Travel Planning Tips: Book Early or Book Late?

Book early for best cabin selection.
Book early for best cabin selection.

The universally asked question by clients planning vacations is “When should I book my trip to get the best prices? Should I book early or wait until the last minute?” My father likes to answer any question, particularly those related to his accounting practice, with “it depends,” but the truth is, more often than not, booking early is the best choice. Why? So glad you asked. Here are a few travel planning tips to help ease your mind. 

I book a lot of cruises, from the Caribbean to Antarctica and everywhere in between. One of the wonderful things about cruise vacations (and a little known fact) is that once you put a deposit down, you are locked into your rate. So if the rate goes up, as it often does, you still pay the original amount. However, if the rates go down, many times you can get that reduced rate, as long as it is before final payment (typically 60 -120 days out, depending on the cruise line).

Availability is a big issue. If you have your heart set on staying at a certain hotel, or going on a tour on a particular date, it is best to book well in advance to make sure you can get exactly what you want. Holidays, like Christmas and New Years typically sell out months, if not a year, in advance, while other holidays that can be wrapped around a long weekend, like the 4th of July, typically also sell out in advance. Don’t wait until the end of June to book your July 4th getaway, or you will likely not get what you want (and you will spend more than you wanted).

What about airline miles? I have clients that frequently want to fly using miles or points, and I always encourage that. However, in order to get the flights that you want, at a cost that makes sense, it is always best to book ahead. Airlines release their schedules 330 days in advance – that is about 11 months – and the least expensive seats available with mileage always go first, especially on popular routes (Europe, anyone?) at popular times (summer vacation, anyone?) To maximize your choices, and minimize your stress, book those flights early.

You can’t just book your flights. Once you know exactly where and when you are going, it is time to also reserve the hotel, tour or cruise (or all three!)

OK, so what do you do if something happens? That, my friends, is why I always purchase travel insurance, and encourage my clients to do the same. The company that I use most often covers cancellation for medical issues (you or your immediate family) and covers for work reasons, if your job forces you to cancel.

I’d love to help with your travel planning, even if you do have to go away last minute. (I have planned honeymoons on as little as two weeks notice, as well as cruises, all-inclusive vacations and last minute plane tickets.) It’s not nearly as relaxing for the client (or me, the travel agent!) but I always find the best available solution.

So… are you the type to book early or last minute? Let me know where you plan to travel and I’ll let you know the best time to book!

 

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