Surf the sales: Start booking for Christmas travel now
Surf the sales: Start booking for Christmas travel now David Nielsen

Saving money now on Christmas travel

LIKE clockwork.

During the first week of November, folks get silly about a horse race, nervous about the Reserve Bank decision and strategic about Christmas logistics.

Like many modern far-strewn families, now is the time my extended kin make their first sly overtures to host Christmas. With fuel and travel budgets tight, it's blow-up mattresses at 10 paces. No one, literally, can afford to lose.

Saving money on Christmas travel


But this year my sister has a new baby and my mother a new deck, so short of producing an instant heir or erecting a pine monument to Jamie Durie, I concede defeat.

Knowing when to hold 'em or fold 'em is imperative, as booking flights and accommodation before the rush will save hundreds, particularly with kids in tow.

But before making plans concrete, you should familiarise yourself with the brave new world of 'peer-to-peer' renting, which allows you to subsidise travel by renting out your own vacant room, studio or entire home.

While there are a few sites that will connect you with paying house sitters, the clear leader is Airbnb. Since 2008, more than 10 million nights have been booked using the online platform, and numbers are growing exponentially.

Extra income using Airbnb, according to international testimonials, has staved off home foreclosures, supported successful business start-ups and funded life-affirming travel.

Huge in the US and Europe, peer-to-peer renting is only now catching on with Northern Rivers folk - particularly Byron residents - who are using their spare room to subsidise the cost of living in paradise.

And just in case the Gallagher brothers decide to holiday at your place - which is unlikely as most users come with great reviews - Airbnb will also insure your home from rock star demolition to the value of $1 million.

So, maybe an away game this Christmas won't break the bank and despite the blow-up-mattress-induced insomnia and the usual brandy-soaked Christmas conflicts, this year should be great.

I have a gorgeous new niece to meet and you should see what Mum has done with the deck.

Best start booking.

Saving money on Christmas travel

  • If flying, book your tickets early. Wrangle annual leave to fit in with cheap tickets.
  • Subscribe to airline and travel agent e-newsletters, to ensure you are the first to know about sales.
  • Try to travel light so at least some family members can pay 'carry-on' prices. Car seats and prams can be hired or borrowed at your destination.
  • Consider flights on Christmas Day. They are much cheaper.
  •  If driving, fill the tank before Christmas Eve.
  •  The kids might hate you, but pack an Esky with snacks so you don't waste money on petrol station blow-outs.
  • Are you going my way? Ask friends to carpool or register for Northern River Carpool at
  • No room at the inn? Book hotels immediately.
  • Make sure your tyres are full of air and vehicle serviced before the trip.
  • Concession-holders and larger families should consider the train. Your own cabin in First Class is a nice way to travel, but get in now.

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