Do your holiday plans include hitting the road? Whether you’re a college student looking for an inexpensive way home, or you’re dropping in on relatives a province away, you’re likely looking for travel deals to save a few dollars.
While road travel is almost always comparably cheaper than hopping on a plane, all methods of travel see ticket prices go way, way up this time of year. If you’re a savvy ticket hunter, however, and plan far enough in advance, there’s definitely a discount or two to be found.
Here are a few tips for scoring cheaper ground travel this holiday.
Everyone In The Pool
Ride sharing has rapidly risen in popularity across Canada as a cheap and environmentally friendlier way to get from point a to point b. The concept is the same as your average workday carpool – riders split on gas costs and car space while en route to a common destination.
While getting into a car with strangers may be counter-intuitive to every safety lesson your parents taught you, there’s a wide variety of websites that offer a level of security to the service, along with easy ways to find those going your way.
Pickuppal.com: Catering to Canada and the United States, this site allows both drivers with room to spare and passengers seeking rides to post profiles and search. Rides can be found either through destination searches based on location, or set up as groups for organizations or events (think daily work carpools, soccer practice drop offs, or trekking together to a music festival). The service is free to use for all, with the only payment occurring between rider and passenger. A log in system means the opportunity to contact both driver and passenger before the trip to get acquainted.
On an interesting note, Ontarians have Pickuppal to thank for their access to all ride sharing programs. In 2009, the company fought and overturned government legislature banning the use of carpools for purposes other than work travel.
iCarpool: This free iPhone app download connects you to carpooling networks both in Canada and the U.S. Travellers can use the map function to find matches for future trips, and uses “two-way handshake” technology to connect rider with driver. In addition to longer journeys, it’s also a great tool for setting up daily carpooling.
Shareyourride.net: Drivers in need of passengers can post their trips for free on this site, which riders can browse from a map view. Wayward travellers can also post trip requests. The service is also available in the U.S. and in several European countries – ideal for backpackers looking to save a dime.
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Get on Board With Bus and Train Travel
If you’re bothered by the idea of sharing a back seat with a random, then the traditional route of bus or train travel is likely a better option. Just like airfare, though, ticket costs can skyrocket as the holidays loom closer. The sooner you book, often the cheaper it will be, especially if you’re looking to beat the rush of homeward bound post-secondary students. If you’re a bit more flexible about your travel times, though, it can be worth keeping an eye out and snapping up last-minute deals. Just be sure to take note of baggage restrictions, show up at least an hour before boarding during peak times – and bring a neck pillow!
Megabus: Touted as a discount option, Megabus offers rides in southern Canada and the northeastern United States for much less. Buses also include wifi and power outlets, making long haul trips slightly more bearable.
RedflagDeals.ca: Regularly peruse the travel section to deeply discounted bus tickets. Bus line offers, like Megabus $1 one-ways, can often be found here.
VIA Express Deals: Enter your departure and destination to find slashed prices on train tickets one to two weeks before travel, sometimes priced at more than 50 per cent off.