID-19 testing policy, you must wait 10 days after the date you tested positive and only after you have two successive negative COVID-19 results that were administered at least 24 hours apart in order to be eligible to rebook your ticket.
As most people I know arenât taking month-long holidays, this predicament means youâre facing an ultimatum: hunker down or find another safe way home.
In Maeveâs case, staying put was not an option. They had been renting a popular vacation home property that didnât have availability for them to extend their stay. Finding new accommodation in which to quarantine as a COVID positive family was complicated and cost prohibitive at hundreds of dollars per night for an additional two weeks.
They took the option to find a new way home, cutting short their stay and extending their rental car for a couple of days to the tune of a costly $800 one-way drop off fee â ouch.
Alaskaâs COVID travel regulations require you to submit a self-isolation plan as part of their arrival procedure along with negative testing.
Step 3: Recover any expenses you can using travel insurance
Travel insurance doesnât fix everything. But when things go south, being able to recover any expenses of an interrupted trip is better than taking it all as a loss.
In the midst of reconfiguring logistics and caring for her family, Maeve took quick actions with the airline, accommodations and credit card companies to help salvage some of the costs of her trip.
United quickly issued her a flight credit for the return portion of her familyâs tickets from Steamboat Springs (SBS) to Newark (EWR) that would go unused. Sheâll be able to use the dollar value of this travel to go somewhere else once everyone is well and up for traveling again.
On the familyâs accommodation, they wound up checking out of their rental home several days early, losing $1,600 on their non-refundable booking made through Turnkey. For this, Maeve turned to her Chase Sapphire Reserve card’s travel insurance.
See related:Â Should I buy travel insurance?
âWhen youâre dealing with someone being sick, filing a credit card insurance claim is probably not top of your mind, but itâs important to at least get it started. That way youâll know what documentation you need while youâre still there and itâs easier to get,â she recommends.
âWe told Turnkey immediately that weâd be checking out early, and I knew from starting the claim with Chase that Iâd be required to provide documentation of the cancellation, a copy of Turnkeyâs accommodation cancellation policy and a letter from Turnkey confirming that we didnât get any reimbursement from them.â
Even in advance of travel, there are steps you can take that will set you up for the best scenario in case something happens. For example, when purchasing your flight and booking your accommodations and car rentals, use the card that offers the best travel insurance policy. In the case that you have to cancel your trip, or if it gets interrupted by a qualifying reason, youâll be able to include all of your expenses in one claim. Maeve did this right by using her Chase Sapphire Reserve for all of the big expenses for her Steamboat ski trip.
See related: Events canceled due to coronavirus: How to get your money back
Getting COVID on vacation certainly isnât the best scenario, as Maeve will attest, but itâs a risk we all take when choosing to travel these days. You never know whatâs going to happen â so make sure to have a plan ahead of time. Be safe out there friends.