How to Save Big on Your Next Trip

Traveling during the winter can come with more complications than during other times of year. The weather can cause more problems, the holidays are hectic, and getting school and work schedules to align is challenging.

But despite all that, there are a ton of great travel opportunities all winter long. You can head north to see the snow — or head south to escape it. But either way you go, it’s probably not going to be cheap. The average cost of a round-trip domestic flight is more than $425. And you can easily triple that — or more — if you’re heading out of the country.

You don’t have to break the bank to make winter travel work, however. Here are a few tricks for saving money on your next adventure.

Use credit card rewards for free flights and hotels

My favorite way to travel for free is with rewards. Every major airline and hotel has a rewards program that lets you book travel using points or miles instead of cash. But while you can earn these rewards with travel, the fastest way to accrue them is actually through credit cards.

Some cobranded cards earn hotel or airline reward directly. You can also find general purpose travel rewards cards that are more versatile. These cards earn points or miles that can be transferred to a variety of partner airline or hotel programs. Here are some of the most popular examples:

The best way to maximize these rewards is through credit card welcome bonuses. They can be worth tens of thousands of points each, making it easy to collect enough rewards to pay for an entire trip.

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Skip the bag fees by packing light

Paying bag fees is one of the most annoying parts of air travel — they average $30 a bag per trip. But they don’t have to be part of your travel.

Sure, it’s a lot harder to pack light in the winter when you may need larger coats or boots, but it’s definitely still possible to travel carry-on only any time of year.

One trick for keeping your winter bag slimmer is to build outfits out of versatile layers. Fabrics that are lightweight but warm, like merino wool or breathable synthetics, can keep in the warmth without weighing down your bag. And never discount the power of a good base layer.

If you simply can’t condense your luggage — if you’re traveling to ski, for instance, that gear is going to take up room one way or another — you’re going to have to pay for some bags. If you fly first class, your ticket may include multiple checked bags. Otherwise, think about getting an airline credit card. Many cobranded airline credit cards will offer free checked bags as a perk, including:

Holiday travel is only cheap on the day

Traveling around those busy holidays is always going to be more expensive than traveling the week before or the week after. Of course, most of us don’t have the ability — or, let’s be honest, the desire — to travel for weeks around the holidays.

One trick for last-minute holiday travel may be to travel on the holiday itself. Fewer people will be traveling, so the tickets are often less expensive and more available. This only works in certain situations, but it’s an option.

Go off script

The very best way to get deals on travel any time of year is the same as it has always been: Travel to places other people aren’t traveling to.

Want a killer ski vacation? Skip the pricey resort towns and head a few mountains over. You can choose a smaller town or more mundane city that has good snow and more affordable amenities.

Hardier folks may want to take advantage of deals at colder destinations. Fewer tourists head to colder climates, like northern Europe, in the winter, so you can get deals on flights and hotels if you’re willing to brave the weather. Just keep in mind that some seasonal venues may not be open.

Winter travel has its ups and downs, many of them weather-related. But one person’s terrible weather is another person’s winter wonderland. Embrace what makes winter travel special, and you can enjoy some great savings.

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