Holiday driving is a quandary for gig drivers. There is extra money to be made. At the same time, you probably want to be with your family during the festivities. But as gig drivers, we are all, by definition, contract workers. Despite recent initiatives for better treatment of gig workers, you probably receive no holiday pay.
Still, there are some strategies you can adapt during the holidays. In this blog post, we will examine the following topics:
- Choosing holidays depending on your gig driving activity
- Finding the best time to take off if you do rideshare
- Finding the best time to take off if you do food/grocery delivery
- Finding the best time to take off if you do package delivery
- Looking for bonuses
- Paying yourself for the holiday
- Relying on gig driving for your income? Use these tips to plan a vacation
- Making Gridwise part of your vacation plans
Choose holidays depending on your gig driving activity
Check out this Gridwise blog post from this past November: Holiday Gig Driving: Your Fun & Festive Guide to Extra Cash! Gridwise breaks down the various gig driving jobs and how the holidays affect business. Let’s run through them quickly.
Finding the best time to take off if you do rideshare
There are several big generators of rides during the holidays. Let’s examine when you might want to take time off.
Airports are big during the holidays. Everyone is traveling. One Lyft and Uber driving strategy is to use the destination filter on your Lyft or Uber driver app and direct it to the airport in your region. This way, you are more likely to get airport rides and less likely to get pulled in another direction. Another part of this strategy involves driving through the higher-income suburbs where residents are more likely to travel during the holidays.
For instance, east of Los Angeles is the San Gabriel Valley. Three roughly parallel freeways funnel traffic into the city and to LAX, which is farther west. Two of those freeways, State Route 60 and Interstate 10, pass through industrial areas and blue-collar neighborhoods. There are fewer airport runs from these communities. Interstate 210 passes through the higher-income, white-collar suburbs on the valley’s north side. This is where drivers are more likely to get airport rides.
Don’t be in a hurry to leave the airport after dropping off your passengers, either. Hang around for a few minutes. You will often pick up arriving passengers.
The bulk of office Christmas parties occurs in the first two weeks of December. In the early evenings, these generate rides from the suburbs into the popular restaurant and party areas, restaurant rows, hotels, and other venues. If you pick up one of these ride requests, casually inquire as to when the party concludes. If you happen to be in the area at that time, you can pick up a return trip home.
Shopping centers are hit and miss during the holidays. Wherever there are large numbers of people, you will receive ride requests, but shoppers are often doing some heavy-duty buying, and they might want to have their car on hand to store and transport gifts and other items.
Don’t forget the temporary, seasonal workers. They are good for rides, too.
Christmas Day vs. New Year’s
If you want to take time off as a rideshare driver, Christmas is the time. There is often a lull as you draw near to the big day. If you drive in a college town, students are home for the holidays by mid-month, so that source of rides is gone for a while. Weekend nights might be a little slower than usual as folks remain at home, entertaining holiday company, cooking, and decorating for the holidays, or just trying to conserve money. Christmas day is pretty much guaranteed to be quiet. The week before Christmas is the time to take days off and not miss as much business.
New Year’s Eve, on the other hand, is the night to drive. Most drivers report record earnings as the new year arrives, sometimes doubling what they might normally earn in a night. Keep in mind, surge pricing is in effect. If you have access to an SUV that seats six or more, you can move up to the higher level, either Lyft Lux or UberXL, and earn still more money.
New Year’s Day is another good choice. Parties continue and there are lots of football games to gather around. Then you always have those partiers from the previous evening, a little more subdued now and playing the game, “Where’s my car?”
Bottom line: Take off the days around Christmas and work New Year’s Eve.
Finding the best time to take off if you do food/grocery delivery
Home-cooked meals are the rule for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so a decision to take off on these holidays risks little lost business. You need to be home with the family, anyway. Chances are that when you come back there will not be a lot of drivers saying, “Wow! You should have been delivering food on Christmas day.”
On the days before these holidays, however, people are either out holiday shopping the entire day or in entertaining family or company. Ordering food for delivery is convenient. Expect to see an uptick in demand.
Grocery delivery is likely to be busy on the days just prior to the holidays, especially for those last-minute deliveries when someone reads the recipe a little more carefully and realizes they are out of nutmeg. A word of warning to those who deliver groceries, though. If your job includes the shopping part of it, expect the grocery stores to be jammed with last-minute shoppers.
