Thursday, October 24, 2013

Getting Home for the Holidays

Allyson Lough, Marketing Intern
Melanie Stoeckle, Marketing Intern

With midterms already somehow in the past, everybody is starting to look towards Thanksgiving, finals week and winter break. For a lot of us, that means going home to finally relax and unwind from the semester and spend some much needed time with our family and hometown friends.

Now here comes the reality of it: If you live out of state like us, going home takes some advanced planning. Here are some tips from us on the best ways to get home for the holidays.

Flying Home
MS: I’m from Connecticut, so the 14-hour drive home isn’t always my transportation of choice. Buying a plane ticket is the usual route for me, which can cost a few hundred dollars. If you’re thinking about flying too, here are some things I’ve learned in the past three years.
  • The cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.  Now this isn’t always the case, but it doesn’t hurt to compare plane ticket prices to those days when you’re looking to go home during the week – It could make a big difference!
  • As with one of the cheapest days to fly, Tuesdays are one of the cheapest days to buy as well.  You might just find a great deal when browsing airline ticket prices.  Pay attention to sales that airlines have going on as well, I know Southwest typically has good sales if you check frequently.  Also, check out our Student Discounts story to see the travel deals that you can get with your student ID!
  • Buy early!  I’ve already been searching my options and watching the prices of certain flights to get the best deal, so I suggest that you do the same.  The Bing Price Predictor is a really good tool to tell you if they think the prices will rise or drop soon as well.
  • You can use websites like Travelocity, Kayak or Hotwire to search multiple airlines (and airports!) at once for the best price as well, but some major airlines, such as Southwest, aren’t on these sites.  When you think you’ve found your flight, head to that airline’s website to see if the price is lower – It should be the exact same or even a little bit cheaper sometimes.
  •  Finally, I suggest buying directly from the airline instead of the travel sites I mentioned earlier.  They’re great to compare prices on, but if you ever need to change a flight for some reason, the process will go a lot smoother when just dealing with Delta or Southwest rather than going through those sites first.  And like I said, it shouldn’t cost you any more to do that.
  • Here are some major airline’s websites to get you started on searching: Delta, Southwest, American Airlines, US Airways
  • For those of you that will need a ride to the airport, UK offers free airport shuttles at specified times for Thanksgiving, winter and spring break.  You can find the information for those here.  I used this service many times freshman year when I didn’t have a car, and it was great!
I promise you that this is all worth the effort!  Following tips like these gets easier the more you do it, and often saves $100 or more on a flight.

Driving Home

AL: I’m originally from Virginia, so I’m very familiar with the eight-hour trek from Lexington to the east coast. For those of us who live four to eight hours away, the plane ticket and arranging a ride to and from the airport is not worth the hassle. A long drive can be hard to settle into but here are some tips to make the time on the highway go faster.

  • Before you leave, check your car for any problems. The last thing you want is to break down during a road trip. Check your oil and tire pressure at the least! Check out our car maintenance for college students story here!
  • Leave as early in the day as possible. A long drive can take a huge chunk of time out of your day and drains your energy. Make sure you are rested and don’t start driving after an all-night cram session and final exam. Also think about rush hour. Try to avoid passing through a large city during the morning or evening commute times.
  • Find a driving buddy! Even if you aren’t from the same hometown, someone on this campus is going your general direction. It helps you split the gas expense, means you have another driver if you need a break and gives you some entertainment along the way. Make sure you set a limit to how much luggage each person is allowed if space is tight! Check UK Facebook pages and rideshare groups for students who are traveling. Don’t be afraid to ask around- your friends may know someone who is searching to carpool.
  •  Know where you’re going! You may have taken the route with your family before, but any drive is much different when you’re riding in the backseat and someone else is driving. Map out the easiest route (I prefer using interstates—traffic moves faster and it’s more direct), and have a GPS or phone holder for your dashboard if you plan to use a mapping app. Beware of dead spots for different service providers.
  • Have a playlist for the road! Dig out your old school iPod or burn a CD and load it with music that is easy to sing to and keeps you awake. iPods typically have longer battery life than phones do.
  • Invest in a phone charger for your car. You never want to be stranded on a highway without a charged phone.
  • Plan your driving breaks. You’ll start to find which exits are good stopping points and which ones are in the middle of nowhere. I segment the drive into do-able sections so I can take a break, especially if I’m driving alone. I prefer to pull off and use rest stops if I don’t need to refuel because they are quick to get off and get back on the road.
  •  Download the Gas Buddy app! It will register your location and tell you where the closest and cheapest gas is located. It will even give you directions after you select a station.
  • Keep snacks with you in the car! I have a mini travel cooler that I load up with Ale 8 (for the caffeine) and my water bottle. I typically get some trail mix or Goldfish for an easy snack if I’m tired, bored, or just have the munchies.
  • If you find yourself feeling tired, find an exit as soon as possible! Buy an energy drink, coffee or some drink packed with caffeine. Don’t hesitate to recline your seat and take a power nap (about 20 minutes) while you’re stopped. It may sound strange, but it won’t really lengthen your drive and by the time you wake up, you’ll feel better and the caffeine will have kicked in!
  • Wear comfy clothes! There’s nothing worse than sitting in a stiff pair of jeans for multiple hours.

Driving home for the holidays can seem like a hassle, but most of it is just preparing to take a road trip. It’s probably not a drive you make frequently so when you do, it’s worth the long journey!

We know that the most common ways home are to fly and drive but there are other options. The University of Kentucky offers a Ride Home Express bus and Greyhound and MegaBus tickets are always worth a quick search. You may find they work better with your schedule and have a special stop near you.

Finding the best deal is all about research. Keep these tips in mind when you’re planning trips for Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks! Happy traveling!

1 comment:

  1. I wish UK offered an airport shuttle at all times not just during the holiday breaks.