How to make holiday travel more enjoyable and affordable

3D illustration of a car with a Christmas tree and penguins

For many people, no holiday season is complete without traveling. While traveling might not be as fun a holiday tradition as decking the halls or exchanging gifts with loved ones, there are ways for travelers to make their Christmastime excursions more enjoyable and affordable.

Don't go it alone. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 91 percent of holiday travel is done by personal vehicle, such as a car. College students driving home for semester holiday breaks can invite fellow students heading to the same area to share a ride home. Traveling in pairs or groups can make long trips less monotonous and more affordable, as drivers and their passengers can split the cost of fuel and tolls. Men and women can offer to pick up relatives who live along the way to their destinations so no one has to drive unnecessarily.

Book early. Travelers taking to the air or railways for their holiday traveling should try to book their plans as early as possible. The earlier travelers try to book, the more likely they are to get a favorable itinerary. Travel experts vary with regard to when is the best time to book a flight, but travelers who try to book early and are willing to book indirect flights might find the most affordable deals, regardless of how far away from their desired travel date they book their trips.

Pack meals. Drivers can save time and money by packing their own meals when traveling for the holidays. Rest stop eateries tend to be overcrowded during the busy holiday traveling season, and such restaurants may not provide many choices for health-conscious travelers. Bringing along their own meals allows drivers to adhere to their personal diets and eat foods that won't make them drowsy on the road. Simply eat in the car during stops to assuage hunger.

Travel during off-peak hours. Drivers who can muster the energy to begin their trips before sunrise can get a head start on the millions of others heading home for the holidays. Kids can sleep in the backseat during early morning hours, making the trips less taxing on youngsters. Less time spent in traffic can also conserve fuel, saving drivers money.