7 Ways to Save Time and Money on Holiday Travel

Strategies to find the best deals on hotels, flights, and travel packages.

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Whether you’re planning a winter getaway or need to book travel to visit the family this holiday season, turn to the Web for the best deals on hotels, flights, and travel packages to your destination of choice. You might need to do some legwork, but your efforts could help to cut down on travel expenses in an otherwise pricey travel season.

Use these seven tips to save time and money on your holiday travel this year:

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1. Stay an extra night. Third-party booking engines like Travelocity frequently post “free night” deals at major hotels and resorts. You can save on the total cost of your travel package by staying one or two extra nights. Your average nightly rate will drop considerably when you get a third or fourth night free of charge. Seek out these deals to cut the high cost of accommodations this travel season.

2. Subscribe to daily deal sites. Groupon Getaways and LivingSocial Escapes are just two daily deal sites that offer discounts of up to 50 percent or more on the entire travel package. If you’re looking for a winter escape outside of family visits this holiday season, consider one of these getaways at discounted rates. Many offers are for four-star hotels and include freebies like spa treatments and other activities.

3. Fly direct. Don’t risk the chance of delays at snow-laden airports during a layover by booking a direct flight whenever possible. You might be paying slightly more for a nonstop flight, but you are more likely to save time and hassles by getting to your destination on time. You’ll also ward off those extra costs from a delayed flight.

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4. Keep up with flash sales. Sites like Spire and Jetsetter offer unbeatable deals on luxury hotels and resorts around the country with a series of “flash sale” events. Recent deals on Spire.com included discounted rooms at the Mondrian Los Angeles ($214 a night, originally $305 per night) and reduced rates on the Partial Ocean-View room at La Valencia, San Diego ($160 a night, originally $229 per night). Just make sure you read all of the terms and conditions with these sales so you know about any blackout dates, extra fees, charges and taxes associated with the deal.

5. Check flight prices to outlying airports. Beating the holiday rush at the airport can be one of the biggest stressors of the holiday season. Flying in and out of an airport outside of the major hub can save you some time and also make it easier to get to your final destination. When flying to Chicago, compare flights to Chicago Midway International Airport instead of Chicago O’Hare International Airport and calculate taxi or bus fares to your final destination. You could skirt traffic and also save on that flight.

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6. Don’t wait for a price drop. While last year’s money saving strategy was to wait until the last-minute to book holiday travel, you’ll need to book as early as possible to get the best deals this season. If you find a great deal on a travel package of light, book it. Waiting even a few days could mean a slight increase in fares and fewer available dates. Some of the deals you find now really are the best possible deal for the season so you’ll be missing out on some big discounts if you don’t go ahead and book.

7. Scope out boutique hotels. You don’t always save money by staying at a chain hotel or resort. Boutique hotels need to stay competitive by reducing rates and may offer more attractive packages -- you also benefit from a more personalized experience. Turn to sites like Tablet to sign up for private sales this holiday season and find some great deals at hotels that aren’t always advertised on major travel sites. Tablet runs a rewards program where you earn cash towards future bookings with each reservation. You can also contact these hotels directly to find out about available packages and discounts for in-state residents. Some may offer free room upgrades and other incentives – all you have to do is ask.

Sabah Karimi is an award-winning Yahoo Contributor and WiseBread.com’s guide to the best travel rewards cards.