Attending a wedding (or three) out of town this year? Then you're likely working on booking all of your travel. While destination weddings are a blast and provide a fun opportunity to explore a new locale, they do require quite a bit of budgeting and managing logistics. Not only do you have to consider how you get to the wedding location, but you also have to factor in lodging, transportation between events, and sometimes meals or activities between events. With so many boxes to check, it's easy for wedding guests to make a few mistakes while planning, especially when it comes to budget.
"Weddings always end up costing us in one way or the other, and it seems that inflation has only exacerbated these costs, especially around travel and lodging accommodations," shares Courtney Alev, consumer financial advocate from Credit Karma. "If you feel like money is tight, you cannot start booking wedding travel without understanding how much you can reasonably spend."
Meet the Expert
Courtney Alev is a consumer financial advocate from Credit Karma.
Ahead, Alev shares her tips on how to book travel wisely to stay organized and save the most money when attending wedding events that are out of town.
Not Creating a Budget
If destination weddings are in your future, it's extremely helpful to understand your budget and expected costs for the events. "The most common mistake wedding guests make is heading into wedding season without a budget, especially now that wedding season is essentially year-round. This can be as simple as a spreadsheet or even a note on your phone," Alev says.
"If you’re adamant about attending someone’s wedding but worry it may set you back financially, set up a dedicated savings account specifically for that wedding, and name it," she advises. "Instead of putting money into one big 'savings' account, you’ll be contributing to a specific event. Giving your account a purpose can make it easier to see how it’s growing over time, and will help you avoid accidentally spending that money on something else."
Forgetting to Factor Every Mile of Travel
Think your travel costs just include your plane ticket? Don't forget about transportation once you're at the wedding location. "Most people will think of only airline travel when booking for a wedding, but you can’t forget to factor in the cost of rental cars and rideshares," notes Alev. "A few rides to and from the airport, and then back home at the end of the night, can end up being a couple hundred dollars. Make sure you’re baking this cost into your total travel costs. You can also compare the costs of rental cars versus ride share in advance, using rideshare fare estimators. This might help you make the most cost-effective decision."
Not Using Travel Credits and Points
While you might be putting money in an actual savings account, don't forget that you can book travel without cash, too. "One of the best ways to travel on a budget is to utilize credit card points or rewards. With enough advance planning, you can end up getting flights or hotel stays for free with points," says Alev. "And while you’re en route, you can take advantage of your card’s travel benefits like trip insurance, lounge access, free checked bags, and more."
Not sure how to build up these points? "As you start getting invites to out-of-town weddings this year, look at the card you’re using most frequently for everyday purchases and see if it’s working in the background for you to rack up points or miles. If you haven’t gotten a new credit card in some time and feel confident you can use credit responsibly, a new travel credit card could help you earn more points towards your trips, and a sign-up bonus could potentially result in a free flight or hotel stay."
Not Choosing the Most Affordable Option
As you're looking into flights and hotels, you might not realize you could be missing out on way better deals by expanding what you're looking for. "For example, sometimes if you look at alternate airports and spend some extra time during a layover, you may be able to save on your flight," notes Alev. "Or, look to see if the hotel has a refundable rate so that you can cancel if you find a cheaper alternative down the line."
You could also not realize your hosts are trying to help you save as well. Even if the couple might be staying at a pricier hotel, they could have organized for a room block and will get you the best price possible. "Wedding hosts often book room blocks for convenience but more importantly, to guarantee a potentially lower room rate for their guests," explains Alev. "However, room blocks often book up quickly as a hotel can only commit a certain number of rooms at a discounted rate, so book as soon as you commit to attending. If there aren’t hotel blocks, look at alternative places to stay through discount hotel sites, or consider renting a house with other guests that can fit more people and bring the total cost down."