Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – Getting Home for the Holidays on a Budget

It’s that time of year again – the Holidays. No matter what you celebrate, this is the time of year when people come together for parties and family celebrations. There are lots of days off and so many things to do – to say nothing of the temptations! Everywhere you turn there are sales on everything you can imagine, some of which you need, most of which you don’t.

Unfortunately, the one thing (read: only thing) that isn’t on sale is travel.

This can make getting home for the holidays (or to the Caribbean, whatever) that much more difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. There a few strategies you can use to cross the miles while still meeting your budget:


Ok. So you know about sites like Priceline, Expedia, and Orbitz – they have been around for what seems like forever – but what you may not know is their policies. A trip I took one year, booked through one of those sites (I’m not naming names) ended up being a disaster after bad weather caused my flight home to be canceled. The company was willing to put me up in a hotel but that would mean lots of other expenses. On top of that, I had to get back to my life and the next flight they could get me on was in a week!

I threw enough of a fit and paid a little extra to get on a series of connecting flights. In the end, it took 24 hours to get home – from the rescheduled flight. The budget site may have changed its policies since but the airline was kind enough to explain that had I booked through them directly I would have been on the next flight – and in fairness all the people on the canceled flight who had done just that did leave on the next flight.

In other words, a bargain could cost you a fortune in the end, be the cost in time or money. You are better off researching flight prices through a site like Kayak and then booking your flight through the airline directly. You can almost always get the same deal and you’ll have more options, like seating, upgrades, and meal choices.

Also, be sure to check out The site has you choose between two airports as your destination. You see the prices and flight times upfront and can choose what works for you. After you pay, they let you know which flight you got. You will still have the risk explained above but I’ve seen cross country flights on there for less than $250 so it could be worth it, as long as you aren’t traveling somewhere likely to have flight cancellations.


Taking the train may sound like something only New Yorkers and children do on field trips but it can actually be a pretty cool experience. You get to see the landscape, walk around, and enjoy wifi – you can even drink! Depending on what you do for a living, you could use that wi-fi to work en route to your destination and often fares are cheaper than a flight, especially if your destination is not in a major city.


If you don’t own a car, but you have a drivers license, renting a car is always an option. Often, you can find rates under $15 a day. The part that really costs is the insurance, but there is a way around that. Check with your credit card company. You may find that you have complimentary insurance on rental vehicles. Many American Express and Visa Signature cards offer this perk; just call your credit card company to find out if you qualify. If so, you might be able to rent a car for as little as $9.99 a day (plus tax).

Featured image via ShutterStock

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