The holidays are a time when being together with friends and family is paramount. But what if your family is spread out across the country?
If you’re all hoping to gather in one place, travel will be involved. And while holiday travel can be stressful and expensive, there are a few tricks of the trade to help ease the chaos and expense, allowing you to celebrate together with family and friends.
Don’t let tight budgets and frenzied schedules keep you from spending the holidays with loved ones. Find out how you can give the gift of travel—and foster lifelong memories—easily and affordably.
Use Your NEA Travel benefits
First things first: Check NEA Travel for great deals on airfare, rental cars, hotel rooms and more. And remember, you can use your earned NEA Travel Dollars to book flights, rental cars, and hotels for yourself or loved ones during the holidays.
Give travel gift cards
Many airlines, such as Southwest and American, and hotel brands, such as Marriott, sell gift cards for as little as $25. That gives the recipients some flexibility about how and when they want to travel. You also can gift cruise and train travel.
Donate some points
Instead of spending money, you can give the gift of miles/points to anyone with a loyalty account simply by transferring your miles/points directly into the recipient’s account. This can help with tight travel budgets. Note that each airline and hotel charges different fees, so check with your (and the recipient’s) preferred partner.
Buy a city pass
Let your friends and family feel like a tourist, whether you’re going to them or they’re coming to you, by gifting them a CityPass booklet. It provides discounts up to 50% on admissions and attractions around town in 16 North American cities.
Find common ground
If you want to get the whole family together somewhere other than your house, consider renting an affordable condo or a vacation home in a family-friendly location, suggests Dan Rowe, president and CEO of the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Mike Pauer, previously VP of marketing for Patton Hospitality Management and VacationCondos.com, agrees: “[VacationCondos.com] site provides a simple online booking system where families can book quality condo accommodations offering more space, more comforts of home and more family-oriented amenities than an average hotel, plus they’re often available for less money than hotels.”
Already have a vacation home or timeshare? Consider giving a family member or friend a week there, Pauer recommends.
Money-saving tip: If you opt to rent a vacation home or condo, be sure to take advantage of the kitchen so you can cook as much as possible to save money. “It can be fun to stop at the local grocery store or fish market,” Rowe says. “Make preparing a lunch or dinner into an activity for the whole family.”
How to discuss travel expenses with relatives
If you’re concerned about how to broach the subject of gifting travel or worried about how to split expenses, make sure you discuss the matter openly from the get-go to avoid any surprises.
The key is to be clear from the get-go about who’s responsible for what. “No one likes getting home from a great vacation, then having to remind friends or family to send money owed,” Pauer says.
One option is rather than splitting one cost many ways, consider divvying up the expenses by category, like food, transportation, accommodations, etc. The main things it to use common sense and kindness.
“If someone is doing the driving, I would recommend the other passengers pay for the gas and any parking associated with the trip,” Rowe says.