Once the RSVPs have been returned, the real budgeting and planning begins. These 15 travel hacks will keep you cool and collected as you train, plane, or automobile to attend this season's nuptials.
1. SEND WEDDING GIFTS AHEAD OF TIME.
There’s a lot to plan and pack for a wedding weekend away, but sending the happy couple’s gift ahead of time can save suitcase space. Mailing or delivering a large or bulky gift before the big day means you won’t have to lug a package from the car or plane to the wedding reception—and its recipients won’t have to worry about getting the gift home before heading out on a honeymoon. If it’s too close to the wedding to send a gift, wait until the couple returns home to ensure your gift arrives safely. Traditional etiquette allows for sending gifts up to the couple’s first anniversary.
2. MAKE A FULL WEEKEND OF IT.
Many people travel far for one day of wedding events, meaning they shell out big dollars for a short period of time. Planning a small getaway around wedding events can help expand your travel options in terms of flights, hotel accommodations, and rental cars. Besides, why not build in time to explore someplace new or catch up with family and friends back home?
3. SPLIT TRAVEL COSTS WITH FRIENDS.
If you know at least one other person attending the wedding, it’s possible to save money by sharing the cost. Splitting a hotel room or a rental car with friends or other wedding guests can reduce your travel expenses, leaving more budget room for a nice meal, new outfit for the occasion, or sightseeing. But what if you don’t know any other guests? Reach out to the bride or groom for help. They may be able to connect you with another friend in the same predicament.
4. DON'T ASSUME THE GUEST DISCOUNT IS THE BEST OPTION.
Many wedding planners set up hotel blocks to help guests find easy accommodations. While this setup often leads to a discount for guests (and the couple), it isn’t always the best price. Shopping around with that price in mind can help you find the best option at the lowest price—even if it’s another nearby hotel.
5. GIVE YOUR CAR A BREAK.
It may be more cost-efficient to drive to a wedding than fly, but when crunching the numbers, it’s worth factoring in the wear and tear on your vehicle and its current condition. Older cars may be great for your daily commute, but aren’t necessarily up for a multi-hour roadtrip. Instead of adding excessive miles to your vehicle, consider a weekend rental that offers the perks of roadside assistance and unlimited miles. Not only can you get excited about trying out a new car, you’ll be worry free about breakdowns or costly repairs in unfamiliar territory.
6. SKIP THE AIRPORT RENTAL CAR SERVICE.
Renting a car from an airport often costs substantially more because of additional service fees that don’t exist at non-airport locations. Reserving a rental car at an off-airport location can save big, and with apps like Uber and Lyft, it’s easier to get to the rental lot without the hassle of public transportation or shuttles.
7. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FLIGHT ALERT WEBSITES.
Save the date notices can give you a leg up when it comes to finding plane tickets, so start your search as early as possible. Flight alert websites track sales and potential savings, helping you book earlier with a windfall of cash back in your pocket. Want further savings? Combine flight alert savings with credit card, warehouse, or other rewards programs to drop your ticket price even more.
8. WATERPROOF YOUR SUITCASE.
It’s a known fact that suitcases are heavily abused at airports. While most bags can withstand the occasional fall or drop, rainy days make checked baggage a soggy mess. To keep your best attire looking great, tuck clothing into a plastic bag or dry sack, especially items with sensitive materials such as suede or satin. If you’re part of the wedding party, consider eliminating a potential disaster by packing your day-of wear into a carry-on bag instead of a checked bag. Doing so will prevent water stains or cosmetics gone awry and more importantly, ensures it makes it to the wedding safely in case any checked luggage goes missing.
9. CONSIDER TRAVEL-FRIENDLY FABRICS.
While most hotels have an iron, some materials can be hard to unwrinkle. Plan your wedding attire around pieces that travel well with minimal wrinkles, such as cottons and silks blended with polyester, cashmere, or lyocell. And for an extra wrinkle barrier, wrap apparel in tissue paper before tucking into your suitcase. Just remember that whatever outfit you pack, make sure it adheres to the day-of style—and never white unless specifically requested by the couple.
10. LOOK FOR AIRLINE GROUP DISCOUNTS.
The wedding hotel group rate is a commonly known money saver, but its possible to get a group discount on flights, too. In the case of destination weddings or locations where a large number of guests will fly in, many airlines offer group discounts; in most cases, these are available for groups of 10 or more travelers. If the wedding planner or couple hasn’t arranged a group rate, it’s worth inquiring with an airline to see what discount they’ll offer. And, don’t forget the digital trick of clearing your browser cookies or using a private browser (like Chrome's incognito mode) when searching for flights to find lower prices.
11. PREP YOUR OWN TRAVEL SNACKS.
Food is usually one of the largest costs associated with traveling, and the cost of eating out in airport cafes and restaurants can quickly add up. To save some money and keep fueled up for a busy weekend, pack your own snacks (like granola bars or baggies of carrots or nuts) and an empty, reusable water bottle. For the day of, plan to eat a small meal before the ceremony, and pack a light snack just in case time between the ceremony and reception runs longer than expected.
12. PACK YOUR OWN BOOZE.
Plane or train travel can be exhausting, but with the right supplies, it can also be a personal party. Mini bottles of alcohol can make it through TSA checkpoints so long as they fit in the allowed quart-sized plastic bag. While FAA regulations prohibit drinking on board the flight, you'll be thankful you can avoid paying in-room mini-bar prices once you reach your destination. If you travel by Amtrak, drinking on the rails is permitted and many café cars even have happy hour drink specials. Just remember to take it easy on the alcohol on the day of to prevent any embarrassing social faux pas.
13. CONSIDER YOUR CHARGING SITUATION.
Layovers, congestion, and delays can put a hamper on your travel plans as well as your phone battery. Packing a small extension cord in your carry-on can help you snag a precious terminal outlet, but remember to power down, or at least tuck your phone away, during the ceremony itself. Constantly snapping photos on your phone can make a photographer’s job more difficult and keep you from enjoying the moment. Plus, you'll have plenty of charge left for the reception afterward.
14. SAVE YOUR ITINERARY TO THE CLOUD.
Traveling can be stressful, especially when it comes to leaving the country for a destination wedding or trying to hit multiple events during a wedding weekend. Digitize your schedule by saving screenshots to your phone—a smart move for areas that have limited phone or Internet access. If a destination wedding has you crossing international waters, consider snapping photos of your passport, prescriptions, and other important documents in case of loss or theft. This quick step can help speed up the replacement process.
15. PUT MONEY TOWARD A GIFT INSTEAD.
Brides and grooms aren’t the only ones emptying their wallets for a wedding. The average guest spends $703 between wedding related events, gifts, travel, and accommodations. If you’re encountering a wedding-heavy season, these added costs can really eat at your budget. In some cases, the best wedding season hack is determining whether or not to go. While attending weddings of close friends and family is a no-brainer, declining an invite to distant friend’s or destination wedding can help save the stress (and cash) associated with traveling. You can float the savings to a nice gift instead and stretch your remaining budget to other pressing events.
All images via iStock.