New Year’s Eve is likely to be slow as well, so stay off the streets and enjoy the family.
Finding the best time to take off if you do package delivery
Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, you will be home, but in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Amazon Flex and similar services are much in demand. It is time to make some serious money, especially as it gets closer to Christmas and there is a flood of last-minute deliveries. But as for the holidays themselves, there is no business.
Right after Christmas, there will still be those late deliveries, so expect to stay busy. New Year’s, of course, is all yours.
Looking for bonuses
Some of the companies that hire gig drivers offer bonuses during the holidays, especially Amazon Flex, UPS, and Instacart. Watch your app and make sure you make the most of those opportunities. They will help with the extra days you might want to take off.
Paying yourself for the holiday
Gig drivers are self-employed workers in business for themselves. Like any self-employed person, there is a fair amount of discipline involved. Here are some tips on paying for vacations:
- Set aside money each month for a vacation fund, just like you do for quarterly taxes and health insurance.
- Set up a fund so you can take some time off during the holidays and not suffer from lost income.
- Figure out what you need to set aside. For instance, if you are new to gig driving and Instacart is your choice, you can research the Gridwise blogs to see how much Instacart drivers earn. Then figure two weeks’ income, and make that your goal for a vacation fund.
- Remember to increase the size of your vacation fund as you add gigs, such as expanding to rideshare or package delivery.
- Some gig drivers have a spouse or partner with a regular payroll job. Make maximum use of the two incomes and set up savings for holidays and vacations. Using two incomes to cover all expenses can work out quite nicely.
Relying on gig driving for your income? Use these tips to plan a vacation
When you take time off, you can do some other things to protect yourself from the loss of income.
Pay for your vacations in advance and incrementally
If you want to get away during the holidays, or any other time, start making arrangements in advance. You can reserve and pay for an Airbnb months out. When it comes time for the vacation, the bill for the living quarters is already paid. When you reserve an Airbnb, watch the cancellation policy. They often vary. Give yourself as much flexibility as possible.
If you’re looking for payment plan options, check out Agoda. Some agents or travel agencies also have holiday packages with monthly payment options which allow cancellations up to a certain period before the departure date. Always make sure you thoroughly research the offering and read the fine print.
Follow the flight reservation websites
Regularly visit the flight reservation sites and look for deals. If you know how to look, you can find some great bargains. Read Take More Vacations by Scott Keyes, the founder of ScottsCheapFlights.com. One of Scott’s traveling mantras is “Be open to the last-minute opportunity for someplace you would not normally consider.” Airlines routinely have last-minute empty seats. They would rather sell them at a deep discount than let them go empty. There are countless ways to fly all over the world and do so inexpensively, and it dovetails nicely with the gig driver’s ability to take time off at a moment’s notice, especially if you have been feeding that vacation fund.
Play the credit card game
Some people like credit cards so they can acquire miles for travel. They live their entire life through their credit card, paying for as many items as they can and earning airline miles. It’s possible to pay for airline flights for a European vacation on the airline miles you’ve acquired during the year on some of these cards. There are a number of websites that offer strategies for using credit cards to acquire miles and points. Check out thepointsguy.com to start.
A word of warning, playing the credit card game requires discipline. Make sure you pay that card off at the end of each week. This saves you interest and keeps you from falling into the dreaded credit card hole of debt.
Make Gridwise part of your vacation strategy
If you’re wondering when is the best time to drive and when to take off during the holidays, one of your best friends is the Gridwise app. You can check out When to Drive and Where to Drive on the app and when to hang around the airport for peak arrival and departure times, and then schedule your trips around the slow times.
And if you decide you need a little more cash for your travels while on vacation, Gridwise can tell you the best times and neighborhoods for driving in your vacation area.
Gridwise also helps you save money with the Gridwise mileage tracker. Whether you track miles for Instacart, Uber, or DoorDash, Gridwise’s free mileage tracker is there for you. You also save money on fuel through the Gridwise Gas Program, a Gridwise benefit that saves you as much as $50/month when you purchase fuel. You can read about it at Gridwise Increases Gas Discount to Help Rideshare and Delivery Drivers.
All of this adds up to extra savings and more money in your pocket—and that’s more money you can set aside for your vacation or holiday fund.