For patients in residential treatment for mental health disorders or addictions, the holiday season will be more difficult. For the patient, being away from home and family in addition to being in treatment, means missing all the usual holiday get-togethers and excitement that goes with them.
For the family members, it’s likely that they will miss their loved one at this family-focused and special time of year as well. As emphasized in family therapy, the family unit is crucial during treatment, and particularly around the holiday season. Making the trip to visit the family member will provide hope and motivation for both sides while spending time together.
Unfortunately, the holiday season also brings the added stress of higher expenses, including traveling. Whether it’s flying, driving yourself or commuting via public transportation, the costs of tickets, hotels and gas prices expectedly go up during the holiday months. With family members in treatment and added costs for other holiday expenses, traveling for a visit may not be affordable.
Here are a few cost-saving tips that can help families save money even though travel plans may be close to last minute.
Hotel accommodations are expensive, but there is an alternative. Travelers can visit a website called airbnb.com to see what might be available in the area they want to visit. Airbnb.com lists private residences in which they can stay at a very reasonable cost. Whole houses, private rooms or shared rooms are available for temporary visits. Each person listing their availability on Airbnb.com provides a full description of the accommodations in detail, including available amenities and arrival and departure times. Travelers can also read user reviews on their website. It’s always highly advised to book as far as possible in advance for the best deals.
When at home making plans, travelers can call hotel front desks (not the toll-free number) and ask for the cheapest, non-refundable room available. Then, upon check-in, travelers can inquire about any discounted rooms that are available that day. Hotels also occasionally offer complimentary upgrades for holiday visits. Kindness and patience also go a long way when inquiring about needed affordable deals.
While having more time flexibility can make it easier to find great prices, there are plenty of ways to save money on last minute holiday travel:
- Cash in frequent flier miles – Most credit cards offer frequent flyer miles, or loyalty programs that allow rewards to be used on travel; these options allow for easier flight accommodations.
- Sign up for fare alerts – Rather than checking the travel sites compulsively, airlines and sites can send emails when fares drop. Alerts are available on several different sites, including but not limited to:
- Travel on Christmas Day – Is it ideal? Probably not. Is it cheaper? Probably is. If booking early is no longer an option, traveling on Christmas Day is less expensive. There are also fewer travelers on the road and on planes.
- Fly out of an alternate airport – Flights from major hubs almost always command higher prices than those from regional airports. Smaller airports tend to have better bargain tickets and travel packages.
- Check with a travel agent – With so many DIY options available, a travel agent might seem like a waste of money. However, an experienced agent may be able to steer around any potential travel money pits. Even if travelers don’t save as a substantial amount of money, it will save time.
- Don’t overlook buses and trains – Trains may not be the cheapest form of transportation or the most comfortable, but that doesn’t mean options aren’t available. Another often overlooked form of travel is via buses. It’s certainly not everyone’s first choice, but today’s discount lines offer affordable rates and even perks such as Wi-Fi and reserved seating. Here are a couple of notable bus services that have emerged in recent years:
- LuxBus America
- Arrange for a car rental away from the airport – Rental car desks based at the airport typically charge a premium. Families can look for an off-site provider in advance. Some companies will be happy to deliver the car to the airport as well. This will provide the convenience of an airport car rental without the higher cost.
- Rent a fuel-efficient car in place of an SUV – If the everyday vehicle in the garage sucks up gas, such as a truck or SUV, gas costs will be much higher. It will be important to crunch the numbers before taking it on a long road trip. It might be cheaper to rent a fuel-efficient car rather than fill up a gas guzzler.
- Pull out a coupon book – Speaking of rental cars, most entertainment books and similar discount publications include coupons for rental cars.
- Check for membership benefits – Finally, organizations such as AARP or AAA offer members-only pricing on travel and accommodations. Warehouse clubs such as Costco also offer exclusive travel perks to members.