5 Tips For Paying For Holiday Travel Without Tapping Into Your Savings

This article includes paid advertising content from American Express.

When I made the decision to move out to the West Coast for grad school, I knew not coming back home for the holidays wasn’t going to be an option. Though phone calls, texts, and technology make it relatively simple to stay in touch with loved ones, there’s really nothing quite like being together IRL over the holidays, so making the decision to purchase flights home for family celebrations is an easy one. What’s a bit more complicated is planning for — and paying for! — round-trip flights without tapping into my savings. As a student on a budget, I’m trying to avoid withdrawing anything from my savings account unless it’s directly related to my education, which can be easier said than done.

I know this isn't an issue that's unique to me, so to help others looking to visit their loved ones, accompany significant others to their hometowns, or take an exotic getaway this holiday season without breaking the bank, Bustle has partnered with American Express to poll some well-traveled readers on their best tips for paying for holiday travel without tapping into your savings. Here's what they have to say:

1. Choose Your Travel Days Wisely

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Anna Rice, a California-based travel blogger who shares her adventures traveling the world on weekends on The Weekend Jetsetter, recommends traveling back home from the holidays on New Year’s Eve rather than New Year’s Day. By booking her return flight home to San Francisco from Boston on New Year’s Eve this season, she’s saving hundreds of dollars.

“Flights are significantly less expensive [on New Year’s Eve], and you’ll get the added bonus of a day to yourself before heading back to work!”

2. Find A Payment Plan That Works For You

Mary Blount/Bustle

No matter if you're faced with jacked-up train ticket prices, or are taking a red-eye flight to get the cheapest flight possible, chances are good that the cost of your ticket to your choice destination is still worth a good chunk of your hard-earned cash. That’s why finding a solid payment plan can help you budget smarter, which is exactly why American Express designed their smart Pay It Plan It® feature*. The easy to understand tool available with eligible Cards lets you split up purchase amounts of $100 or more over a set period of time with a monthly fixed fee and no interest, so right from the start you're clear on how much you're paying.

3. Offer Your Place To Friends And Family While You’re Away

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If you have the option to do it, Marnie Kunz, who travels often for her job as the founder of Runstreet™️ street art runs, recommends putting the word out to trusted family members and friends who might have guests coming to town while you're away, letting them know that you're willing to charge a reasonable rate for trusted houseguests. By planning ahead and putting the word out to your inner circle that may have friends or family in town looking for a comfortable place to stay, you can ensure your home is in good hands — and get compensated for it!

4. Ship Gifts Ahead Of Time

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In addition to carefully planning your travel days, Rice is also a big fan of saving a bit of cash by having holiday gifts for her loved ones shipped straight to her destination versus wrapping them at home, stowing them in her suitcase, and paying to check a bag at the airport. You can also take your financial responsibility to the next level by using the American Express "Pay It" feature to pay the shipping costs (or any other purchase amount under $100) you've put on your Card once they hit your statement. Paying sooner rather than later helps you get those charges out of your mind — all while racking up credit card rewards you can cash in on later.

5. Combine Holiday Travel With Vacation

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Rather than taking an additional, expensive vacation during the year, Rice recommends spending the days before Christmas somewhere tropical before flying home. Flights heading away from a vacation destination a couple days before Christmas are usually cheaper, since most people are heading in the opposite direction.

“For example, when I booked my flight from San Francisco to Boston in December, I was surprised to see that stopping in Cabo, Mexico for a few days first on a multi-stop itinerary came out to roughly the same amount of points and miles as a round trip flight from San Francisco to Boston,” Rice says. “Heading to the beach after Christmas for New Year's Day, on the other hand, would be extremely costly.”

This post is sponsored by American Express.

*Terms apply. Visit americanexpress.com/payitplanit to learn more.