When Should You Book Your Summer Travel Plans?

by Hank Coleman

Cheap Cruise Tips for Your SummerIf you’re a budget traveler getting ready for your next summer vacation, one of the best ways to save money is by booking your summer travels and plans in advance.

By preparing for a trip several months beforehand, you have much more flexibility over your plans – where you want to stay, which tours or activities you want to do, etc. – and travel companies tend to reward early birds with significant discounts.

The Best Times to Book Your Summer Travels

Here are some tips for getting started on your next big summer travels and plans several months in advance:

Flights

Even if you don’t have frequent flyer miles to reduce your plane ticket costs, you can save money by booking flights at the “right” time. There is no universal “best” time to book flights, but results from a CheapAir data analysis of 1.2 million trips indicate that there are windows of ultra-affordability for different destinations.

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For instance, flights from the U.S. to Canada are cheapest when purchased 75 days in advance, while flights from the U.S. to Europe are cheapest when they’re bought approximately 120 days in advance.

Sites like Kayak are also helpful in determining whether ticket prices will rise or fall based on current market trends (Kayak displays the “Buy” or “Wait” option in the left-hand corner of the results page when you search for flights).

Cruises

According to Cruise Critic, the best time to book a cruise trip is several months in advance (“no later than 6 to 8 months out”). Cruises in popular destinations tend to raise prices in the final 1-2 months before the departure date.

So, booking in winter for a summer getaway is the best way to save money on cruise fare. Some cruise industry experts even recommend booking 12-18 months in advance to secure the best deals, because cruise lines are initially unsure what the demand for particular sailing dates might be and offer fantastic discounts to attract a baseline of customers before raising prices.

Don’t wait until April or May to book a summer cruise. Even if you’re planning out a tropical getaway for your winter vacation later this year, the best time to book a cheap cruise is sooner rather than later.

Hotels and Hostels

Depending on your destination’s popularity with other tourists, you might be able to secure last-minute deals on hotels by booking the week or two beforehand, rather than several months in advance. However, the longer you wait, the higher the risk you’ll have of losing out on accommodations in your dream hotel or B&B.

If you’re planning on staying with Airbnb or a hostel, then your best bet is to book your accommodations 3-6 months in advance. Availability for these two accommodation options is much more limited than hotels, especially if you have certain preferences for amenities or number of people you’ll share a room with in a hostel dorm.

By planning out your trip and booking your summer accommodations in winter, you’ll have significantly more choices available – in terms of quality, cost, amenity options, proximity to the local attractions, etc. – which beats any potential savings you might get from booking at the last minute.

Tours and Activities

Tours in areas that draw in thousands of tourists during the summer season are likely to fill up fast, especially if they’re highly rated tours with experienced guides and a strong online presence to attract customers.

If you’re strapped for cash after the holiday shopping season, then waiting a month or so shouldn’t be a problem. But, you should aim to book your tours and vacation activities at least 2-3 months in advance, just to be safe.

For less touristy areas, you might be able to find hidden deals once you’re actually there. Ultimately, it depends on what your research tells you: buy ASAP because people are flocking to these tours, or hold off to save money now by signing up for activities when you arrive at your destination (an added benefit to waiting: you might find something better to do by talking to the locals!).

Don’t Let Poor Timing Hamper Your Vacation

It’s easy to get caught up in the post-holidays whirlwind of sending the kids back to school, starting back at work, and trying to fulfill your New Year’s resolutions. But, a jam-packed schedule in the first several weeks of a new year shouldn’t prevent you from planning your summer vacation, especially if you could save hundreds of dollars by booking flights, accommodations, and activities now. Find time in your schedule to research different parts of your trip and time your bookings for the best possible discounts!

What about you? Have you started thinking about your summer travels and vacation yet? Where are you going? And, more importantly, how are you going to pay for it?

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About Hank Coleman

Hank Coleman is the founder of Money Q&A, an Iraq combat veteran, a Dr. Pepper addict, and a self-proclaimed investing junkie. He has written extensively for many nationally known financial websites and publications. Hank holds a Master’s Degree in Finance and a graduate certificate in personal financial planning. Email him directly at Hank[at]MoneyQandA.com.


Hank Coleman has written 586 articles on Money Q&A. Learn more about Money Q&A on Twitter @MoneyQandA and @HankColeman.


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Billy Bischoff

Great article! We travel 3 to 4 times a year for leisure. We have been on a fair amount of cruises and the best deals we come across are last second deals around Sept-Nov and Jan-Feb. Of course that will require you being flexible with last second bookings. The best deal we grabbed was a 4 day Caribbean cruise for $80 a person! It was great getaway for me and the wife with NO KIDS! 😉

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