Traveling Over Thanksgiving? You Need These Money-Saving Tips

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  • Whether you're driving or flying, it pays to start thinking about your Thanksgiving travel plans now.
  • Being flexible with your flight dates is one of the best ways to save on holiday travel.
  • If you're driving, make sure you know the places to find the best prices for gas.

Get your travel plans squared away now so you can focus on what matters most -- food and family.

Millions of Americans travel every year to visit family for Thanksgiving, and a lot would probably say that it's worth the trip. But there's no denying that holiday travel can be a struggle. Whether you're going by plane or by car, you can expect to spend a long time -- and a lot of money -- to reach your final destination.

But with careful planning, you might be able to take some of the sting out of your holiday travel. Here are four things you can try.

1. Be flexible with your air travel dates

A lot of businesses give their employees time off for Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving week. That makes some of the most popular days to fly the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Saturday and Sunday following it. If you plan to travel during that time frame, you can expect to spend over $400 per ticket on average, according to Hopper.

But being flexible with your travel days can save you a lot. Departing the Monday before Thanksgiving or on the holiday itself can shave about $100 off the average ticket price.

Whenever possible, decide upon a travel range rather than specific days you'd like to be gone. Then, look for which days within that range offer the most affordable travel costs. You may have to watch rates for several days to score a good deal.

2. Avoid checking a bag if possible

Checking a bag comes with an additional expense, and it's often not necessary if you're only going to be gone for a short trip. Christmas travelers may have gifts to transport, but Thanksgiving travelers can often get away with packing lighter.

Skipping a checked bag could save you around $30 or more per person, not to mention a little time in the airport. Since you won't have to wait at the baggage claim carousel -- or worse yet, sift through the seas of lost baggage that have been piling up in airports this year -- upon landing, you can proceed directly to your destination.

3. Know where to score great rates on gas

Those driving for Thanksgiving should be primarily concerned with gas prices. While they're not as high as they were earlier in the year, long trips could still be hard on your bank account at the current rates. But there are a few things drivers can do to keep costs down.

Apps like GasBuddy can help you locate the gas stations with the lowest prices. This is especially useful when traveling through unfamiliar towns. Some of these apps also have rewards programs that can help you save even more.

Gas stations also run their own rewards programs, and if you're a member, staying loyal to your preferred brand can help you save on a tank of gas here and there. Pair that with a gas rewards credit card to shave even more off your bill.

4. Weigh all your accommodation options carefully

If your family members have room and you're comfortable staying with them, doing so can save you a few hundred dollars compared to staying in a hotel over your Thanksgiving vacation. But if you have to pay to stay somewhere else, consider all your options.

There might be some hotels nearby, but there could also be Airbnbs or other rentals available at a cheaper rate. Look at all your options and don't be afraid to take a little more time to decide. Booking hotels last-minute could actually save you money compared to booking early, according to Hopper.

You still have a few weeks left to make your travel plans, but it's best to start thinking about it now if you haven't already. The earlier you begin, the better chance you have of finding some great deals.

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