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8 ways to save on holiday travel

Driving tips

If you choose to drive to your holiday travel destination, it’s important to take steps to avoid car trouble and improve your gas mileage, according to experts.

Make sure to have your car serviced before you leave, said Micki Dudas, regional travel sales manager of AAA Allied Group in Dayton.

“Nothing can ruin a holiday road trip like car trouble,” she said.

In addition, Dudas said AAA recommends these driving tips to improve your gas mileage.

  • "Maintain a safe speed. Gas mileage is better under 60 mph."
  • "Use your cruise control."
  • "Do not brake or accelerate suddenly."
  • "Avoid rush hour traffic or construction when possible."

While AAA’s 2012 holiday forecast has not yet been released, according to Micki Dudas, regional travel sales manager of AAA Allied Group in Dayton, experts expect to see a continued trend of increased holiday travel this year.

“Travel has been up every holiday this year, and we are hopeful it will be the same for this holiday season,” she said.

We asked Dudas to share strategies to help you save on your holiday travel if you haven’t finalized your plans at this point, or to keep in mind when planning future holiday trips.

  • "Be flexible. Adding a few days to your trip before or after peak travel days can lower fares significantly. So can flying on Christmas Day or early on the morning of New Year's Day. Most travel websites have search options to find the cheapest flying days, including AAA.com."
  • "Look for connecting flights. Flying nonstop is ideal, but that convenience isn't free. Booking an itinerary that includes one stop could save you $100 round trip. Just make sure to leave plenty of time to connect so that even if your first flight is late, you don't miss the second leg."
  • "Fly, then drive. Some airlines have a virtual monopoly at certain airports, allowing them to charge more. So consider alternative airports for both departure and arrival. Dayton International Airport, for instance, is considerably less expense when compared to Cincinnati. Most search sites can check fares at airports up to 100 miles from your destination. The savings can be big enough to make the car rental and extra travel time worth your while."
  • "Save on hotel rooms (and) car rentals. "Hotel and car rental reservations are typically refundable. Check frequently, and rebook if prices have fallen. Or if you're willing to commit, many hotels offer discounts for nonrefundable bookings. Hotels and car rental companies frequently offer discounts to members of AAA, AARP, government workers or employees of certain companies. It never hurts to ask."
  • "Use a travel agent. While travel agents charge a service fee, they pay for themselves, especially if you consider the time you save from researching multiple online (sites) and hassle of trying to secure the best airfare. And if there is a problem, you have a travel advocate working on your behalf."
  • "Pack lightly and wisely when flying to avoid fees. Many airlines charge fees per bag and have weight restrictions, so pack light. If you think you might go over the weight limit, it is usually less costly to pay for a second piece (of) luggage than to pay overweight baggage charges. Also, be sure to prepay luggage fees online, since many airlines (charge) higher fees for luggage checked in at the airport."
  • "Your carry-on luggage can save you money, too. Pack snacks into your carry-on, and avoid the high costs of food that are charged at the airport or on the plane. Just remember you cannot pack liquids, like water or soda, in your carry-on luggage before you go through security."
  • "Drive to your destination if you can. Not all holiday trips need to involve a plane. In fact, if your travel destination is within a day's drive, you may be able to save significant money on your holiday travel. By driving to your destination, you will not have to pay airfare or for a car rental. Be sure to calculate the cost of gas and meals (or bring your own food to save more money) to make sure it is worth the drive."