It happens every year… a teacher calls in February to book a spring break trip for her family in April but everything within sight of a beach is booked solid. Or empty nesters decide in November that they’d like to spend the holidays in the warm Caribbean, but there’s “no room at the inn.” We hate disappointing our travelers, but the fact is, they waited too late to get the vacation they dreamed of. So when is the best time to book a vacation? Our vacation advisors share their recommendations, based on their professional experience. Heed their advice so you’ll never have to try to convince the kids that their splash pool in the backyard is just as fun as a waterslide at a top resort.
Luxury vacation expert Karen Kilyk says, “I urge my clients to start looking at Spring Break plans as soon as the school schedule comes out. To get the best flights, first choice of resort, and best room options within that resort, you really need to book in October or November before the spring trip. If you wait until January to start planning, you have to settle for what is left, especially with airline schedules and prices.”
Summer vacations aren’t as concentrated on any particular date or place, but the volume of summer travelers still makes advance planning important to get what you want. All-inclusive specialist Jean Riekers shared, “I recommend you book summer travel as soon as you decide on dates that work best for your family. Popular destinations like Jamaica, Punta Cana, and Mexico have a limited number of flights so the longer you wait the more you will pay. Cruises give more booking flexibility but if you want to fly out to catch that cruise, flight costs will give you pause if you don’t book early!”
Cindi Brewer, Caribbean and family travel expert, agrees that certain summer periods require more advance. “To kick off summer with a Memorial Day getaway, you need to have your plans in place before March. The 4th of July is a big family travel week, so you still need to book by March for the best options, but even earlier might give you better prices. If you want to wrap up the summer with a Labor Day vacation, you can usually wait a bit later, but not past the 4th of July.”
Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are the busiest travel times of the year. Vacation advisor Doug Floyd recommends booking your airline tickets 330 days (about 10.5 months) before the end of your vacation. “That might seem like an odd number, but it’s the magic number of days before travel that airlines open reservations. Since you’ll need to reserve a roundtrip ticket, calculate the earliest booking date from your return date.”
Tour and cruise expert Valerie Ambrose added, “Cruises are very popular for family holiday travel and really need to be booked a full year in advance, especially when you want connecting staterooms. Even by the end of January, connecting stateroom options start getting pretty slim. Book European Christmas market cruises by April for the best prices and itineraries.”
Luxury and Specialty Travel
Whenever a particular travel experience has limited departures or is in high demand, the early bird gets the worm. Rhona Arenstein, an Independent Consultant with Covington, suggests that luxury travel, by nature of its exclusivity, requires more lead time. “The most sought-after segments of world cruises sell out very quickly because they are one-of-a-kind itineraries. When my client wants a specific cabin or a hot river cruise, I book up to a year and a half out.”
Of course, nearly anything is possible – sometimes it’s just a matter of how much it costs. But who wants to spend two or three times as much as necessary just because they didn’t know the best time to book a vacation?
So when is the best time to book a vacation? Ultimately, it depends on when and where you are going! But contact the knowledgeable travel advisors at Covington for a personal consultation and find out.