The holidays are truly special—you get to spend time with family and friends from near and far, eat excellent food, have gift exchanges, and of course, make enough memories to last the whole year. But we all know the logistics behind the decor, the holiday ham, and the travel can become chaotic—and expensive.

If you have to travel during the holiday season, you may be dreading your impending travel bill (on top of that pricey gift list). Thankfully, there are plenty of ways you can save on holiday travel without even wishing for a holiday miracle!

Check out these four tips to help you manage your holiday budget, no matter where you’re headed. 

1) Avoid high-traffic travel days

If you’re like most Americans traveling during the holiday season, you have a very specific timeline of when you want to head to your destination and when you’d like to make your way home. Unfortunately, these popular travel dates translate to a hike in transportation prices that can seriously add to your holiday spending.

To avoid overpriced flights, gas prices, and lodging, you’ll want to avoid traveling during the worst travel days of the year:

  • The day before Thanksgiving
  • Fridays in the summertime
  • Christmas
  • July 4th 
  • Spring break
  • New Year’s Eve
  • Labor Day
  • Easter
  • Mardi Gras
  • Memorial Day

If you’re able to book your accommodations before or after these high volume travel days, your wallet may thank you. Plus, just because you celebrate Thanksgiving on a Friday instead of a Thursday doesn’t mean you missed the big event. As long as the mashed potatoes and pie are still there, it’s still a holiday as far as we’re concerned.

2) Compare rates online

Thanks to online travel sites, it’s easier than ever to compare rates to find the one with the most bang for your buck. Here are some tips to help you find the best travel rates possible.

  • With a simple Google search, you can view multiple airline rates and compare arrival and departure criteria easily.
  • Be flexible with your travel dates if you want to find the best value. Like we discussed in our first tip, some days preceding and following the holidays have lower prices and more availability.
  • Use a travel savings site such as Scott’s Cheap Flights or Travel Pirates to find sporadic deals on accommodations. 

3) Book your travel accommodations early

The holidays tend to be a bit of a rushed effort altogether—from last-minute gifts to forgotten grocery items,it’s easy to get swept up in the season. But one area where you definitely don’t want to procrastinate is booking your holiday vacation.

Since they’re some of the most popular travel dates of the year, airlines and hotels like to escalate prices as demand increases. That means, if you end up needing to book travel arrangements just weeks or days before Christmas, you could end up paying a hefty price.   

4) Save on the extras

In addition to being strategic with your holiday travel plans, it wouldn’t hurt to make an effort to save in some other areas, too. By packing your own snacks for the ride, you can save on less-than-appetizing airport food and reserve more cash for gifts or meals out once you arrive at your destination.

Another extra fee to keep in mind is baggage. Gifts tend to take up a lot of space, which can result in high baggage fees; so this year, why not save on bags and opt for gift cards instead?