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7 Tips to keep the cost of holiday travel down

After moving to NYC, I made very little money and had to maximize every dollar I earned. That lifestyle taught me many different techniques on how to save for the things I wanted.

The holidays are coming and so are some of the biggest travel days of the year. Whether you are trapped in a car or heading to the airport, here are a few tips to keep the cost down.

1. Emergency hunger prevention

I'm guilty of getting angry when I'm hungry, and even angrier when I have to pay a lot for bad food. To ward against this, I pack nuts, fruit and candy for short trips in the air. It saves me some money in the airport and keeps my mood upbeat.

Alternatively, when flying on a long flight, I pack a full lunch or dinner. It will pass through security because it is not liquid, so no worries there. Bringing my own food, I not only save some cash but also eat something I actually want to eat. I didn't listen to my own advice on a recent trip and spent $30 on a salad and beer... never again.

2. Public transportation

If you don't have family or friends picking you up and you are in a place that offers public transport to your destination, it may be worth it. There are often buses that will take you to your hotel for cheaper than a cab. Just note that if you are traveling with others, the taxi might win out on total cost.

3. Water bottles

When flying, I always bring an empty water bottle. After going through security, I find the first water fountain and fill it up. When airports have the water bottle fill stations I get excited that it confirms I saved two plastic bottles (but in my head I know I just saved up to $6).

4. Rental cars through Priceline

Priceline is my current obsession. I would like to think I trick the system, but even if they catch on to me, I've won more than a few times. In trips to Nashville, Charlotte, New Orleans and Austin in the past year or so, I've started my bidding on Priceline at $5. It rejects my offer and suggests a rate much higher, so I enter $6. After not accepting it a few times, they match you with the best rate they can offer, which is still amazing. I haven't paid more than $13/day on any of the cars I've rented (last week it was $9/day in New Orleans).

One note: I am willing to get the economy or compact cars, so these prices reflect that. You don't get to see the car rental company when bidding, but for me that is not important. I've ended up with different companies in all four situations and two of them upgraded me in the parking lot because they were out of my size (not a problem here, I loved driving the Jeep!).

5. Sign up for deal sites for your destination city

When planning a trip, I add the city to my LivingSocial and Groupon email requests. This way I can see if any tours or restaurants I'm looking at pop up. You can also search for other activities, such as spas or gyms. Hey, if you were doing it anyway, you might as well save on it!

6. Car services like Lyft and Uber

If you are a first-time user, both services will give you a new-user discount. When I landed in San Francisco, we got a $5 ride from the airport to the downtown hotel just for downloading the Lyft app (saved $25 on our first ride). After that trip, they offered me other discounts to use their service in NY.

With Uber, they also offer a discount and are currently running a promotion if a friend refers you. Hi friend! Here is my discount code: gli77 (if you redeem by 11/23, I also get a ride up to $30. Thanks!)

7. Stay with friends to keep costs down

I usually travel to places where I can stay with a friend so we can catch up on life, and the added bonus is no hotel nights.

You can help others too! We are having some fun visitors for Thanksgiving and saving them a ton on a hotel night. Even if you don't have a lot of space, most people are willing to sleep on a couch or air mattress to avoid the stress and cash of finding other accommodations.

Bonus tip: Gold's Gym is opening its doors (for free!) on Friday, 11/28 in all their gyms to help you burn off the turkey!

Photo credit: xlibber/Flickr
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