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Small Tips for Holiday Travel


If you are getting ready to travel this holiday season, you’ve probably researched flights, hotels, and rental cars. It’s so easy to get caught up in the big things that you may forget to do some of the little things that can add up and save lots of money. If you are getting ready to hit the road, consider these small tips before you leave.

Turn Down the Thermostat-Don’t forget to turn your thermostat down when you leave for a trip. You don’t want to turn the heat off in case it gets cold enought for your pipes to freeze, but you don’t need to heat the house for your furniture and clothes when you’re gone. We usually turn ours down in the fifties. It doesn’t usually get that cold in our house because we have a good amount of passive solar heat, but even if it did, things wouldn’t freeze.

Bring Snacks- I especially like to bring snacks for the airport. Since you are a captive audience, they can charge whatever they want.  This also works well for road trips. Convenience stores can be almost as expensive as airports unless you are getting the 2/$1 chili dogs that have most likely been there since the late 90’s.

Don’t Forget Toiletries- It is terribly annoying to forget to bring your toothpaste or shampoo, and it can be expensive and time consuming to try to locate replacements in a strange place. The day before a trip, I lay everything I use daily on the bathroom counter instead of putting it away. The next day it all goes in my bag after I’m ready to go. I still forget things from time to time, but this has helped tremendously. I also keep a spare toothbrush and toothpaste in a travel case so I can just throw it in the day before.

Get Directions-If you have a smart phone, just skip this one, and I’m sticking my tongue out at you. If your phone is still dumb, write down directions to hotels or locations you need to find before you leave home.  This might not save a ton of money, except for the gas you waste driving in circles. It does save the time and hassle of trying to locate a phone number to call while driving through rush hour traffic in a strange town. We took a wrong exit once in Louisville, KY and ended up in a very bad part of town. When you get to the end of your exit and there is a burned out carcass of a car, you know it’s not good. I was waiting for someone to paint “honkey lips” on our car. I’ve learned to find out where I need to be before I leave home.

Look for Coupons-If you like to be spontaneous, this trick might not be for you, but if you know where you are going and plan to eat out, look online for deals. Many times, liking a restaurant’s Facebook page or signing up for emails can nab some serious coupons.  My husband’s birthday is this month, so we get a free dinner at Sweet Tomatoes and $25 off at Landry’s or Rainforest Café.

Make Plans for Your Pets-If you are flying with a pet, make sure you know the rules about carriers, health forms, and fees. You’d hate to get denied at the airport because your paperwork is not in order. Some airlines leave it up to the captain whether to allow pets on board, and you may not know until the last minute, so have a backup option.  If you are leaving the pets at home, start making plans early. If you can find a friend or neighbor staying home, ask them if they would mind pet sitting. You can return the favor when they are out of town or pay them with cash or a gift card. This would most likely cost less than a boarding kennel. If you do kennel your pets, reserve your spot early.  Kennels often book up for Christmas.

Hopefully careful planning  with some small travel tips will help make your trip less stressful and more affordable.  Now if only we could control the weather!

What are your travel tips? What is the worst thing you’ve forgotten before a trip?


About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. Oh boy, your last point really hits home as I posted about pets this week. Recently we stayed in a hotel an hour or so away because my wife had to take a test early the next morning at a University that was not close to our house. I was thinking – if we had had a dog we’d have had to find accommodations for them, even tho it was just one night! Definitely something to think about when traveling for the holidays.

    Thanks for sharing the great tips!

    • For small trips like that, La Quinta Inns are always pet friendly and don’t charge a pet fee. Although our Jack Russell used to always get us in trouble because she barked at the drop of a hat.

  2. Good tips. The list grows too if you have children. It always feels like we’re taking everything with us, but I’d rather do that then having our three year old screaming on the plane. I guess the worst thing we’ve ever done is forget something at home.

    • I bet you do feel like you are taking the kitchen sink with the carseat, strollers, and all the toys. I feel like that with one, but you have to unless you want to rent them and I’ve heard horror stories about rental carseats.

  3. I would warn the neighbors even if I don’t have pets, so they can remove the mail and other people don’t know I am not home. I shut down the fridge for holidays over a week.

