Holiday travel is an expensive undertaking. For many, the mere thought is cringe-inducing — given the seasonal price hikes and chaos that comes with traveling at the end of the year.
But that doesn’t mean you should avoid planning a getaway for the last months of 2018. The key is a little advance preparation to get you and your budget holiday travel season ready.
Here are five ways to get you prepped for holiday travel — in just five minutes or less.
1. Make a list & check it twice
Identify the things that you’ll need to spend money on this holiday season, which will help determine how much cash you have left over for travel expenses. Create a list in your monthly budget for anything holiday-related, including gifts and decorations.
Calvin Iverson, spokesperson for travel company TravelPirates, said it helps to budget out any anticipated expenses for traveling, including transportation, lodging and food.
“Putting everything on paper will allow you to see where you need to cut so you have enough for travel,” he said.
Don’t have a budget? Here’s an easy spreadsheet to get you started on tracking all your travel expenses (and more).
2. Download a personal finance app
Consider downloading an app to help you maintain your budget while you’re on the go. The apps may even give you suggestions on ways to save, based on your spending, said Iverson.
“Having accountability is a major factor in staying strict with your spending,” he said. “and will it pay off.”
3. Check your credit card rewards
From cash back rewards to travel rewards, if you haven’t cashed in on any of your credit card rewards yet this year, now is the time.
“Before the year ends, convert those points into cash. Use your travel points to book your holiday travel,” said Iverson. “Either way, looking into your rewards will help you to save money that can be spent in other areas for the holiday.”
Here are some easy ways to get the biggest bang for your buck using your travel rewards.
4. Cut back on daily spending
For most Americans, November and December are major spending months. Fortunately, there are some quick adjustments that can be made to free up significant cash for traveling.
Iverson said the first step is to identify where you’re spending unnecessarily. Whether it be your daily lunch out or afternoon coffee, cutting back on the little things can save you big over time.
“By trading your time for money, you can stash more money away to take advantage of things like flash fares from airlines to get back home for the holidays,” said Iverson.
5. Follow travel companies on social media
Spend a couple minutes on social media following popular travel companies and airlines. This is the best way to find out about surprise deals, flash sales and discounts that will help make your holiday budget go further, says Gabe Saglie, senior editor for TravelZoo.
Got five more minutes? Check out five more easy ways to save before the holidays.