Everyone knows that funds are tight around the holiday season, but you don’t have to blow your entire budget on holiday travel. If you’re smart, you can use a few tricks to save some cash as you make your plans. From shipping your luggage to taking public transportation to the airport, we’ve assembled a few of our favorite tips for saving money on holiday travel. 

Book your trip early. Yes, that means now!

Photo Credit Thinkstock

Don’t expect to get a good deal if you are booking your Christmas trip in mid-December. Shop around on the various discount airline sites, but don’t forget to compare those rates to the ones offered on the sites of the airlines themselves. Often, airlines may match a discounted deal found on one of the other sites if you bring it to their attention, or you may be able to find direct flights available through the airline when they were not available through the discount site.

Be flexible about travel dates.

Photo Credit Thinkstock

Yes, some dates are not negotiable, but if you travel at off-peak times or in the middle of the week, you may be able to get better deals. It’s worth getting up early in the morning if you can save a little money and avoid the longest lines at security, too. Again, you’ll want to plan this early if you have to schedule getting time away from the office, but the dates and times of your trip can make an impact on your budget.

Hitch a ride to the airport.

Photo Credit Thinkstock

Okay, not literally – no one is recommending that you stick your thumb out on the highway. But if you can have a friend drive you or take public transportation to the airport, you can cut down on the fee of parking your car for a few days. If you live in a city with a good public transportation system, this can be the most stress-free way to the airport, as you avoid all of the holiday traffic, too.

Ship your extra luggage.

Photo Credit Thinkstock

Airlines are trying to make some extra cash this season by charging you for your checked baggage, and some even are trying to charge for carry-ons! You’ll undoubtedly find a cheaper deal if you pack ahead of time and ship your extra goodies. Alternatively, you may want to check out upgrading your airline reward credit card, as many of them offer the perk of free checked bags for you and your companion. Depending on how often you fly, this may quickly cancel out any fees associated with the card upgrade.

Do the bump!

Photo Credit Joe Raedle/Getty Images

If your schedule is flexible, you may be able to take advantage of the airlines’ practice of over-booking flights this time of year. When they offer an extra flight to those willing to take a later plane, go for it! You also may be able to work in an upgrade to the deal if you ask nicely. It’s not a bad trade to wait an extra hour or two in the airport if you’re switching from a middle seat in coach to a window in first class, right? It never hurts to ask, especially when you are doing the airline a favor.

Keely Herrick is a freelance writer. Her work can be found on Examiner.com. “