    • Good idea. We’ve known several people who have had a water heater go out and leak everywhere while they’re gone. It would be nice to have someone check for that instead of coming home to a flood.

  4. I always try and see if there are any Restaurant.com gift certificates for the city that we are going to. It has saved me a lot!

  5. On a road trip to run my first marathon, I forgot my running shoes! Had to go out and buy a brand new pair the night before!

  6. Great Tips. My wife and I forgot baby wipes once when we were traveling from Wisconsin to Arizona for the holidays with our 1st daughter. It was quite the circus when she pooped on the plane and we had to change her. 🙂

    • Why do they always have to poop on the plane? That changing table is the size of a cutting board. At least you didn’t forget diapers!

  7. I’m fairly anal and the king of lists, so I generally make a list of all of the things I need to pack and prepare before traveling. I can’t think of anything specific that I’ve forgotten…hmmm…would have to think about that for awhile.

    Making plans for our dog is our biggest obstacle. He’s 160 lbs and it’s difficult to bring him to family’s houses (especially considering he doesn’t like other dogs). Sometimes we’ll bring him with us if we visit my mom, but for any other trips we have to board him.

  8. These are all great tips to follow~! We usually rent a condo at our vacations destination…that way we can eat most of our meals at home. And thankfully my mom will usually watch my dog!

  9. My I-totally-am-afraid-of-flying tote consists of:

    1. bottled water
    2. snacks (from home)
    3. disposable tooth brush, lip balm and wipies to ‘refresh’ with
    4. any type of junkie magazine or book to indulge in (brought from home or library) to keep my mind distracted from potentially dropping out of the sky at any moment

  10. Great tips Kim!

    We are pretty organized when it comes to traveling. If we travel by car we take a cooler of stuff with us. By plane we usually buy at the airport because it is hard to get food through security. Security guards will just take it away from us anyways.

    We ask neighbors to watch our house, shovel snow if necessary. And we use to hire a pet sitter to come by twice a day, but now we take our cats to a Kitty Condo so that someone is always with them.

    • The security people take your snacks? That’s pretty harsh. We haven’t had a problem with that. Maybe because we have a child?

  11. Snacks is a must and I always forget them!

  12. Awesome tips! I guess I must be a pseudo-decent packer because I don’t have even a mildly interesting story about something I’ve forgotten. Honestly, usually I pack extremely light if I’m flying because a.) I don’t trust baggage handlers and am pretty sure I’ll lose my stuff on an international flight and never see it again and b.) I don’t want to pay baggage fees so I try to just carry everything on when I know I’ll have access to a washer/dryer where I’m going (if it’s a longer trip.)

  13. Snacks/Food are my biggest issue! With all the changes in airport security going on there for awhile, I am never know the latest. I know that I can only bring an empty water bottle and therefore assume I can never bring food through either. Food in the airport is so outrageously expensive!

    • I’ve never had a problem with snacks as long as they aren’t liquid or gel. We do usually have to buy a water at some point. The water fountains usually taste terrible.

  14. Great tips! I always rely on my GPS to tell me where to go while driving, but sometimes the damn thing breaks or goes on a fritz. I’ve had it tell me to get off the interstate, to make a loop and get back on many times hahaha! I’m sure if anyone were standing there and watching would have thought I was nuts. Other times it just stopped working outright. I was fortunate to have a map behind my seat (always do this just in case… you never know) and it came in very handy. Speaking of maps, I’m amazed at how few people know how to read one anymore.

  15. I’ve travelled to many places around but I can’t say that I’ve forgotten anything major that I couldn’t buy. I’ve learned that I need just the basics and that’s it plus do a lot of research so you know where you are going and the best places. I should say that while I was in India the food didn’t quite agree with me so something to soothe my stomach would have been nice. Great post! Posted it to FB to see what my fans have to say!! Cheers Kim.. Mr.CBB

  16. I use samples for toiletries as they are small enough to pass check-in with-out getting anyone’s knickers in a knot. Snacks are good, these days I add bottled water or juice boxes, a small bag for your garbage would be nice to have too….. Good article by the way…..

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